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How Shah Rukh Khan became a Deewana

By ROSHMILA BHATTACHARYA
June 29, 2022 09:22 IST
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'I told Shah Rukh I wanted to sign him for our film, Deewana.'
'He responded by saying he had no dates.'
'I was shocked because he hadn't had a single release till then.'

On June 25, 1992, Deewana, a love triangle inspired by the 1986 Tamil romantic drama Vasantha Raagam, opened in theatres to a rapturous response.

Thirty years later, Shah Rukh Khan, who made his debut with the film, is still the Badshah of Bollywood.

Going down memory lane with Rediff.com Senior Contributor, Roshmila Bhattacharya, the film's producer Guddu Dhanoa remembers how Shah Rukh came to replace Armaan Kohli in the film and went on to become a sensation.

"I was at the Badal, Bijli and Barkha theatres (in the Matunga West, north central Mumbai, area) after the film's release, and as soon as the song started playing, the audience went wild," Dhanoa recalls.

"There was a shower of chaar annas (25 paisa coins) being thrown at the screen, their tinkle music to my ears. I was also moved to tears when I saw people clamber on their chairs and dance with Shah Rukh and Divya Bharti, the song making them deewana too," he remembers.

 

Even without a single release, Shah Rukh had no dates

Photograph: Kind courtesy Film History Pics/Twitter

As soon as he walked in through the main door of The Host, a fine dining restaurant in Delhi's Connaught Place, a buzz went up.

I saw him looking around, having never met us before, and I waved out to him.

With a smile, as he started walking towards our table, I could hear whispers of 'Shah Rukh Khan, Shah Rukh Khan' all around us.

As images from the Doordarshan shows Fauji and Circus flashed through my mind, I turned to my director, Raj Kanwar and confirmed, 'Yehi Shah Rukh Khan hai?'

When he nodded, I told him, 'Done, it's final from my side.'

When Shah Rukh took the chair opposite us, I told him I wanted to sign him for our film, Deewana.

He responded by saying that he had no dates.

I was shocked because he hadn't had a single release till then.

But when I prodded, Shah Rukh informed that he had already signed five films, namely Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Chamatkar, King Uncle, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and Hema Malini's directorial, Dil Aashna Hai.

I was disappointed because even during that first meeting, I was wowed by Shah Rukh's charisma and urged that he at least listen to the subject.

Graciously, he invited us over to his home.

I signed him for Rs 1.50 lakh (Rs 150,000), an unheard sum for a debutant back then. I paid a signing amount of Rs 11,000.

Deewana starts with Divya Bharti's Kajal happily married to a wealthy singer, Ravi, played by Rishi Kapoor.

The character I wanted Shah Rukh to play, Raja, only enters the picture post interval, after Ravi's uncle plots to kill him for his property.

He falls off a cliff, along with his cousin, and is presumed dead.

Midway through the narration, Shah Rukh suggested we break for lunch, perhaps wondering why we wanted him when there were no signs of him in the first half.

However, despite coming in late, Raja then carries the story forward, falling in love with the widowed Kajal, breaking off ties with his father when he tries to separate them, convincing Ravi's mother to persuade her daughter-in-law to start a new life with him and slowly, winning her heart, only for her first husband to return from the dead and complicate their lives.

As we came to the end of the story session, Shah Rukh turned to me beaming, 'Guddu, I'm doing your film.'

However, he was quick to add that he could give me dates only if one of his producers cancelled because his calendar was booked.

Shah Rukh was delighted to hear that Rishi Kapoor was playing Ravi, confiding that he had long wanted to work with this fantastic actor.

A month later, the schedule of Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman got cancelled and Shah Rukh suddenly had a 20-day open window.

We started shooting the next day.

Armaan Kohli was the first choice for Raja

Deewana was inspired by a 1986 Tamil romantic drama, Vasantha Raagam, starring Vijaykanth, Rahman and Sudha Chandran.

Its director, S A Chandrasekhar, was to direct our film too.

He was also directing a revenge drama, Insaaf Ki Devi, for my producer-partner Lalit Kapoor's wife Shabnam and B S Shaad.

Insaaf Ki Devi featured Jeetendra, Rekha and Armaan and it was on Shabnam's insistence that we signed Armaan for Deewana.

But soon after, there were differences between them and she booted Armaan out of her film.

Armaan's film-maker-father Rajkumar Kohli then called me and informed me that his son would not be doing our film because Lalit Kapoor was Shabnam's husband.

I was in a quandary and on a flight to Chennai to see the special effects of Mani Ratnam's Anjali with Shekhar Kapur. I confided in him, informing him that I had been all set to start Deewana, but now, suddenly, I did not have a hero.

He was the one who suggested we try Shah Rukh Khan.

I immediately called him and Shah Rukh, who was still living in Delhi, invited us over.

By then, Raj Kanwar had replaced Chandrasekar as the director and that's how we came to meet him at The Host.

People were dancing on their seats when Aisi Deewangi played

I remember one incident from the shooting.

I had put up an expensive set at Mumbai's Natraj Studio and we were filming Kajal's birthday party.

It featured a number of people, including Shah Rukh, Divya, Sushma Seth as her mother-in-law Laxmi Devi, and the actors who were playing Raja's friends,

On the day of the shoot, I learnt that Shah Rukh was in Goa for Chamatkar.

I couldn't afford to cancel because I knew getting combination dates again would be a nightmare.

So I went to Goa and brought Shah Rukh back to Mumbai.

That apart, the filming went off smoothly though Lalit did tell me that Shah Rukh didn't like some of the costumes he had been given for Aisi Deewangi.

I was at the Badal, Bijli and Barkha theatres after the film's release, and as soon as the song started playing, the audience went wild.

There was a shower of chaar annas (25 paisa coins) being thrown at the screen, their tinkle music to my ears.

I was also moved to tears when I saw people clamber on their chairs and dance with Shah Rukh and Divya, the song making them deewana too.

I realised then that costumes, location, nothing matters when a film strikes a chord with the audience.

Aisi Deewangi was the first song to be recorded and 30 years later, it remains evergreen.

Deewana bagged its composer duo, Nadeem-Shravan, the Filmfare Award for Best Music.

Shah Rukh won the Best Debut (Male) Award and Divya the Lux New Face of the Year trophy.

Sameer was adjudged Best Lyricist for Teri Umeed while Kumar Sanu was Best Playback Singer for Soochenge Tumhein, again from Deewana.

The film was a hit from the first day, first show

We completed the film before any of the other five, but I had a few bad moments when I heard rumours that Shah Rukh would want one of his solo starrers, Dil Aashna Hai or Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, to release first.

I met him and voiced my concern, wondering how long we would have to wait.

He was surprised, assuring me that he did not have a legally binding first release agreement with any of his other producers.

'You can release your film whenever you want,' he told me.

When I pointed out that he needed to complete the dubbing first, he immediately allotted dates.

Manmohan Desai, who had bought the Delhi-UP territories for distribution, wanted us to change the ending, insisting Kajal go away with Ravi rather than continue living with Raja, but we stuck to our conviction.

The film was a hit from the first day, first show, and went on to celebrate golden jubilees in several theatres across India.

Deewana's phenomenal success boosted the prospects of Shah Rukh's other films and helped his other producers.

Over the years, whenever I have posted anything about the film on social media during its anniversary, I'm overwhelmed by the flood of likes and comments it always ushers along.

It brings me great joy to know that something we created 30 years ago, still brings so much happiness to so many lives.

Maybe I can persuade Shah Rukh to make a special appearance

After the film's release, I ran into Shah Rukh outside the Arogya Nidhi hospital (in Juhu, north west Mumbai) when he touched my mother's feet.

We met again for a Yamla Pagla Deewana event and as always, he was very warm and friendly.

Even before Deewana, he was a great actor, evident in Fauji and Circus.

Over the last three decades, he has only gone forward, evolved as a performer and become one of the brightest stars in Hindi cinema.

Around three-four years ago, I started planning a love story titled Deewana.

It won't be a remake or a sequel but a completely new film with a different cast.

But I will retain our hit title and incorporate the evergreen song, Aisi Deewangi in the new Deewana.

Who knows, maybe I can persuade Shah Rukh to make a special appearance in it.

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ROSHMILA BHATTACHARYA