Tell us something about the film’s journey and your first meeting with Shah Rukh Khan.
The film’s journey started one and a half year before we released the film. It was an unexpected journey because I was not expecting to launch anybody. I had already launched Raveena Tandon in Patthar Ke Phool and Salman Khan had become a big star. I think Sippy Saab, me, Anant Balani, were gearing up to make another film with Salman and Raveena.
On the last day of the shoot of Patthar Ke Phool which was a Sunday, we were shooting on Linking Road. You get the outdoors only on Sunday. I met Shah Rukh on Linking Road when the shooting was going on. There used to be a hotel named Bandra International behind Lucky Biryani. There was a coffee shop on the first floor which had a big window. So, I could see my shooting from there. Anant was directing Salman and Raveena. Sanjay Gupta, Sanjay Gadhvi were among the assistants on the set.
It was the last day of some patchwork shoot. I was sitting inside the coffee shop. I met Shah Rukh. We had coffee and a cigarette. He told me that he was staying in Saeed Mirza’s office because he was shooting for Circus. Everything was nice.
After the pack-up, Anant and everyone came up. Sanjay Gupta told me that Shah Rukh is a big star. He has done Fauji and has a big fan following. After pack-up, I was going to Sterling Cinema which had newly installed Dolby system. And they were showing a film called Abyss at the 10:30 pm show. Shah Rukh accompanied me in my daddy’s Fiat and both of us went to Sterling. We watched Abyss. I bought the tickets in black because it was a houseful show. I bought cigarettes and popcorn. The film’s duration was long and it got over at 1 am at night.
Then SRK asked for money…
Shah Rukh asked me for a hundred rupees because he had to go to Bandra. I did not have any cash because I had already spent whatever I had. So, I told him to get in the car and that I’ll drop him. But there was no petrol in the car. So, I told him, “Let’s go to my home. My mother is insomniac. She is normally awake at this hour. You borrow a hundred rupees from her and then go to Bandra.” So, he came to my house that night. But coincidentally, my mother was fast asleep that night. So, I told him to sleep over at my house and go to Bandra the next morning. I gave him shorts to wear. He stayed at my house for two years.
I went to work in the morning and came back in the evening but he was still asleep. My mother said, “He was so tired. I didn’t have the heart to wake him up.” Then I woke him up and he had a shower. He was a star. He said, “This is veg.” I told him, “On Mondays, we always eat dal-chawal.” He said, “No.” So, I took him to Gaylord and ordered butter chicken. He was emotional that night. He told me that his mother was dying. So, I told him to stay one more night. He stayed there until he got married. So, that is the story of Shah Rukh Khan and Viveck Vaswani. But there was no intention of making a film.
He didn’t want to do films. He was very happy doing TV. After his mother died in Delhi after 3-4 months, I went to Delhi where I met Gauri and stayed at his house. Normally, he used to call me before coming but one night he came to my house at 4 o’clock. I asked him to come inside. He said, “My mother is dead. I have done the formalities. Will you launch me? Will you cast me in your movie?” I said, “Yes”. He said, “Pehle tum bolo, nahin toh main andar nahin aa raha.” He actually took me to a restaurant next to my house. We sat over coffee. Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman was born there.
But why was Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman the fourth release of Shah Rukh Khan and not first?
We decided that Aziz Mirza would direct it. We went to his office and sat with his assistants. We decided that it would be a warm story. I was making the film for Shah Rukh. So, we have to write Shah Rukh only, no? Otherwise, how would it be a launch film? The idea was to make him saleable. So, I took him to meet Rakesh Roshan for King Uncle, to Rajeev Mehra for Chamatkar, to Hema Malini for Dil Aashna Hai. I told him, “When four of your films are sold and all territories are sold, then we will start shooting for Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. So, Raju… was the first film but the shooting started last because until he was not saleable, I did not want to make the film.”
Rakesh Roshan did not need Shah Rukh’s saleability. Hema Malini already had Jeetendra, Mithun Chakraborty etc. I needed his saleability factor so that it works for Raju… That’s how it materialised. I met Juhi. I told her that he was the most handsome boy in the world. She used to stay nearby my house, so I made her meet Shah Rukh. By that time, she had met me and Azeez and wanted to work with us. So, everything got into place.
Amrita Singh scared me on the first day of the shoot. She ran away and married Saif Ali Khan. But she came back and finished the whole film and she was very fine in the film. The film became a hit and Shah Rukh got momentum. The aim was never to make a film. The aim was always to give him a career. Putting an actor in a film will get him work. But how do you make a film a hit if you don’t do proper planning?
A film is a hit when there are good distributors backing it, powerful distributors distributing it – which theatres to choose, where to put the posters and billboards etc. All these things make the saleability factor work and we did all these things and Shah Rukh Khan became a star. Not because I gave him a break but the strategy was to make Raju… a hit.
Tell us something about the Juhi incident…
First, I met Juhi’s mother Mona Chawla at The Taj. I said, “I am making a film with a new boy.” So, she was like, “New boy? Juhi has just signed films with big stars. She has signed Bol Radha Bol with Rishi Kapoor. Don’t take the new boy. Take Aamir Khan instead.” I told her that GP Sippy was producing the film. Then the whole attitude changed because he had made Sholay. So, she said yes and asked who was the new boy. So, I made Juhi meet Shah Rukh. But before that, I had given her narration of Raju… from Aziz. She loved Aziz and her role in the film. She loved everything about the film.
I think Shah Rukh was not the big factor and she was not disappointed in Shah Rukh. She was disappointed that I had lied to her about Shah Rukh being the best-looking boy in the world. So, she was like, “He is not the best-looking boy in the whole universe.” I told her to shoot with him for two days and then tell me. So, she shot with him for two days and came back to me saying, “I take my words back. He is fabulous.” You have to see him on set. He is not handsome. He is charming. But how do I explain that to her when I had also met him barely six months ago?
There’s something about Nana Patekar’s fee too…
Nana was the biggest star at that time. I paid Juhi 3 lakhs and Nana 6 lakhs. Nana said to me, “Viveck ji, I like Aziz. He is a very good actor. I will do the film. I will take 6 lakhs.” And he said, “Sippy Saab ko jaa ke bolo maine 6 lakh iss liye bola hai kyunki mujhe yeh picture karni hai. Nahin karni hoti toh main 60 lakh bolta.”