Article Hindi

Released Biwi No 1 against all odds during World Cup 1999, remembers Vashu Bhagnani

Producer Vashu Bhagnani looks back at his hit starring Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Sushmita Sen, Anil Kapoor and Tabu, which was released 20 years ago to the day.

Keyur Seta

There are some no-go periods at the domestic box office for big-budget Hindi films featuring big stars. The most prominent is the month of Ramzan. Other than this, producers often hesitate to release their films when the cricket World Cup is on. And, of course, now the annual Indian Premier League season presents another big hurdle.

But there have been exceptions of producers boldly taking chances during such periods and emerging victorious. One such example is the David Dhawan comedy Biwi No 1 (1999).

Producer Vashu Bhagnani took a big gamble when he decided to release Biwi No 1, starring Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Sushmita Sen, Anil Kapoor and Tabu, when the 1999 cricket World Cup was in full swing in England. (The tournament had begun on 13 May 1999.) Biwi No 1 was released on 28 May 1999.

It is no secret that the excitement for cricket’s biggest event, the quadrennial World Cup, is immense in India. Most Indians remain glued to their television sets and the only information they seek in this period is what the latest score is. 

Salman Khan and Sushmita Sen in Biwi No 1

Little wonder, then, that there were murmurs that Bhagnani's decision would prove suicidal. However, the producer's daring paid off and Biwi No 1 went on to become a superhit.

The film completes 20 years today [28 May 2019]. Going down memory lane, Bhagnani told, “I released the movie during the World Cup against all odds. Yet it ran to packed houses for weeks. So how can Biwi No 1 not be close to my heart?”

Speaking about the film itself, Bhagnani said, “Biwi No 1 was my third film with Davidji and first with Salmanbhai. To add to it, there were Karisma, Tabu, Anilji, Sushmita and Saif [Ali Khan in a cameo]. There was full family atmosphere on the sets!” 

Karisma Kapoor after her makeover in Biwi No 1

Briefly, Biwi No 1 was about Prem (Khan) and Pooja (Kapoor) and their two kids. When Rupali (Sen) enters Prem’s office to audition for a modelling assignment, he is attracted to her since she is 'modern' while Pooja is too 'traditional'. Prem leaves Pooja and moves in with Rupali. In the end, of course, he realizes his mistake and returns to Pooja. Anil Kapoor played Khan’s best friend in the movie.

Almost a decade later, Mahesh Bhatt showed similar courage and released his production Jannat (2008), starring Emraan Hashmi and Sonal Chauhan, in the middle of the first season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), when excitement for the tournament was sky high. 

Anil Kapoor and Karisma Kapoor

Yash Raj Films’ multi-starrer Tashan (2008), which starred Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, had just bombed at the ticket window. But interesting content made sure Jannat was successful.

In general, however, producers still avoid a clash with popular cricket tournaments. Abhishek Sharma’s The Zoya Factor (2019), starring Sonam Kapoor and Dulquer Salmaan, was supposed to be released on 14 June, when the 2019 cricket World Cup would be in full swing. However, just last week the makers shifted the release date to 20 September. The irony is that the film revolves around cricket.