I’m sure everybody remembers Aankhen, the wacky comedy of 1993 that starred Govinda and Chunky Panday. What nobody knows that there was even more fun and comedy that happened off the screen before the film took off.
One evening in early 1992, actor Govinda dropped in to meet producer Pahlaj Nihalani around 9.30 pm. More than three hours later, Chunky Panday also came to the producer’s house and the three of them ended up chatting the whole night together. Until then, Govinda and Chunky were not friends. In fact, there was intense rivalry with Pahlaj Nihalani as the only common link between them. In 1992, flush with the success of movies like Ilzaam, Aag Hi Aag and Shola Aur Shabnam, Pahlaj was a very big name with immense clout in the Hindi film industry.
He had successfully launched Govinda with Ilzaam which was a box-office hit in 1986. Remember the chartbuster ‘I am a street dancer’ with which Govinda made his entry into Hindi films? Govinda had barely tasted stardom when Pahlaj gave Chunky Panday, another new boy, a grand debut with Aag Hi Aag in 1987. Thus, the rivalry between the two young heroes.
But when they met at Pahlaj’s house that night, they hit it off so well that they were keen to do a film together. Before leaving Pahlaj’s house as late as 5 am in the morning, they both wanted the producer to make a film with them.
That night or early morning, Pahlaj thought of his two crazy discoveries and went to sleep with a smile on his face and with an idea brewing in his mind. He thought that a comedy with Govinda and Chunky as two nalayaks who want to do something memorable, would be an apt subject to bring them together.
Pahlaj quickly called director David Dhawan and writers Anees Bazmee and Praful Parekh who’d just delivered the superhit Shola Aur Shabnam for him. He wanted them to make a wacky comedy with a chimpanzee adding to the chaos.
To Pahlaj’s utter surprise, David, Anees and Praful, all three of them rejected his idea.
Not one to give up, Pahlaj got another writer Anwar Khan who’d worked in films like Ram Lakhan (1989) to come on board. Anwar was excited with the story idea and he worked on a few versions. But oh, ho, Pahlaj found Anwar’s dialogues not crackling the way he wanted, they didn’t have the flavour he had in mind.
3 to 4 months elapsed when one day, Govinda again fetched up at Pahlaj’s house, this time with his diary at 7am in the morning. He showed his diary to Pahlaj and said, “Dekho, khaali hai. It’s empty. Bhar do na, fill it up with whatever dates you want.”
In an instant, Pahlaj made a decision. He asked costume designer Madhu to look at the latest fashions and make 4 to 5 pairs of really crazy outfits for Govinda and Chunky. They had to dress absolutely alike like two chumps and a chimp.
Pahlaj then instructed his production team to book whichever bungalow was available for shooting two days later. He was told that Gaffarbhai Nadiadwala’s bungalow was available, so he told them, “Book it, and book all the equipment also from Gaffarbhai. In two days, we’re going there to perform the mahurat of our new film.”
Pahlaj was thus all set for the mahurat without a director or writer on board.
He invited a whole lot of people to his mahurat including David Dhawan and Anees Bazmee, and friends like Mahesh Bhatt. He gave a scene to Govinda and Chunky and asked them to rehearse it. He told Chunky, “Watch Govinda. Whatever he does, just replicate it. I want both of you to be zeroxes of each other. Chunky, just get into Govinda’s system and emerge like another version of Govinda.”
At the mahurat on 7 July 1992, a befuddled David Dhawan and Anees Bazmee asked Pahlaj, “What are you making?” He replied, “I’m making the story that both of you rejected.” They asked him curiously, “Who’s doing it for you?” Pahlaj had no clue. But he looked at Mahesh Bhatt who was just another guest there and said with a straight face, “Mahesh Bhatt is making it.” At this, David protested, “I’ve just directed a superhit Shola Aur Shabnam for you. How can you replace me?” Pahlaj shrugged, “You’ve become such a busy man, what can I do?” David wouldn’t hear of it. “Nothing doing. I’m doing this film,” he said, “come what may.”
Stifling his laughter, Pahlaj told him, “Govinda and Chunky are already rehearsing a scene. Now place the camera as you want and take the mahurat shot.”
“What’ll you do with Mahesh Bhatt?” David asked him.
“I’ll ask him to give the mahurat clap,” Pahlaj cheerfully answered him.
Mahesh Bhatt of course had no idea that his name was being bandied around in this merry manner.
But a chastised David Dhawan happily posed for photographs as the director of the film with Anees Bazmee as the writer.
Within 15 days, David and Anees were ready and the filming of Aankhen began in right earnest.
Aankhen went on to become one of David Dhawan’s biggest hits and Pahlaj was on top of the world as Aankhen was declared the highest grossing Indian film of 1993.
This is Bharathi Pradhan with Stories Never Told Before. Very soon, I’ll come to you with another one.