Article Hindi

30 years of Mr India: ‘When viewers can’t get over it, how can the makers?’

On the film’s 30th anniversary, producer Boney Kapoor and actor Aftab Shivdasani, who played one of the kids, get nostalgic as they go 30 years down memory lane.

Keyur Seta

Circa 1987. The nation was gripped by a man they couldn’t see occasionally. It seemed like the kids had found a new toy. But at the same time, they would shudder at the lines, “Mogambo khush hua.” It has been 30 years since Shekhar Kapur’s Mr. India released. But the film continues to be one of India’s most loved cinematic experiences. It managed to transcend generations, which is a rare occurrence in Indian cinema.

On the film’s 30th anniversary, we got talking with producer Boney Kapoor and Aftab Shivdasani, who played one of the kids. They got nostalgic as they went 30 years down memory lane and revealed some interesting behind-the-scene happenings of the film which starred Anil Kapoor, Sridevi, Amrish Puri, Satish Kaushik, Annu Kapoor and a bunch of kids.

Even after 30 years, Boney Kapoor is still hungover on the film. “When the viewers can’t get over it, how can the makers get over it? It is a special film and will remain that way. It’s very close to my heart. I remember each and every working process. I had a fantastic, happy team where everybody put in their best. Everybody was absolutely emotional about every aspect about the film. Right from the kids to the technicians and the support staff. The whole crew was totally geared up and charged.”

The idea was curated by the celebrated writer duo Salim-Javed. “This was the last script they worked on (together). When they parted, Javed sahab had the script,” informed Boney Kapoor.

“But he was gracious enough to give credit to both because they had developed it together. Basically, the plot and the main characters were worked out. (Earlier) the plot was about a boy, girl and orphan. Rest of it was all worked out once we got into it," said Boney Kapoor.

The memorable Hanuman idol scene

Shivdasani was only seven years old, but he still has vivid memories of the film. “Well, the entire shoot was such a fun experience for me although I was just seven years old. There were 10 of us (kids) in the film who kept on just playing cricket, football or whatever we could think of in between shots. Luckily for all of us, Shekhar ji was so patient and amazing with us that never once did he lose his cool. That’s why all of us loved him so much!” he said.

The kids had become so close to Anil Kapoor that they would be in tears when his character got beat up. “Anil ji was such a warm and loving person to have on sets. He always used to interact with us and actually make us feel that we were his real children. I guess that’s why you see such real and loving chemistry between his character and the kids. We all were so attached to him through the making of the film that whenever there was an action scene involving him and us, we would actually almost weep if he got punched or kicked at all!!” reminisced Shivdasani.

There was an instance where a quick and important decision was taken at the last minute. It was during the iconic ‘Kaate Nahin Kat Te’ song. “Everything was well planned. But at the last minute I felt the dress which was designed for Sridevi didn’t really evoke. So that dress was kept aside and Kukki Malhotra was brought in and she came with a plain blue chiffon saree. The colour was selected by Baba Azmi. Everything was decided there only on the sets. I told Shekhar that what I saw in Jaanbaaz and the way Firoz Khan shot that song, it was very aesthetic and we thought we could do something better than that,” added Boney Kapoor.

Anil Kapoor and Sridevi in 'Kaate Nahin Kat Te'

There were more changes in the song though. “Earlier the song was to be shot with Sridevi alone with only the sound of Mr. India. Then we felt Anil is the hero of the film so he should be there too. So we made another set, which looked like a part of the other set, and shot portions with Anil and Sridevi,” added Boney Kapoor.

Mr. India was made in an era when modern special effects hadn’t arrived in India. “Everything was shot on camera. There were no special effects on post-production done. Baba Azmi was the DoP, but we had Peter Pereira for special effects photography. We had Arun Patil (sound effects), Veeru Devgan, who provided a lot of inputs, including the dining table going out scene.”

One of his favourite scenes in the film is the one where Mr. India finds the gadget. “That excitement was something unravelling. Anil and Jugal go to the scientist’s house and that’s where they find the gadget. Shekhar shot that scene brilliantly,” Boney Kapoor said.

For Shivdasani, the most memorable moment was the prank played on him during the climax scene, which brought out some natural acting out of him. “When Mogambo had to lift me up over the acid tank and threaten to throw me in it, everyone tricked me that it was real acid and I would turn into bones if I accidentally fell into it! Being all of seven years, I was obviously petrified. So, I guess when you look at the shot in the film, you can actually see the real fear on my face! It’s only after the shot was finished that they all told me that it’s not real acid and that they were all just pulling my leg,” he said.

Not many people would know that Mr. India was the first Indian film that was promoted during a cricket match. “This was the first film which had this type of an exceptional promotional plan. Anil was flown to Sharjah cricket stadium for a cricket match. He went for the toss with both captains. He sat in the commentators’ box in the Mr. India’s get up. Then in a match in Mumbai, he landed in the helicopter and once again went for the toss in the Mr. India get up. We had boundary banners of Mr. India. All these things were never thought of then.”

Being a kid, Shivdasani obviously didn’t know then how big the film would become. “Mr. India for me was a beautiful journey into the world of cinema at such an early age. It was a fun and exciting experience that I will cherish all my life. We never knew that it would become a cult film in the history of Indian cinema. But today 30 years later when we look back, we realise what a timeless film it is and it can be watched and enjoyed by every generation till today and I’m sure the future generations will enjoy it too!”

But Kapoor was surely expecting the kind of success it received. “Yes, I was sure. That’s why I got headlong into it. As it is, I believe in giving my best. Whatever I do, I do with full intensity and passion. The judgement may have erred in some films. But I give my best shot and that’s what I did here,” he signed off.