April 9, 2001


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Runima Borah Tandon

The elder brother of well-known director Dharmesh Darshan, Suneel Darshan began his career in Bollywood as a successful producer with action films such as Inteqam and Lootere.

He then turned to direction with Ajay and Jaanwar.

He had a winner in Jaanwar, which starred Akshay Kumar, Karisma Kapoor and Shilpa Shetty.

The success of the film, he confesses, put on a major responsibility for him: "I did receive acceptance but not the kind that high profile directors had received. So somewhere within myself, there was this drive to cover this little gap that had been left. It was a choice between making a love story and a thriller.

Ek Rishta "But I wanted to do something which would get me recognised and feel proud of. For which I had to figure out subjects. I didn't have to go into too much of literature. The greatest subject, I feel, is there right in front of you -- your own experiences in life and relationships."

He is savvy and soft-spoken. He is also an excellent storyteller -- he keeps you rooted to your seat with his stories.

Witness one: The making of his film Ek Rishtaa -- The Bond Of Love, which is slotted for an early May release.

'This is the story of my life'

I ran away from Bombay for two weeks to Indore, Delhi and Hyderabad and kept probing and looking around for story ideas.

Back in Bombay, Akshay invited for dinner. He said he was keen on us work together as a team again after Jaanwar.

So I narrated my story to him. It was quite detailed and lasted the length of a feature film.

After I finished, Akshay had tears in his eyes and an expression on his face that said, "How did you know?"

I looked at him and said, "What's wrong, Akshay?"

He said, "It's amazing! How did you get to know?"

Ek Rishta I said, perplexed, "What?"

He said, "This is the story of my life."

I was stumped. I thought I had narrated a story into which I had woven several incidents from my own life.

What I mean to say is that at the end of the day, this film holds a very strong identification for the viewer.

And Akshay's performance is very unexpected. You see, he has always been known as a star. Not an actor.

But for the last two years, with Jaanwar and Dhadkan, he has evolved as an actor. Here we have pitted him against Amitabh Bachchan. He himself was aware that to combat Mr. Bachchan is impossible so he has taken a completely different route. He just followed the director’s brief and given his role absolute honesty and sincerity to the character and portrayed it. And that honesty gets reflected beautifully on screen. He has straight delivered a great performance.”

'This is Amitabh here'

"Akshay was so excited. We decided to go for it immediately.

That left the protagonist, the central character to the subject. Who would play the father's role?

My ultimate dream was Amitabh Bachchan. I called his office and left a message with his secretary.

One day, I was driving to my office. I got a call on my cellphone. There came that magical voice at the other end: "This is Amitabh here."

My heart stopped. That amazing voice that I had lived with for so many years on tape and in films had called me over for a narration. I did. After I was through, I looked into his eyes. And I knew I had convinced him.

And he is truly a legendary actor. His commitment to his profession is simply absolute once he gets into the film. He is not a troublesome actor. He is really into his work even though he might fool around the sets, maintaining a jovial front.

Ek Rishta He's always trying to put you at ease -- he knows almost everyone on the sets is in awe of him. So he takes care not to overpower people around him with the sheer force of his personality.

He is also very accommodating. Once, he was unwell with a back problem. But he never broke the schedule. In fact he was out of his way to see that I could achieve this film in such a short duration of time.”

'Juhi was intelligent enough to realise she needed to do something of substance'

A few days before announcing the film, K S Sanjay, Juhi's secretary, had walked into my office and asked me to consider her for a role. I told him I couldn't cast her as a conventional heroine -- I wanted to cast Karisma opposite Akshay.

But I did have a very interesting heroine's role in the film. She would be a pivotal character to the subject and would play Amitabh Bachchan's daughter.

I think Juhi was also intelligent enough to realise that merely running around trees would offer nothing in terms of excitement. She needed to do something of substance.

Her role in Ek Rishta was one of substance and honest. Her character evolves during the course of the film. And, of course, it is any artiste's dream to work with Amitabh Bachchan.

'I will give Karisma a successful film'

Karisma Kapoor has won enough awards. But what I will give her is a successful film, which she really needs now. In the last few months, she has not achieved that. My film will assure her that success.

'Rakhee is not hypocritical at all!'

I had all the big stars with me. One important character needed to complete the cast: Amitabh's wife. We shortlisted two or three artistes but, eventually, we zeroed in on Rakheeji.

We felt she would fit the bill of the pretty woman and mother of these lovely children in the film. She's also a good performer.

I found that she was very accommodating and comfortable to be with. Her reserve is often misunderstood for high-handedness. I think she is a very warm and a loving person, not at all hypocritical.

Ek Rishta My role was very unlike the mother in Karan Arjun -- the tigress who fought Amrish Puri film after film. She was bored with that.

We wanted an image change and roped in Manish Malhotra to design her wardrobe. And he whisked his magic on her.

'Nadeem's tunes fit your situation to a T'

Ek Rishtaa has one more very important person: Nadeem.

I think he is simply the best, most lively and accepted music director of this era.

Unfortunately, he is going through a crisis, having rubbed the wrong people or the right people the wrong way.

I ran into him accidentally in London. A few more meetings followed and Nadeem was roped into the film. He composed the music for seven amazing songs. And all have blended in beautifully with the subject and the script of the film.

Nadeem is a very intelligent music director. He knows how to grasp a situation. He comes up with tunes that fit your situation to a T.

Ek Rishta is an honest film

My brand of filmmaking deals with relationships. What I would like to give is a little extra moment, which is what cinema is all about.

I believe Ek Rishtaa has a lot of moments like that. It is an honest, not a pretentious, film.

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