Filmmaker-actor Farhan Akhtar’s debut directorial, Dil Chahta Hai, which completes 21 years of its release today, connected with a changing India whose youth could identify with the film’s three lead characters, Akash (Aamir Khan), Siddharth (Akshaye Khanna) and Sameer (Saif Ali Khan). The film revolved around the three friends as they find their place in the world after graduating.
The film, which released in 2001, has aged like fine wine. It is counted among the best films of Hindi cinema and the cast of the Farhan Akhtar film is lauded for their on-screen camaraderie. But there was a time when Saif mulled over opting out of the film. When Dil Chahta Hai’s producers Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan went to him with the film’s offer, he thought they were being “ridiculously demanding”.
“When Farhan and Ritesh first came to me, and they said live sound and one schedule, and all these things, I felt they were being ridiculously demanding and this is not the film industry I know works,” Saif said in a making video of Dil Chahta Hai.
Saif was not convinced about using sync sound for the film, and he went up to Farhan to request him to dub the film instead. “I told Farhan, let’s just dub the film. Everyone is dubbing the films in India. People are used to it. And, they played back a take to me. It was amazing. I remember Aamir smiling and asking, ‘Do you want to dub it?’ and I said, ‘No, we can never get that,'” recalled Saif.
Saif’s song in the film with Sonali Kulkarni, “Woh Ladki Hai Kahan” became a chartbuster. It featured the two actors showcasing the fashion of three decades of Bollywood, the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But Saif was sure he wouldn’t wear white shoes.
He shared, “I was in a red classic t-shirt and white jeans. I had to fight not to wear white shoes. I just put my foot down with Arjun (costume designer), ‘No, I am not wearing white shoes, no matter how real it is.'”
Saif Ali Khan took a lot of convincing from Aamir Khan and Dimple Kapadia to star in Dil Chahta Hai. It was in this film that the viewers saw him in short hair and gave a flight to his career too.