Vivek Mushran on how Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar were ‘childish to each other’ on the Saudagar sets
Saudagar goes down in Indian cinema history for probably two things. One, he played two of the biggest titans of Bollywood, Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar, and second, he redefined onscreen romance with his songs like “Ilu Ilu”. Actor Vivek Mushran, who debuted this blockbuster by Subhash Ghai, agrees.
“The mastery of Subhash ji was how these two great players handled. It’s not easy to have such great people in one project. You have to treat them very carefully, and yet succeed in getting great performance from everyone. Not all filmmakers can do this, ”Vivek told indianexpress.com.
Saudagar’s plot was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar playing friends turned enemies and how their grandchildren are committed to bringing them together. With Vivek Mushran, actress Manisha Koirala also made her film debut. Saudagar also had a stellar cast including Amrish Puri, Anupam Kher, Deepti Naval, Dilip Tahil, Mukesh Khanna, Gulshan Grover, Jackie Shroff, and others.
As Saudagar turns 30, Vivek Mushran sat down with us to reflect on what was happening on a set of Subhash Ghai and the candid moments he shared with the two Kumars. “I still feel like it’s only been a few years since its release. And with those movies showing on TV, you keep attracting new audiences for it. “
Vivek never intended to be an actor. He just got lucky leaving his pictures at Subhash Ghaifrom the office where he least expected to be picked on the first try. “I was a university student. I clicked on a few photos to try out the modeling. Even if I hadn’t gotten anything, I would have gone back to the MBA. But as they say, sometimes the stars and fate are in your favor. It was just one of those moments.
So began Vivek’s cinematic journey. He agreed that Saudagar was a school for him where he also learned filmmaking and editing. He said, “Watching the edition of Subhash ji was the best learning experience. Since it was the only movie I did, I used to sit with him in the editing room. said to start watching movies and that’s where my movie experience started.
Further praising the filmmaker for his skill in understanding his actors and giving them confidence, Vivek said the way he treated two newbies around other great actors was flawless. “Manisha and I were newcomers who were learning. Subhash ji knew that and so he started shooting silent scenes with us, ”the actor explained, remembering his first shot where he was injured and Manisha tending to his injuries, while the two share a frank moment without any dialogue.
Vivek said he is still in touch and great friends with Manisha Koirala.
Vivek finally got comfortable on sets, and that’s when his interactions with Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar began. “The stories of many films remained the same during that time, it was about how the directors left their own impression on them. Even Saudagar had the touch of Subhash ji, the way he presented it musically, the way he understood the drama and then the casting of the two giants. Longevity is due to that.
Vivek did not have major exposure to the work of Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar in his boarding school, with the exception of Karma, also directed by Ghai with the former. “But by working with them, I started to respect them and I understood why they are such big stars.”
Walking down the Memory Trail, Vivek agreed that the disappearance of Dilip Kumar recently brought the days around him to the Saudagar plateau like lightning. “Dilip Saab was a very popular man. He used to walk around between shoots and needed company, so he coached me. We were filming in Manali. He took his cook everywhere and had him prepare meals for the whole crew. Then he would sit down to share stories about his life and career. He was a very good talker and loved being around people.
Raaj Kumar, however, appeared to be an introvert. Vivek revealed that despite being more reserved, his style and personality were extraordinary.
Recalling one of those memories when Raaj Kumar was asked to tell his story of becoming an actor, Vivek said, “Raaj ji explained how he was in the police force where he came in second or fourth out of 50 candidates or so. something like that. He was quite good academically. And then how he met a producer. I don’t remember the full story but I do remember that after telling it for half an hour, just before the most interesting part of the story of how he finally became an actor, he had said ‘acha chhodo jaani ab aage ka tumko kal batayenge (laughs).’ That was his style for breaking the ice with everyone.
According to Vivek, Raaj Kumar “had a very low-key wit and a charming sarcasm that many people couldn’t understand.” Theyo interacted a lot on the sets. “Raaj ji would ask me ‘chai piyoge?’ And then he said to his man on Friday “chai mein doodh dalna, doodh mein chai nahin”.
Back then, we even heard stories of a feud between the two biggies on the Saudagar sets. Vivek, however, denied being aware of any such thing. Rather, he called them “quite childish to each other”.
“Since Raaj ji was left alone most of the time, there must have been a case where Dilip ji greeted him and he didn’t realize it. Later, Dilip ji said to Subhash Ghai: “lalle aaj maine bhi usko ignore kiya, toh usne hello bola”. They did such childish things on set. I don’t think there was anything major.
In fact, it was Ghai who kept the two pillars in sync, while keeping his own reputation as the “Bollywood showman” intact. “In Subhash ji’s films, you do what he tells you to do. I remember he was taking the foreground of Raaj ji in the movie. It was simple where he gets out of a car, closes his door and takes 3-4 steps. Subhash ji has taken 17 retakes. He was good at convincing, as a subtle way of saying with all respect that “I’m the boss of this set.” You have to do it with great actors, otherwise they can overpower you. “
During the filming of the film, the actors felt that Saudagar was about to become something big. Vivek said seeing himself on the film’s posters and panels was surreal, although he struggled to convince his friends. “A newspaper ad had my name like ‘casting that actor’. Some of my friends refused to believe it. In fact, they started scratching my name to see if it was real or stuck there ( laughs).
“Saudagar has stood the test of time thanks to Subhash Ghai’s patience with his actors and his confidence in the medium. His shot was unique, his editing style was amazing, and of course his expertise in picturing music and songs. He had his own way of doing things. Thanks to the goodwill of Subhash Ghai and the cachet of Saudagar, life has been comfortable for me, ”Vivek retrospect.
But how does he react when people remember his song “Ilu Ilu”? “I say it’s been so many years, now forget this song. Don’t think of me as the same teenager. But that’s the beauty of some films, they last so long, people always remember them, ”he concludes with a smile.
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