Salman Khan has first gone to his friend Sanjay Leela Bhansali to direct Taras Bulba. When Sanjay declined, Salman bitterly vowed to make the same story with another director, and make it as an epic comparable with Sanjay’s vision.
Anil Sharma was chosen because of Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. “But please don’t expect Gadar in Veer. Gadar was far more dramatic and emotional. Veer is targeted more at today’s younger audiences,” warns the director.
Stories about differences between Salman Khan and his director Anil Sharma during the making of Veer abound.
Speaking on the issue for the first time Anil Sharma admits there were differences. “Salman was not just the main actor in Veer, he was also the writer. We had a lot of differences of opinion. The way he narrated the story and the way I perceived it as a director were different. Moreover, I brought in other writers Shailesh Verma, Shaktimaan (who wrote my Gadar) and Krishna Raghav. Raghav did all the research. So Salman’s story has been interpreted in the way I thought right.”
Salman insisted that Anil Sharma watch his source of inspiration the Yul-Brynner-Tony Curtis 1962 film Taras Bulba. “But we couldn’t get a single print of the film. So I had to make do with the images that I had in my mind from childhood. They made the film in Russia last year. I saw that version. Taras Bulba was the story of the father Yul Brynner, played by Mithun Chakraborty in my film. Veer is not the father’s story. It’s the son Salman’s story. And we had to relocate the entire story from 16th century Russia to Colonial India.”
While Salman Khan has become the face of Veer, the film’s director Anil Sharma has taken a backseat so far.
Speaking up finally he says, “For three years now, all kinds of things have been said and written about Veer and my relationship with the project and actors. The truth is, we were making a very difficult film. And there were bound to be creative differences. But we sorted it out.”
Anil admits he never wanted Salman’s favourite composers Sajid -Wajid to do the music of Veer. “I had heard their tunes in his earlier films and I was sure Sajid -Wajid weren’t the right people for a period drama like Veer. I met them reluctantly and was surprised by their understanding of Hindustani music. We worked really well together. They were delighted to be told to compose a thumri or a bandish for the first time. And the fact that I could convince Gulzar Saab to work with Sajid-Wajid was a stroke of luck.”
Says Anil Sharma, “We’ve reduced the length to approximately 2 hours 45 minutes. Only one 15-second action scene was removed by the censors. We had actually retained longer versions of the action sequences than we needed because the censors always shorten action scenes. To our surprise they didn’t touch anything!”