While Amitabh Bachchan may have done the Bollywood movie, ‘The Great Gambler’, it was Shahrukh Khan who made all his career moves in Bollywood like a real ‘Great Gambler’.
The cover line, ‘Great Gambler’ (for Filmfare), was a salute to a 28-year-old actor who had made the cash counters ring with an audacious killer act in Abbas-Mustan’s chiller thriller Baazigar.
While other superstars stuck to the age old mantra to achieve success – punctuality, hard-work, no starry demands, etc, Shahrukh took some big risks early in his career, which hit the jackpot.
While its common for the top stars to do ‘negatives’ roles nowadays, back in the those days (early nineties) it was a big thing, and that is why no other top actor did such roles (even Aamir Khan rejected the role in Darr, which was later done by Shahrukh).
Even Baazigar was first offered to Anil Kapoor, who was reluctant to accept a negative role. Then, it was offered to Salman Khan but his father Salim Khan (he liked the story though) was not sure if Salman should disrupt his ‘nice’ image after he had done Sooraj Barjatya’s family entertainer Hum Aapke Hain Kaun!
“That’s when we thought of Shah Rukh bhai whose Deewana we’d liked. We wanted our team of writers (Robin Bhatt, Akash Khurana and Javed Siddiqui) to narrate the plot to him, but he insisted we do it as he wanted to see the directors’ vision unfold. As soon as the narration ended, he announced that he was doing the film and started performing certain scenes for us in different ways,” says director Abbas (of Abbas-Mastan duo).
Such was SRK’s enthusiasm, he even accompanied the directors to Delhi on a recce. He played tourist guide and took them to farmhouses and other prospective locations. “We stayed at Gauri’s house, her parents and mamaji were very hospitable, and Shah Rukh bhai himself was always attentive,” says Mustan. When they returned to Delhi to film “Chhupana Bhi Nahin Aata”, Shahrukh called his friends over to make the engagement scene a crowded affair.
Chhupana Bhi Nahin Aata Song from Baazigar
Here are some more trivia from the movie.
Everybody remembers the hit song “Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein” from the movie. It was choreographed by Saroj Khan.
But because she was already working on some other film, she would take the 7 pm flight from Hyderabad, head straight to the sets, where SRK would be rehearsing with her assistant, Ahmed Khan. They’d start work around 9 pm, work through the night, after which Saroj would go back to Hyderabad.
Ye Kaali Kaali Aankhen Song from Baazigar
At a screening organised for the distributors, many tried to persuade the producer (Ratan Jain) to release the film with the alternative ending — many wanted Shah Rukh to be taken away by the cops rather than hit by an iron rod and left dying in his mother’s lap. “But we were adamant he had to die given that he had taken innocent lives,” says Abbas (recalls how nervous they were while on the bus to Metro theatre for the premiere). “It was only at the end when Yashji (Yash Chopra) sitting in the row ahead turned to hug us, saying ‘Kamaal ki film banaye hai’ and Shah Rukh bhai reciprocated the gesture, that we started breathing.”
Baazigar fetched Shah Rukh the Filmfare Award for Best Actor, and he went on to do quite a films, where he was cast in a negative role. And most of them went on to become huge hits (including Darr).