Zameen (2003) might not be a very memorable film but is recalled fondly for its plot, action, gripping moments and of course for being the first Rohit Shetty directorial. The blockbuster filmmaker completes 20 years as a director today as Zameen was released on this very day on September 26, 2003. The film, inspired by the 1999 Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijacking incident and Israel’s Entebbe raid and hijack episode of 1979, starred Ajay Devgn and Abhishek Bachchan in the lead. Its story and screenplay were written by Suparn Varma, who went on to become a successful director, producer, showrunner etc.
20 Years of Zameen EXCLUSIVE: Suparn Varma talks about the process of writing Rohit Shetty’s debut directorial: “The plane hijack track was there but Ajay Devgn suggested that ‘Plane ko Pakistan le jao’!”
On Zameen’s 20th anniversary, Suparn Varma spoke exclusively to Bollywood Hungama about Zameen and how it was made.
You had initially written Zameen as a sequel to Sarfarosh (1999), starring Aamir Khan. This was a time when hardly anyone thought of sequels. How did you get the idea?
I read in an interview that director John Mathew Mathan was looking for an idea for Sarfarosh’s sequel. Hence, I wrote a story idea for Sarfarosh 2 and met John Mathew Mathan. He said, ‘Very interesting. Lekin villain kaun hai?’.
Meanwhile, I was writing Qayamat (2003), which starred Ajay. He was impressed with its plot and asked me whether I had any more stories. I narrated Sarfarosh 2. He insisted that I should narrate it to Rohit as he was looking for an idea. Rohit loved it and even Ajay came on board. The plane hijack track was there but Ajay suggested that ‘Plane ko Pakistan le jao’!
Rohit and I then worked further on the script. We would go to Pune where Ajay was shooting for The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (2002) with Rajkumar Santoshi. We would narrate the scenes and ideate. It was a process that took 6-7 months. Then, Javed Siddiqui saab wrote the dialogues.
Zameen was a novel action entertainer at that time. It was no-nonsense. There was no comedy angle and even the romance was single. It ran on a single track…
Yes. Those days, a comic track used to be forced into the narrative. Zameen, however, was an honest effort. For me, it’s the best Rohit Shetty film. Also, he loves action. It’s in his blood. Even when he’s doing comedy, he adds action. And of course, with films like Singham (2011), he’s killing it!
Is it true that Akshay Kumar was the first choice for the role played by Abhishek Bachchan?
No. Abhishek was there from day 1 on the film.
What was the reaction from the critics and audience?
It got mixed feedback from critics. But I remember viewers breaking into taalis, especially during the ‘kuttey’ dialogue. Had Zameen been made today, it would have turned out to be a huge ass blockbuster! It was ahead of its time.
With Gadar 2 becoming a blockbuster, do you think that Zameen 2 should also be made?
Yes, why not? Zameen and its characters lend themselves cleanly to a sequel.
Are you and Rohit Shetty still in touch?
Yes. He even came for the premiere of my show The Trial.
You and Rohit Shetty never worked together after Zameen…
Yeah. It just so happened. I became a director and during those days, it was a rule that a director couldn’t be a writer anymore!
More Pages: Zameen Box Office Collection , Zameen Movie Review
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