By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: On April 11, Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Andaz Apna Apna completes 20 years. Santoshi speaks exclusively to Subhash K Jha
The very prolific Raj Kumar Santoshi has no recollection of the day Andaz Apna Apna (AAA) was released.
Says Santoshi, “Has that film really completed 20 years? Wow! Its reach appeal and impact have been beyond anything I ever expected. I still remember when the producer Vinay Sinha had come to me with the idea of doing a film with Aamir Khan. Vinayji used to look after Aamir’s work. He convinced me to do film with him through my stomach. I remember he had brought the most delicious khana for me. He suggested we do something different with Aamir. I had just done two back-to-back serious films Ghayal and Damini. We decided, why not a comedy? Little did we know that AAA would turn out to be such a laugh riot during shooting and after release.”
It was decided that Santoshi would script a laughathon about two warring buddies , human avatars of Tom & Jerry.
After Aamir came on board Santoshi brought Salman into the picture. “Both were very big stars by then.They had no problems working together.And during the shooting they became even better friends. There would be constant laughter on the sets. We would be rolling with laughter in the sets. There was so much laughter that the cameraman would be quivering with hilarity while shooting the scenes. The camera would shake along with the cameraman.We had to stop the shooting and let the laughter subside.”
Santoshi clears the misconception about a lot of the humour in AAA being improvised. “Not at all! I don’t work that way. I direct my actors very closely. I work out all the scenes along with dialogues well in advance. There is very little room for improvisation. And AAA was no exception. All the jokes and gags were worked out beforehand. People think Aamir and Salman decided to call themselves Amar and Prem to celebrate the movie Amar Prem. But their names had nothing to do with Shakti Samanta’s film. And Aamir exclamation ‘Aila!’ and Salman’s ‘Oui Maa!’ were also my idea.”
Santoshi says he used to give cues to the actors from behind the camera. “Even during that sequence where Salman is fed julaab(laxative) and his love-confessions are repeatedly interrupted by his rumbling stomach, that ‘gud-gud-gud’ sound to Salman’s dialogues was being given by me from behind the camera. Salman didn’t know when and where the ‘gud-gud-gud’ would be put by me. That added to the scene’s unpredictability.”
There were many firsts in AAA. “I was doing comedy for the first time.Salman and Aamir came together for the first and so far only time.Paresh Rawal was a screen villain before AAA. We gave him a comic image. We revived the ‘Ajit-Robert’ jokes with Ajit’s son playing an Ajit carbon-copy.Raveena and Karisma Kapoor were brought together . They exchanged screen names. Raveena was named Karisma in AAA and Karisma was Raveena. How were we to know the jokes would work so well?Comic writing depends on how much humour the writer can generate from the given situations.”
Curiously, AAA got a lukewarm response from the audience when it was released on April 11 ,1994. “It was very badly marketed and distributed. Nobody knew the film was coming. We got a below-average opening. But over the years the film has acquired a cult status. People remember each and every dialogue of AAA, just as they remember every dialogue of Mughal-e-Azam and Sholay.”
Santoshi plans a sequel to AAA, but strictly by public demand. “I don’t believe in creating a franchise by doing sequels or building my own brand. But the demand for a sequel to AAA is unbelievable. If I don’t do it someone else will. That I won’t allow. I’ve ideas for two sequels. One of them is about Amar and Prem married and their life thereafter.”
However it is unlikely that the sequel to AAA would bring Aamir and Salman together again. “Firstly, the economic logistics of bringing Aamir and Salman together in the same film are mindboggling.Secondly their working methods are very different, even though they’re such good friends in real life.”
Santoshi wants to make AAA2 with younger actors. “The world has moved on in 20 years. I see a lot of filmmakers and actors doing an Andaz Apna Apna. I would like to see where the characters have gone after so long.”