'All the actresses we approached for the role of Sakeena were demanding a lot of money.'
'After a point, we collectively decided that we would cast a new face opposite Sunny Deol and the money that we would save by doing so, we would give it to Amrish Puriji and get him onboard.'
'I was completely okay with signing a new heroine but there is no alternative to Amrish Puriji in the industry.'
Director Anil Sharma knew that his film Gadar: Ek Prem Katha would be India's answer to the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic.
The Sunny Deol-Ameesha Patel-starrer was, in fact, a huge blockbuster when it released on June 15, 2001.
Twenty years later, it is still celebrated.
Anil Sharma looks back at its making and tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh, "Besides Amrish Puriji, there are two people I always miss -- Anand Bakshiji and Vivek Shauq. How can you imagine Gadar without Anand Bakshisaab? I miss Vivek as he did a wonderful job as Darmiyaan Singh."
How particular were you about Gadar's music?
I am very grateful to Uttam Singhji and the incredibly talented Anand Bakshisaab.
There are millions of people who think that Udja Kale Kawa is a folk song.
A film song has now attained the status of a folk song. When have you seen that happen before?
It invokes the same kind of emotions today as it did 20 years ago.
That's the power of Uttam Singhji and Anand Bakshiji's magical work.
Why did you cast your son, Utkarsh Sharma, as Jeete?
He was a little kid who was not interested in films. He was only five years old.
He used to spend a lot of time with me.
If he was free, he would come with me to my office and to the studios as well. Neither he nor my wife and I wanted him to face the camera at that tender age.
We were auditioning a number of kids everyday for the role of Jeete.
It was an important character and hence, we wanted to cast a talented kid.
But the kids we auditioned did not fit the bill.
Ameesha Patel, who used to visit my house regularly for rehearsals, had forged a bond with Utkarsh.
One day, she said to me, 'You have been looking for a kid all around the world but Jeete is there in your home only. He is in the same age bracket. Why don't you cast him?'
Utkarsh just dashed out of the room saying he did not want to act.
Ameesha told the makers at ZEE Studios about Utkarsh. I started receiving calls from them, asking me to cast Utkarsh.
'We won't have to pay him as he is your son,' they jested.
I said, 'It is not about the money but he wants to focus on his studies.'
I discussed it with my wife and requested her to talk to Utkarsh.
After a couple of days, Utkarsh just came to me and innocently said, 'Papa, if you are really not getting anyone for the role, I will solve your problem. I will do it.'
He was just five but so sensitive.
He understood that I was going through a difficult time getting an actor for that role, so he tried to make things easier for his father.
We cannot imagine Gadar without Amrish Puri. How did he come onboard the film and how was your experience working with him?
Amrish Puriji was an extraordinary actor.
What most of the producers do is that they first cast the hero and the heroine. Half of the film's budget is exhausted in signing them. Getting the antagonist onboard is last on their priority list.
I did not want that for my film.
I wanted to cast my villain first. Amrish Puriji was my first choice for the role of Major Ashraf Ali.
As I mentioned earlier, all the actresses we approached for the role of Sakeena were demanding a lot of money.
After a point, we collectively decided that we would cast a new face opposite Sunny Deol and the money that we would save by doing so, we would give it to Amrish Puriji and get him onboard.
I was completely okay with signing a new heroine but there is no alternative to Amrish Puriji in the industry.
By the time I finished my narration, tears were rolling down his cheeks.
Imagine Amrish Puri crying after a narration!
He immediately gave his nod to the film.
Besides Amrish Puriji, there are two people I always miss -- Anand Bakshiji and Vivek Shauq.
How can you imagine Gadar without Anand Bakshisaab?
I miss Vivek as he did a wonderful job as Darmiyaan Singh. He was a gem of a person.