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|February 19, 2001||
It is a typical winter morning in New Delhi.
With a slight difference.
A large crowd in a temple in New Friends Colony is getting restless. The road is jam-packed. One also notices scores of policemen.
Inside the temple, the shooting of the opening sequence of Yashish Enterprises' Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke is in full swing.
The film, Deepak Shivdasani's ninth as director, stars Ajay Devgan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta, with Sunny Deol in a guest appearance.
A wedding scene is being picturised on Ajay and Madhuri. The storyline has them attending the same school, becoming buddies, losing touch, and meeting up again at a school reunion. Reunion results in union -- and for their own special reasons, the wedding is being conducted in secrecy.
The bride wears Beri. Ritu Beri, that is, who is credited with Madhuri's exquisite wedding ensemble, with a king's ransom in jewels and Madhuri's own diamond edged smile making the look complete.
Ajay Devgan for his part sports the understated but elegant look, in navy blue suit with a pink upvastram thrown over it.
On cue, Madhuri calls up her parents and informs them that she is now a wife. Enraged father disowns daughter, who promptly bursts into glycerine aka tears.
Madhuri's experience and ability shows as she breezes through the shot with ease. 'Cut,' says a smiling Shivdasani.
"This is the third time we are shooting this sequence," the director informs me. "The last time we shot it, Om Puri played Ajay Devgan's father. Unfortunately, the film got delayed, partly because of Raju Chacha. And Om Puri couldn't give us the dates we wanted.
"If things had gone to plan, the film would have been released by now," Shivdasani explains. "But we had two long breaks -- the first of seven months, then another one of four months. And thanks to that, everyone's dates went haywire."
His woes don't end with the calendar. In April of last year, Shivdasani erected a huge set in Bombay to shoot the same sequence. However, the heat on the set became so unbearable for the actress -- laden down as she was with the elaborate bridal outfit and heavy jewellery -- that the shoot was abandoned and set was demolished.
Finally, it's a wrap. "Everyone is so relieved that the sequence is finally in the cans," says Shivdasani. "It is as if we've broken the jinx!"
Ajay Devgan was the first to be signed on for this film, which surprised industry watchers given that Shivdasani has made a practise of casting Sunil Shetty in his films.
"When I finished Bhai, , my last film, Sunil had already signed films with Priyadarshan, Gulzar, Ramgopal Varma and a few others," explains the director. "Also, at that time, the script of YRHPK was not complete. So, Sunil suggested that we wait for about two years before working together again. However, this subject got me so excited I didn't want to wait for two years.
When casting the female leads -- yeah, right, there are two women in this matrix -- Shivdasani decided to look for stars who hadn't paired opposite Ajay Devgan before, to bring some freshness into the chemistry. Madhuri was the obvious choice, and she was quick to sign on. But came time to cast the second female lead, and the director's troubles began.
Initially, Rani Mukherji was the popular choice -- but then, soon after work began on this film, Rani signed another film and dates became an issue.
"She seemed more keen to do Lagaan at the time," says Shivdasani. "Since things between us weren't matching, we mutually agreed to part ways."
Karishma was the next choice, with Shivdasani even prepared to overlook the fact that she had paired with Ajay Devgan earlier. "Ajay and Karisma worked together many years ago, so we thought the time lag wouild make the difference. Besides, the Madhuri-Karisma combination had worked well in Dil Toh Pagal Hai."
The best laid plans of mice, et cetera -- out of the blue, Karishma opted out of the film.
Why? "That can be best answered by her," says a visibly upset Shivdasani. "I was disappointed when she returned the signing amount I had given her. She gave me the excuse that she was planning to get married. Later, of course, she denied that she was getting married."
Eventually, Preity Zinta was signed up, and will play the ebullient, effervescent character that counterpoints Madhuri in the story.
Ajay for his part has a dual role -- in one of which he plays Madhuri's friend turned love, while in the other he is a car thief in love with Priety, who is herself prone to helping herself to the property of others.
However, it is Madhuri who has the author-backed role. Says the actress, "I play a woman who lives in a make-believe world. The people surrounding her do not have the gumption to tell her to snap out of it. Her condition gets worse and she begins suffering from what is known as Traumatic Selective Amnesia."
Seems like an original subject, one remarks, to which screenplay-writer Robin Bhatt quips, "It is original. After all, it's not my subject!"
The story idea came to Deepak Shivdasani's mind twelve years ago, but remained on the back-burner all these years.
He says, "The idea was inspired by LV Prasad's Khilona. I had this plot, but had never got around to working on it. After Bhai, I was looking to remake some film, but couldn't find one that excited me enough.
"One day, I was sitting with my family, discussing what I could make next. Then I happened to bounce this particular idea off them, and everyone jumped at it. That's how is started."
He then narrated the storyline to Ajay and, on getting the latter's nod, began working on the screenplay. "I took a year to get it right, and to plan the film -- unfortunately, it kept getting delayed despite all that planning," he rues.
Money matters. "A lot of money has gone into the making of YRHPK. It has cost me three times more Bhai, which was made at a budget of Rs 5.25 crore," says the director. "You may be surprised to know that the entire star cast of Bhai cost me only Rs 36 lakh. But, in the case of YRHPK, the economics is completely different."
It is a big film for Shivdasani in more ways than one. He is looking to establishing his banner, Yashish Enterprises, with this film. To meet this goal, he has planned everything down to the smallest detail. He is, too, hell bent on doing it his way, and therefore decided that he would not sell the film till it is complete in its entirety.
"I haven't tried to sell my film as yet. I want to finish it first, show it to distributors and then sell it. I feel, it is the wise thing to do in times when market conditions are bad," he explains. "Given the unprecedented number of flops last year, one cannot hike the price of a film at his whim, as the distributors will refuse to buy it.
"I know, it's a tough decision to hold back till the film is complete, but this is how we planned it. Sure, the stakes are higher, but we know what we are doing," the director says.
YRHPK has seven songs, penned by Anand Bakshi and composed by Sanjeev Darshan. The title song and Jo Pyaar Karta Hai are clearly the pick of the lot. Tips will be releasing the audio in due time.
The film, which went before the cameras in June 1999, will release all over on July 19 this year.
Design: Lenette Menezes
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