Filmmaker Kundan Shah succumbed to a heart attack on Saturday.
'Deepak Tijori and Shah Rukh were giving a shot together. Deepak asked me how he performed. We were doing a retake anyway, so I told him that I would watch him then.'
'But in the next retake also, I was looking at Shah Rukh. Deepak got upset with me.'
But that was the thing with Shah Rukh -- you loved to watch him perform.'
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa director Kundan Shah tells Patcy N/ Rediff.com how he impressed he was with Shah Rukh in his early years.
Shah Rukh Khan and director Kundan Shah made one of the most beautiful films of their career, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, in 1994.
Kundan Shah goes back in time and reminisces about the actor who became Bollywood's biggest superstar. Patcy N/ Rediff.com takes notes.
This interview was first published in November 2015.
I am not in touch with Shah Rukh Khan any more but our friendship, or rather professional relationship, started when he was working in the serial Umeed. He did two episodes of the comedy show that was directed by Vikas Desai; I produced it.
Then, he did an episode in Wagle Ki Duniya.
After that, he worked in Circus, directed by Aziz Mirza and me.
I was impressed with his work in Fauji but after I saw him in Lekh Tandon's Doosra Kewal, I realised he can emote very well too. Doosra Kewal was based on the 1984 Sikh riots.
I called him, as I thought he had an acting range -- he was full of exuberance and masti in Fauji and emotional in Doosra Kewal.
When I told him I wanted to meet him, he was thrilled. He and his friends were huge fans of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
By then, Circus was almost over and he was getting film offers.
The first film he signed was Aziz Mirza's Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman.
There was no formality between Shah Rukh and me. I had finished writing script of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and he wanted to read it. I told him I had to make some changes but he would not listen.
I needed the script the next morning so Shah Rukh read the script in one night and returned it to me the next morning.
But by the time we started shooting the film, he had signed five-six movies, including Hema Malini's Dil Aashna Hai and Rakesh Roshan's Karan Arjun. My producer got worried because Shah Rukh had only committed verbally to me; there was nothing in writing.
So we met him at the muharat of his film Deewana at Juhu Centaur (which has now become Tulip Star) with the consent letter. The room in which he was sitting was very crowded, so we couldn't talk. I spoke to him in the corridor when he left his room to give the muharat shot. I told him my producer was worried and if he could sign the consent letter.
There was no table around so Shah Rukh sat down on the floor, kept the letter on his lap and signed. We gave him Rs 5,000 as the signing amount. His entire fees for the film was Rs 25,000.
Shah Rukh later told me that he wanted to buy the rights of the film, as it was a very sweet movie, and he did.
My film was ready even before Baazigar and Darr released but no distributor was buying it. In fact, even after those films released and became hits, distributors did not want to buy it.
Shah Rukh had become very busy by then, all his films were doing well at the box office.
One day, Shah Rukh spoke to (producer) Vijay Gilani and he agreed to buy the film. So Vijay Gilani, Venus (Worldwide Entertainment) and Shah Rukh became joint producers and bought the Bombay territory. That's how the film released in Mumbai.
It's all due to Shah Rukh's effort that the film saw the light of day.
'We kept asking Shah Rukh for retakes because he had that kind of charisma'
Once, Aziz and I were directing Circus late at night. Shah Rukh gave such a good shot and we loved it so much that we wanted him to do that shot again just to see him act.
In those days, there were no monitors where we could see it again.
We asked him for a retake and he said he would try and better the shot. But he had already given his best shot. We kept asking for retakes because he had that kind of charisma.
Once, during the shooting of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Deepak Tijori and Shah Rukh were giving a shot together.
Deepak asked me how he performed. We were doing a retake anyway, so I told him that I would watch him then.
But in the next retake also, I was looking at Shah Rukh. Deepak got upset with me. But that was the thing with Shah Rukh -- you loved to watch him perform.
Shah Rukh was very close to Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa so he promoted the film even after it released. Those days, films were not promoted the way they are today. So we went to a theatre in Hyderabad where the film was being screened, stopped the show and interacted with the audience. We spoke to them for 10 minutes, and then watched the rest of the film with the audience. The crowd went mad!
I told Shah Rukh that the audience reaction was not for my film but for him and his charisma.
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa worked because of Shah Rukh.
'Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa recovered the cost 12 years after the film was made'
I shot the film in Goa and Mumbai. We were supposed to shoot the entire film in Goa but the budget was too less. So we finished it in Mumbai.
The budget was so small that we could not afford any lavishness. We took a flight to Mumbai in the Economy class. Deven Verma was in the same flight, and he was flying Business class. Deven Verma had worked with Shah Rukh, so he came and asked Shah Rukh how come he was travelling Economy. But Shah Rukh was very nice; he politely said, 'My ticket is for Economy.'
Even the rooms we stayed in were not very good. We stayed in Goa Tourism guest houses, where the room charge was Rs 160.
He knew the film was different and the budget was very small, so he was very adjusting.
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa recovered the cost 12 years after the film was made.
Shah Rukh is an instinctive actor; he is not an accomplished actor. He's gifted to some level. He has a lot of charisma. He doesn't do all-out comedy films but is a combination of talent. It's up to the director to explore that range and make it better.
When we were shooting Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, we were trying out some comedy scenes which he wasn't getting right. We let it go because it was failure on my part.
'The skin from Shah Rukh's hands had peeled off but he had not even mentioned he was in pain'
Once I was taking a shot of Rita Bhaduri and Satish Shah (who played Suchitra Krishnamurthy's parents in the film) and Shah Rukh's back was towards me.
After the shot, I told them they gave a brilliant performance. They said it was possible only because Shah Rukh gave a beautiful performance. In those days, there were no monitors so I had missed Shah Rukh's performance at that time.
There was another scene where Shah Rukh had to trip and fall. He gave seven takes. His make-up man came to me and asked me if the shot was okay or not. I told him I would take a few more takes. Then, he told me that the skin from Shah Rukh's hands had peeled off. But Shah Rukh had not even mentioned he was in pain.
There was a song sequence (Aana Mere Pyyar Ko) where Shah Rukh had to jump from one taxi carrier to another, then jump on the bonnet to woo the girl -- and he had to look at the girl the whole time. We did the scene in one take.
After the scene was shot, I went to Shah Rukh and asked him how he managed it. Shah Rukh told me, 'I am taking my chances.'
'Nowadays, Shah Rukh's acting is plastic'
The day we were watching the rushes of the film on the big screen, I was really tensed, wondering if the film would work or not. Shah Rukh came from behind and said, 'Kundan, don't worry yaar, the picture is working.'
He was a devoted actor.
But nowadays, his acting is plastic. The scenes only have his mannerisms. I would say even Kajol and Aamir Khan do plastic acting because they are enacting the same emotions all the time. Today, the actor is trapped if the film doesn't do a business of Rs 100 crore. So they have to do what they are told.
I liked Shah Rukh Khan in Hey! Ram. I like his cameos here and there. But I liked him in Swades and Chak De! India, as they are character-driven roles.