Ask most filmmakers and they’ll tell you that it’s a challenge to find a prominent actor to play second fiddle or lesser significant parts in a film. The recent example is of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest magnum opus, Padmaavat. The maverick director had a harrowing time in finding someone who’ll agree to play the role of Maharawal Ratan Singh, since the role of Alauddin Khilji, essayed by Ranveer Singh, was more exciting. Finally, Shahid Kapoor agreed to step in, reportedly with certain terms and conditions.
In case of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which completes 20 years today, the search for the second male actor was even more challenging. After all, it was a supporting part and the character makes an entry only in the second half of the film. Director Karan Johar had to face a lot of rejections and the challenge had multiplied as his film had not just one but two such parts, one male and one female. He has chronicled this episode in his autobiography ‘An Unsuitable Boy’. The female part is there only in the first half and prominent actresses of that time like Twinkle Khanna, Raveena Tandon, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai, Karisma Kapoor and Urmila Matondkar had declined to do the part. Finally, Rani Mukerji, who had just begun her career, was signed for the film as the hottie Tina.
Then began the search for an actor for the character of Aman Mehra. Karan Johar at first met Saif Ali Khan but he refused, saying that he wants to do Indian, commercial parts and Aman seems too western and hip. Then, KJo approached Chandrachur Singh, who had got noticed then thanks to Gulzar’s intense drama Maachis. Also, he was called the ‘young Amitabh Bachchan’ and that probably caught his eye. The actor was narrated the story and said that he’ll get back to Karan. Two days later, Chandrachur Singh informed that he can’t do the said part. ‘I was depressed,’ explains Karan about his state at that point.
Few days later, he attended a party in Chunky Pandey’s house. He had become friends with the actor through Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gauri, who knew Chunky’s sister-in-law. Guests at this bash began to discuss about Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and this is when Karan opened up that he’s finding it difficult to find someone for the role of Aman. Alvira Khan Agnihotri present at the party informed her brother, Salman Khan, about this offer. Salman, also present at the party, asked for details from Karan who told him briefly about the film and his role. At this, Salman told him, “No hero will want to do this role. There’s only one idiot in the industry who’ll do it, and that’s me. You know, my sister says you’re a nice guy. Come and narrate it to me tomorrow.”
Karan’s father, producer Yash Johar, couldn’t believe his ears when he was told that Salman is interested. Meanwhile, Salman met Karan and the narration happened in the former’s bedroom. He gave a very theatrical narration of the first half, which went on for one-and-a-half-hours. At this point, Salman gave him water and told him, “Superb narration, yaar.” Karan feared that Salman misunderstood about his character, which was to enter the story in the second half, and that maybe he thought that he is offering the superstar the role of Rahul, which was to play by Shah Rukh Khan. But Salman made it clear that he’s aware of it and he’ll still do it for him and more so for his father, whom he called “the nicest guy in the industry.” Salman then asked that he should be paid the same amount being paid to Kajol. But Karan bargained and both reached some kind of agreement.
Salman Khan received loads of praises for his role in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai from the media and moviegoers alike and even today is fondly remembered for it, despite lesser screen time. At the 44th Filmfare Awards the next year, Salman Khan won the award for the Best Supporting Actor and he defeated Manoj Bajpayee, who had stunned everyone with his character of Bhiku Mhatre, in Satya. It was also the last time that Salman won a Filmfare trophy.
P.S.: Though Manoj Bajpayee lost in the popular category, he received the Best Actor (Critics) award for Satya.