Before he made the blockbuster Gadar with Sunny Deol, this filmmaker had made an impression on the box-office with films like Shraddhanjali (1981) Bandhan Kachche Dhaagon Ka (1983) and Hukumat (1987). Anil Sharma was very keen to make a film on the Independence struggle, the Partition and pre-Partition times. Many stories roamed around his head, he also read up a lot on those times, even books on the Italian Revolution. After mulling over many stories, he finally settled on the Kashmiri Pandit exodus and decided to make a film titled ‘Kashmir’. Anil Sharma not only started work on the story, he also had an interesting starcast lined up for it. He wanted Dilip Kumar, Dharmendra and a younger actor like Aamir Khan for his film ‘Kashmir’. He even went along and narrated the subject to the thespian who was so excited with the idea that he sprang up and started performing some of the scenes. Anil Sharma knew that when an actor of the stature of Dilip Kumar started imagining himself in the character, he was really interested in the film. He had never seen such an intense and passionate actor in his life. Anil Sharma also had a word with Dharmendra who was all set to come on board. The title ‘Kashmir’ was registered, there were a couple of more meetings with Dilip Kumar and Dharmendra but the filmmaker was still to meet Aamir and offer him the film. Scripting went on in full swing for the next several months and they reached the climax point. All they had to do was to put The End to the writing, give a bound script to their actors and sign them officially. At this juncture, Anil Sharma told his trusted writer Shaktimaan that for the second half he wanted a small romantic sub-plot inserted in the story. His idea was a small track of secularism, a love story between a Kashmiri Hindu boy and a Muslim girl from the other side of the border; his idea was to spotlight that borders were drawn by men while God above made human beings and love. Though from different sides, culturally they were the same, no borders could be drawn in their common culture. And their love was so deep that it transcended religious and manmade borders. A few days later, Shaktimaan came back with a sub-plot and narrated it to Anil Sharma. The director in him sat up all ears, his mind raced, he paced around the room several times and pondered aloud, “Shouldn’t we make this sub-plot as a full-fledged film?” Shaktimaan was so astonished, he drew Anil Sharma’s attention to the fact that Kashmir was practically ready to roll, he’d already sounded out the actors too. But once the bug bit the director, he couldn’t shake it off. No, said Anil Sharma, Kashmir can wait, this is the subject I want to make right now. So, after almost one year of hard work on the film Kashmir, the director set it aside and went to work with Shaktimaan to turn the romantic sub-plot into a film.
Anil Sharma said to his team, “I want to make the Ramayan. In today’s context there couldn’t be a better substitute than Pakistan for Lanka. Luv-Kush asked their father to bring home their mother and Sunny brings home the mother of his little son in Gadar.” He was so sure of his subject that he added, “I’m not making an epic like Ramcharitramanas which will live on for 1000s of years. But Gadar will live on at least for 100 years. That’s my guarantee. This story is in the blood of every Indian. When people watch Gadar, they will not realise they’re watching Ramayan. But they will feel a deep connect with it.”
Within a day, the story took shape. When Zee heard the story, they promptly agreed to produce the film and off went Anil Sharma along with Zee’s Nitin Keni to meet Sunny who was shooting in Ooty. The story of Gadar touched Sunny so much that till 3am that night, he and Anil Sharma walked up and down the corridors of the Taj in Ooty, discussing how the film would be made. Sunny even signed the film there and then in Ooty without waiting to take his signing amount which was given to him later in Mumbai.
And thus was born Gadar, the blockbuster of 2001.
The film was such a craze that shows had to be started from 6am in some parts of Punjab. To this day, Gadar is listed as one of the 5 biggest blockbusters of Hindi cinema. To think that it began as a sub-plot in another film.
But, to this day, Anil Sharma has not made a film on the Kashmiri Pandit genocide and exodus. And his biggest living regret is that he never made a film with Dilip Kumar.
This is Bharathi S Pradhan with Stories Never Told Before. Will soon roll out another one.