Sunny Deol’s and Ameesha Patel’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha released 20 years ago today on June 15, 2001. The film was a love story that had India-Pakistan partition in its background and was a resounding hit at the box office that was unprecedented at the time. The film was directed by Anil Sharma, with whom PeepingMoon.com caught up for an exclusive chat about the film.
The veteran filmmaker spoke about the film’s box office clash with Aamir Khan’s Lagaan, the popularity of Gadar’s songs and soundtrack, how the film had elements of Ramayan, plans of making a sequel and working with Amrish Puri.
Excerpts from the interview:
How does it feel now that Gadar has clocked 20 years and is still popular?
Bahut hi acha lag raha hai, aap mehnat karte hain, eshwar aapka saath deta hai, public aapko pyar karti hai. 20 saal ho jaye us cheez ko and aaj bhi logon ko who yaad rahe and achi lage and wahi emotions bhadke unke dilon mein jo pehle din bahadki thi, yeh achievement chota nahi hota hai aur main koi humble ya modest baat nahi karoonga ki ‘nahi mujhe koi excitement nahi ho raha’, kyonki main bahut excited hoon and hona hi chahiye, kyonki aisa mauka milta kisko hai? Aisi film jo Bharat ki 4-5 filmon mein se ek ho jaye jaise Mughal-e-Azam, Mother India, Sholay aur ab Gadar, toh aisa prashad Eswar kisi ko dede to excitement to hoga.
Gadar is one of those films that appealed to every one of all ages. What do you have to say to that?
Gadar ki kahaani hi aisi thi. Ek pariwar ki kahaani hai, ek bache ki kahaani hai jo apne pita ko kehta hai ki meri ma se mujhe milwa do, woh sab ko pasand aayegi. Abhi pandemic ke time mein to logon ne pariwar ka mahatv samjha hai and logon ne Gadar pandemic mein kabhi TV par kabhi OTT par har jagah dekh li.
Gadar and Lagaan clashed at the box office on the same day. Were you apprehensive about it at the time?
No no, bilkul nahi. There were no apprehensions and no ill-feelings at that time. Yeh feelings aaj hai ki clash na ho, us samay hum sabko apni filmon par pura bharosa tha. Lagaan ke nirmata Ashutosh Gowariker aur Aamir Khan ko pura confidence tha apne film par aur hamein bhi tha, dono film bahut achi thi. Unhone to Bharat ke liye samman bhi batora. Hum yeh maante hain ki do filmein badi-se-badi bhi saath mein release ho agar to bhi public dekh legi, unhe bas acha content chahiye. June 15, 2001 was like a festival, pura desh utsav mana raha tha, cinema ka utsav tha, log 12 baje ka Gadar dekhte the to 3 baje ka Lagaan, aisa ho gaya tha, aisa daur 20 saal mein dobara aaya hi nahi. Main to Eshwar se prarthana karta hoon ki saal mein 1-2 baar to aisa ho ki log bheed lagaye cinema hall mein, baatein karein filmon ki. Lagaan aur Gadar ne filmmakers ko acha cinema banane mein prerit kiya, main aaj bhi yehi kehta hoon ki achi film banao, clash se mat daro, kyonki public aaj bhi achi film hi dekhegi, aaj long binge-watch karte hai, 6-9 episode ek baar mein dekh lete hai OTT par isliye clash se hamein koi farak nahi pada.
Do you think if Gadar had a solo release it would have made a difference at its box office in more significant ways?
Nahi, bilkul nahi. Sab logon ne toh dekh dali film, Rs 265 crore ka business kar liya film ne us zamane mein, desh mein 100 crore junta hai, public ki kami nahi hai, achi filmon ki kami hai. Public ko jo dekhna hai woh dekhegi, unhe bas acha entertainment chahiye, bas. Gadar ka 8 shows chalte the, log tractor mein baith kar aate the, 6pm ke show kea baad khana banate the theatre ke bahar.
Gadar became an unprecedented hit not only as a film but also as a soundtrack. Did you anticipate its popularity at the time of shooting especially with the songs and dialogues?
Us samay log sochte the ki humein pan-India film banana hai, humne bhi socha tha and maine to release hone se pehle hi bol diya tha ki Gadar will be the Titanic of India. Eshwar ki kripa aisi hui ki sach mein yeh Titanic se badi saabit hui box office par.
Why do you think Gadar managed to etch a place in people’s hearts even today?
Gadar ka identification bahut zyada hai, yeh ek pariwar ki film hai. Har ghar mein jab koi bachcha paida hota hai to use Ramayan ka path padhaya jata hai, Gadar bhi Ramayan par adharit hai. Gadar basically Ramayan hai, Ram Sita ko Lanka se le kar aate hain yahan bhi wahi baat hai. Gadar banate waqt mere mann mein bhi yehi tha, interval ka scene bhi aisa hi hai ki Amrish Puri Sakina ko plane se uda kar le gaye jaise Ravan le gaya tha. Ramayan ki halki-fulki parchayi Gadar mein hai; jaise Ramayan anant kal tak rahega waisa hi mujhe lagta hai ki Gadar bhi rahegi.
Do you think the media and industry were not kind to Gadar at the time of its release as most favoured Aamir Khan’s Lagaan?
Mujhe kuch nahi laga, 14 June ki suabh mujhe ek call aaya tha Orissa k eek theatre owner ka, who pagal ho gaya tha kyonki public paise phenk rahi thi, interval mein hi 3000 log theatre ke bahar khade ho gaye the next show ke liye, use laga ki ‘mera tehatre na toot jaye kahin’, usne kaha ‘kya film bana di hai aapne’. Dopahar mein meri nazar ek akhbar ke headline par padi jispar likha tha, ‘Gutter ek prem katha’, maine use utha kar fenk diya kyonki jiski jaisi soch hai use waisa hi dikhega. Par Public ne faisla kar diya tha and Gadar ka craze to interval se pehle hi establish ho gaya tha and sham thak to havoc ho gaya tha. So ‘kuch to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna’, jab public ne aapke sarahna kar di to phir aur kya hi reh jaata hai.
Gadar, even though it managed to rake in numbers did not get a lot of awards at that time were you disappointed or bitter?
Mujhe public ne itna bada award de diya to yeh awards kya mayne rakhti hai? Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam, Sholay kisi ne bhi zyada awards nahi jeete par aaj bhi yaad rakhe jaate hain aur India ki behtareen filmon mein se ek hai. Gadar bhi in filmon ki list mein shamil hai, inn chaaron ko award nahi mila, yeh award wale to apne personal agenda se chalte hai, unki apni mansikta hai, main shayad nahi fit ho raha inmein. Main public ke agende mein fit hona chahoonga aur usmein meri khushi hai, unka pyar hi mere liye sabse bada award hai.
Sunny Deol was predominantly known as an action hero at that time, how did you envision him in such a role?
Sunny Deol sahib ki aankhon mein jo romance hai, unki aankhon mein jo softness hai who kisi aur hero mein nahi hai. Sunny aur Dharam ji ke chehre mein bahut softness, bahut gentleness hai, bahut mohabbat, bahut insaniyat par unki body mein power hai, yeh combination toh unke paas hi hai.
Reportedly, Ameesha Patel bagged the role of Sakina after you auditioned several girls, what was the factor that made you choose her?
Mujhe unmein ‘chaand’ dikh gaya, chand sa chehra hai unka. Upar se jo character Sakina ka tha ki bade ghar ki ladki hai, educated hai woh Ameesha waisi hi thi, baaki to bas unhe us samay ki mannerisms, tehzeeb sikhani thi. Ashraf Ali ki beti ka kirdar unmein already tha.
In the early 2000s, what made Partition and pre-Independence films a major attraction?
Nahi us samay itni toh nahi banti thi. Aaj period films, adaptations zyada bann rahe hai kyonki kahaani hi nahi hai.
Gadar’s sequel is a huge responsibility. How is it working out as of now?
Gadar 2 jab bhi banegi to Tara Singh par banegi. Utkarsh, mera beta jisne Jeete ka kirdar nibhaya tha woh bhi bada ho gaya hai, woh bhi uska part hoga magar Gadar ka sequel itna aasaan nahi hai, hum log bahut saalon se soch rahe hain par Gadar ka sequel banana ke liye emotions ka bomb chahiye, drama ka bomb chahiye. Jis din mujhe yeh bomb mil jayega main announce kar doonga.
You have predominantly made historical or war films in your career any plans of taking up a new project featuring India’s secret agents and spies as patriotic films have taken a different turn today?
Abhi main to sirf Apne 2 par dhyan de raha hoon with all the four Deols-Dharmendra, Sunny, Bobby and Karan. Apne 2 bhi bahut badi responsibility hai and main us par hi abhi kaam kar raha hoon.
Your collaborations with Dharmendra and Sunny Deol have always been extremely successful, any plans of reuniting with them in the near future on a different subject?
Yeh to pariwar hi aisa hai, ek baar aap jud gaye to bas aa jud gaye.
Gadar is an epic love story that appealed to all ages, any plans of making another love story?
Karenge, karenge, bahut kuch dimag mein chal raha hai, jab samay aayega to hum khulasa karenge.
Gadar was one of the last films that brought India-Pakistan partition with a theme. Would you be interested in revisiting the era in a new film?
Abhi kuch nahi socha hai.
How was your experience on working with Amrish Puri, one of the last iconic villains Indian cinema saw?
Amrish Puri was a great person and a phenomenal actor. Jab maine unko yeh kahaani sunayi thi to woh ro pade the, unhone mujhse kaha, ‘Anil tune kahaani itni achi banayi hai pehle gale mil ja.’ He was a gem of a person, meri last memory unki yeh hai ki woh meri film Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo ke premiere mein aaye the aur unhone mujhe takat se gale laga liya tha. Unhone bole, ‘Tumne mujhe bulaya isliye main aa gaya hoon warna meri tabiyat thik nahi rehti,’ unka kehne ka arth tha ki aaj aa gaya hoon phir pata nahi aa paaon ya nahi, aur uske kuch dino ke baad who rahe nahi. Mere paas bahut memories hai unki, Utkarsh jab chota that toh unke saath khelta rehta tha, bilkul dada-pote ka rishta tha. Amrish ji villain ka kirdar karte the par insaan bahut hi ache the, I miss him a lot. Gadar ke through main teen logon ko shraddhanjali dena chahoonga, ek Amrish Puri ji, ek Vivek Shauq aur Anand Bakshi ji, aaj bhi unki bahut yaad aati hai. Zee Studios ko bhi main dhanyawad dena chahoonga jinki wajah se Gadar ban saki.