‘Andaaz’ completes 18 years of its release today. The film, which featured Akshay Kumar as the male lead introduced Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta to the silver screen. The film boasted of a super-hit soundtrack by Nadeem-Shravan which is remembered till date. Released in 2003 at a time when many big-ticket films had released and sunk at the box-office without a trace, ‘Andaaz’ had to face a lot of hurdles closer to its release including a strike by the Film Producer’s Association. But, a well-made film always succeeds in finding an audience and becomes immortal in the hearts and the minds of the audience. ‘Andaaz’ broke the dry spell at the box-office and emerged as one of the biggest hits of the year. Today, the film continues to be popular courtesy a large number of audience discovering and revisiting it on television and digital platforms.
On the eve of the film’s 18th anniversary, producer Suneel Darshan talks about backing this stylized romantic saga with his vision, how it paved the way for Akshay Kumar becoming a star to reckon with, what debutantes Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta brought to the film and more.
It has been 18 years since the film released. How do you look back at the film today?
A while back, somebody asked me, “how would you summarize Andaaz?”. I replied, for me it’s a film with superhit music, oozing with glamour.” Yes, the film had varied emotions. That was the inherently traditional structure of the script. There were films that have been made on similar subjects in the past but ‘Andaaz’s novelty lay in its presentation. It’s not about what you do alone, but how you do that… For instance, there would have been little novelty had we taken top heroines. Films don’t work solely on glamour and music but here, these elements brought a certain novelty and newness to the film.
The film was a turning point in Akshay Kumar’s career and he started delivering hits quite consistently after this film.
In both ‘Jaanwar’ and ‘Ek Rishtaa The Bond Of Love’s promotions I was trying to build Akshay Kumar to put him at par with the best. However, in the latter strangely, the hoardings that we had put were torn & destroyed by somebody. We didn’t know who was doing this. Two years later when ‘Andaaz’ was on the verge of its release I launched the music and it became a superhit almost immediately. The posters had a fresh and modern look to them. The same people who didn’t believe in Akshay were now saying good things about him. Akshay delivered a bravura performance that was loved by everyone. ‘Andaaz’ confirmed Akshay Kumar’s stardom and marked a new interesting turn in his career.
The late Raj Kanwar, who directed the film eventually, came up to you with a basic concept of the film. Is that true?
Yes, he did. Raj and I were friends for a long time. That was a time when 3-4 films directed by him had flopped & his career was going through a very low phase. He said now that he has deliver a bunch of unsuccessful films in a row, would somebody like me be interested in producing a film with him. I replied, “why not? You are a capable director. A few hits and flops are not a reflection of a filmmakers’ talent.” Raj Kanwar did a fine job as the director. I always credit ‘Andaaz’ to the excellent team that worked tirelessly for the film.
Did you ever think about directing the film yourself?
No, I was absolutely fine with Raj directing the film as it was his idea. However, as a producer, I did make several contributions & dedicated myself totally to it. I structured the film and put together the casting. My decision of casting two fresh girls was one of the best decisions for the film. It was one of the things that made the film look fresh.
Both Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta bagged the Filmfare Award For Best Debut (Female) for ‘Andaaz’. What do you think they brought to the film?
They brought freshness to the film. They performed with a lot of confidence. ‘Hero’ had released a month back and technically, it became Priyanka Chopra’s first release in Hindi as an actor. But, the audience noticed her with ‘Andaaz’ and this was the film she won all her awards for. The physical chemistry between the three leads struck a chord with the audience.
Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra starred in a couple of films together shortly after the release of ‘Andaaz’. Why did you never cast them together?
My film ‘Barsaat: A Sublime Love Story’ was launched with Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif. We did start shooting and even finished a schedule with Akshay and Priyanka and the title song of the film was shot. Thereafter, Akshay Kumar had to leave the film and I had to accept with a heavy heart. I had a long-standing association with Akshay yet had no choice and as it had serious personal implications to him.
You launched your own music label Shree Krishna International Audio with ‘Andaaz’. What made you take the plunge into music distribution?
The music industry was going through a dull phase in 2002 because of rampant piracy and was almost in a crisis like situation for a while. Like my earlier films, I was willing to sell the music rights of ‘Andaaz’ to a music company but none of them offered me even a decent price for what I was giving them. I thought having my own music company would be better than giving away the music rights to a label for almost nothing. ‘Andaaz’ was the first film whose music was released on Shree Krishna Audio and we couldn’t have hoped for a more auspicious start. I remember I was in New York to book the screens for the film as its international distributor and was surprised to find more CDs of Andaaz on display there than what we had manufactured for the entire world. All the cassettes and CDs we had manufactured till that time had been sold out completely but the demand was so high that even in a foreign country, people were making pirated copies of it and selling it.