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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

When Anil Kapoor agreed to shave his moustache for Lamhe: Revisiting the ‘risky’ Yash Chopra film that bombed on arrival

On Anil Kapoor's birthday, we revisit one of the actor's finest performances in Yash Chopra's Lamhe. The film might have failed to impress regular cine-goers at the time, but has since then, acquired a cult status in popular culture.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
December 24, 2021 8:34:12 am
lamhe movieAnil Kapoor and Sridevi in a still from Lamhe. (Photo: YRF)

Aamir Khan might be lauded as the one Bollywood star who has managed to walk the thin line between commercial cinema and, for a lack of a better word, more ‘content-driven’ movies. But people easily forget Anil Kapoor, the man has been playing that game for a lot longer and with an equal amount of success, if not more. Kapoor has been working for over four decades in the Indian film industry, and he has done Telugu movies, TV shows, Hollywood flicks, pulpy features and meaningful cinema — the whole drill. He has known success and failure.

And once when asked by film critic Anupama Chopra about what still drives him and his choices, the actor had said with a smile, “Something, some script comes along the way that is completely novel in its ideation, new, fresh. And if it is not, I make it new.” Anil not only has the skill one needs for such a long career, he has the wisdom to know what to do and what not to do. A fine example of his wisdom and passion was his decision to go after Lamhe.

anil kapoor and sridevi Anil Kapoor and Sridevi in a still from Lamhe. (Photo: YRF)

I say ‘go after’ because Anil was not the first choice for the role of the broody Kunwarji aka Viren Pratap Singh. Filmmaker Yash Chopra had been dreaming to make Lamhe from the time of Silsila, basically almost a decade before Lamhe was actually released (1991). At the time, he wanted to cast Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha in the lead roles, but later realised that they had become ‘too big’ to suit the characters. People would see Amitabh, and not Viren. Plus, the guy playing Viren needed to be a little young as well for some portion of the movie. Shekhar Suman in chat show Lights Camera Kissey had revealed that Kapoor, when he got a whiff of the role, sent a card to the director, writing that this newcomer wants to be a part of the film. At first, Chopra ignored the note thinking it to be in jest perhaps, but later Kapoor personally approached him and offered to get his signature moustache shaved for the part. That is when Chopra realised the dedication of Anil Kapoor the artiste. Interesting aside: Anil Kapoor was at the height of his stardom at that point.

Anil Kapoor’s career was flourishing, he did not need to do a risky movie like Lamhe. And Lamhe had been called a risk by many, even by the director himself, especially for the time it was released in. Plus, the slight tint of incest did not help matters. Many had advised Yash Chopra to drop the movie, but Lamhe was a passion project for Chopra too. It was a long time in the making, at least in the director’s head. “I thought I would make Lamhe when I have a very big blockbuster. I was waiting for that moment, and God gave me that moment. It was Chandni. Post its release, I thought I would only make Lamhe now. I have got the subject, I have got some money. I can gamble,” Chopra told Karan Johar in a chat that has now been uploaded by Yash Raj Films on YouTube.

However, well-wishers requested Chopra to reconsider his decision, or at least, revise the ending, if not the whole movie. “They said ‘this is a dangerous film, why don’t you change the end?’ I told them I had made the film only for the end. I believe that in love, there is no question of age,” the director said during the same chat. For those of you who are yet to see the film (SPOILER), the plot runs thus. Viren (Anil Kapoor) is in love with Pallavi (played beautifully by Sridevi). But Pallavi marries someone else and gives birth to a daughter that looks exactly like her, Pooja (also portrayed by Sridevi). Pallavi and her husband die in a car accident and leave behind a young daughter that is brought up by Waheeda Rehman’s Daijaan (Viren’s governess). When Anil’s Viren returns to find a grown-up Pooja, he is shocked to see the resemblance she bears with her deceased mother. And Pooja, in turn, falls for the much older Viren. The ending is somewhat predictable, but it was the happy conclusion that had prompted so many of Yash Chopra’s friends to ask him to rework it. After all, how could such an older man, practically the girl’s guardian, a father figure, choose to be with her? She might be naive, but should he not know better?

But thank god that Yash Chopra did not stop to listen to naysayers and went ahead with the project anyway, and in return, what we have got today is a lovely film about that universal feeling of love which everyone can relate to.

There is a lot going on for Lamhe. It is not just its bold take on love at the time, it was also the stellar cast and their performances. It was also the hummable, memorable, almost folksy music by Shiv-Hari. And not to forget, the incredible cinematography by Manmohan Singh, who wonderfully captured the best of both London and Rajasthan. The costumes by Neeta Lulla, Kachins and Leena Daru even snagged a National Award that year.

If you have still not seen Lamhe, you can catch the film on Amazon Prime Video.

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