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25 years of Vishwatma: How Chunky Pandey replaced Jackie Shroff

Jackie Shroff could not join the project as his son was born around the same time.

Alex Almeida

Vishwatma, director Rajiv Rai’s third film after Yudh (1985) and Tridev (1989) under father Gulshan Rai's Trimurti Films banner, was one of the biggest multi-starrers of the 1990s. The film was shot largely in Kenya and released on 24 January 1992.

Rajiv Rai wanted to repeat his three Tridev heroes – Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff and Naseeruddin Shah – but Shroff could not join the project as his son Tiger was born around that time and his astrologer was believed to have advised him not to travel abroad for a year.

So Chunky Pandey replaced Shroff and his character was given a comic touch. Deol's action avatar after the success of Ghayal (1990) was still fresh in the public mind while Shah played an Indian-origin Kenyan cop who loves the mother country.

Of the female cast, only Rajiv Rai's wife Sonam made it from Tridev. Madhuri Dixit and Sangeeta Bijlani were replaced by newcomers Divya Bharti and one-film wonder Jyotsna Singh. Sonam had the bigger and meatier role of the three, but Divya Bharti became a household name after grooving to the superhit track 'Saat Samundar Paar' sung by Sadhna Sargam.

25 years of Vishwatma: Decoding the anatomy of 'Saat Samundar Paar'

The music of the film was conducted by Viju Shah, son of Kalyanji Virji Shah of Kalyanji-Anandji fame. Shah had worked with his father and uncle to compose the music for Tridev. He tried to recreate the magic of 'Oye Oye' with Sonam and Shah in the song 'Dil Le Gayi Teri Bindiya'. The song did not become as big a hit as 'Oye Oye' but 'Saat Samundar Paar' became a chartbuster.

25 years of Vishwatma: 5 ways 'Saat Samundar Paar' song still lives on

In 2014, when producer Sajid Nadiadwala directed the Salman Khan-starrer Kick, he bought the rights to the song from Saregama for Rs1.5 crore to pay a tribute to his wife, the late Divya Bharti.

Viju Shah went on to work as music director in all of Rajiv Rai’s films like Mohra (1994), Gupt (1997), Pyar Ishq Aur Mohabbat (2001) and Asambhav (2004).

The main antagonist in Vishwatma was Amrish Puri but as was his wont Rai cast a whole galaxy of villains with him. Many are still remembered for their names. Amrish Puri was Azghar Jurrat, Mahesh Anand was Rajnath Jurrat, Gulshan Grover was Tapasvi Gunjal, Tej Sapru, Dan Dhanoa and Anand Balraj played the Nilu brothers Bada, Majhla and Chhota, and Kiran Kumar played Naagdansh Jurrat.

The plot was about suspended police officer Prabhat Singh (Deol), who is assigned the task of bringing fugitive gangster Azghar Jurrat back to face trial in India, with jailbird Akash Bhardwaj (Pandey) as his assistant and working under the guidance of Kenyan police officer Surya Pratap Singh (Shah).