Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

“One To Ka Four, Four To Ka One, My Name Is Lakhan...,” the blockbuster number from 1989 still remains favourite among music lovers. This song from the blockbuster Hindi movie Ram Lakhan, starring Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, and Dimple Kapadia, recently completed 35 years. Helmed by ‘The Bollywood Showman’ Subhash Ghai, the movie, the songs, and the star cast still remain in the memories of movie lovers.

Ram Lakhan’s script was written in just 15 days and the director had no star cast in mind while writing the script. He needed to start shooting urgently with any available actors and not stars. He improvised the script on the sets and in the music studio. Ram Lakhan achieved cult status and the movie became the 2nd highest-grossing movie of the year.

Jackie Shroff was launched by Ghai and was considered the director’s first choice in those days. He has made many films with the actors such as Karma, Khal Nayak, Trimurti, and Hero. The duo gave numerous blockbusters at the box office. But, it was not just Jackie! Several other actors also were groomed by Ghai and achieved stardom.

But, before delving into Ghai’s journey of grooming new talents, let’s us take a look into his legendary stories with the acting stalwarts of the industry. 

Ghai made the impossible possible

Ghai has made several blockbuster movies throughout his career. He made his directorial debut with Kalicharan starring Shatrughan Sinha which emerged as a blockbuster. Next, it was Vishwanath, Gautam Govinda, Karz, and so on.

Throughout his career he shaped the journey of many actors and groomed them. He also achieved remarkable feats throughout his journey. But, one of the most remarkable achievements was with Saudagar.

Saudagar is one of the iconic films of Indian cinema that starred two legendary actors, Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar. The stalwarts of Indian cinema paired up after 30 years onscreen. However, it was not an ‘easy peasy’ for Ghai to make the movie.

Recounting the old days of reuniting the actors, during a recent podcast with ANI, Ghai said, “I had written the story with two pairs in my mind. One pair was Amrish Puri and Anupam Kher and the other was Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar. Several people in the industry advised me not to think of reuniting the two legendary actors and some even stated that the movie will never happen. But, I decided to work with both of them.

As per the buzz in the industry, Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar were not on good terms and didn’t talk to each other for several years. It was indeed a challenge for Ghai to bring the stalwarts together.

“First, I approached Dilip Sahab and narrated the story. When he inquired about the actor playing another friend's character and learned about Raaj Kumar, he didn't say a word and went away. Later, when I approached Raaj Kumar, after hearing the story, he too inquired about the same thing. When he learned about Dilip Sahab, he said, ‘After me if I consider someone as an actor, it is Dilip Kumar,’" Ghai added.

Talking about his experience with both of them during shooting, Ghai said, “We had given pet names to both, Chunnu (Dilip) and Munnu (Raaj Kumar). The entire crew was aware of it. At last, both of them learned that they were referred to by pet names."

Ghai loved to create a family atmosphere on his sets. And he never worked with a bossy nature. For that reason, actors including Dilip Kumar were influenced by him and worked with him. As Ghai had earlier worked with Dilip Kumar, it was not tough to convince him. As the legendary actor trusted him and loved him, he silently agreed.

There are several other reports of how Ghai faced troubles during the shooting. However, he preferred to remain tight-lipped during the podcast.

Film with Amitabh Bachchan shelved

One of the most renowned actors in Indian cinema, Amitabh Bachchan has no films with Ghai. As per reports, they teamed up for a project titled Devaa. BigB was to play a cop's role. Even Ghai started the shooting. But, he changed the script every time with a new idea. While BigB came prepared with the old script, Ghai presented him with the new scenes. Later, BigB got annoyed and walked out of the project. Ultimately, the project was shelved.

Grooming actors like Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and more

Jackie Shroff got his breakthrough Ghai. But, before that, he worked in Dev Anand's movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna as a sidekick of the antagonist Shakti Kapoor. When Ghai offered him the lead role in Hero, Shroff was shocked. 

Narrating the story, Ghai said, “When I met him for the first time, I asked him if he could dance, sing and act. He was honest enough to say no to all. For his honesty I loved him. Then he was working as a model and was quite nervous. I marked the intensity on his face and decided to give him a try. I gave him a scene and asked him to prepare. He couldn’t do it as the scene was of two pages and raised his hands. Later, I interacted with him and asked him to narrate his personal life. He narrated his life story and without his knowledge, I recorded it.” 

“When I offered him the lead role, he was shocked. He walked out and came back after a while. He said, ‘Do you know that I am working in Dev Anand Sahab's film as a sidekick of the antagonist? Despite that, you are offering me the lead role’!”

The movie emerged as a blockbuster, Jackie Shroff became a star and the rest is history. 

Taking down the memory lane...

It was not just Jackie Shroff, even Anil Kapoor was groomed by Ghai. The filmmaker made Anil’s acting career. Both the actors are even quite close to Ghai and worked with the duo in several movies.

Earlier, Ghai said, “Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Hrithik Roshan are the stars who love me, whether my films become a hit or flop. But, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor, and Jackie Shroff have taken me for granted. They are like family. They force their demands like a family. I have fostered many and after they achieve a point, I let them free.”

Not just male actors, Ghai also groomed several female actors including Meenakshi Shisadri, Madhuri Dixit, Mahima Chaudhary, and Manisha Koirala. It was Ghai who shaped their careers.

Ghai stated, “I make films with a consideration that my hero is Krishna and heroine is Radha. And I give emphasis on that in my films.”

Well, Ghai didn’t just make films in romantic genres. He also made action and crime thrillers. However, as a director, Ghai has taken a long pause of over a decade since Kaanchi: The Unbreakable’s debacle. But, the eminent filmmaker will soon make a comeback and the work is in progress. Though he didn’t reveal more details, his hint would certainly elate his admirers.