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22 years of Ek Rishtaa: When Akshay Kumar was petrified to work with Amitabh Bachchan

en Bollywood News 22 years of Ek Rishtaa: When Akshay Kumar was petrified to work with Amitabh Bachchan

Released on May 18, 2001, Ek Rishta: The Bond Love was the mother of all multi-starrers and the last film to feature such a star-studded cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Rakhee Gulzar, Akshay Kumar, Karisma Kapoor, Mohnish Behl and Juhi Chawla. The era of multi-starrers ended with this film. Producer-director Suneel Darshan’s goodwill in the film industry, of which he had been a part since 1988, helped him accrue this awe-inspiring cast. With Akshay and Karisma, Suneel shared a long-standing relationship. They starred in Suneel’s Jaanwar in 1999, the film which put Akshay’s career in the league of A-listers.

22 years of Ek Rishtaa: When Akshay Kumar was petrified to work with Amitabh Bachchan

22 years of Ek Rishtaa: When Akshay Kumar was petrified to work with Amitabh Bachchan

Surprisingly, the most difficult actor to convince to come on board was the mercurial Rakhee Gulzar. “What will I do in a film that stars half the film industry,” she protested. She finally relented and enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

Akshay Kumar, who co-starred with Mr Bachchan for the first time in Ek Rishtaa, was petrified. “What would it be like to face the camera with the God Of Acting?” Akshay kept asking. I told him he would have to ask God that. The good thing about the hero-worship was that in the film Akshay plays a son who is so much in awe of his father that he couldn’t even look him in the eye. Since that’s exactly how Akshay felt about ‘God’ it was easy to do the scenes. “Imagine if we had to play a buddy-buddy father-son pair, like Shashi Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor in Kabhi Kabhie,” Akshay wondered with terror writ large in his voice.

Juhi Chawla was most reluctant to play Amitabh Bachchan and Raakhee Gulzar’s daughter. No, she had no problem with either. But playing their progeny meant she had to play Akshay Kumar’s sister after playing his leading lady in a David Dhawan film. Juhi didn’t want to be typecast as the hero’s long-suffering behna. Also, while Karisma’s leading man was Akshay, Juhi’s leading man was Mohnish Behl, though that shouldn’t have been a problem. Tabu played Mohnish’s wife in Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Saath-Saath Hain. Finally, Juhi was convinced to do the role in Ek Rishta, though she never again played the sister.

Suneel Darshan did not have an easy time making this costly star-spangled family drama. At the silver jubilee celebration of the film, Suneel took me aside and confided that there were elements in the film industry trying to sabotage the film. Suneel had said, “Many Bombay trade people were in a hurry to write off the film from day one. A very strong lobby has been operating against me from the moment I signed on Mr Bachchan to play Akshay Kumar’s father in Ek Rishtaa. I don't know what this lobby has against me. Maybe they don’t like my bluntness. Also, there are very strong reactions from many sections of the industry against Akshay being cast in all of my brother and my films."

Now Suneel looks back at the Ek Rishtaa experience with much affection. “Ek Rishtaa... is not just a movie. It goes much beyond and emulates life; family, friends, associates, opportunities and the footprints they leave back. It’s not just about my experiences, but as much a story of most lives.”


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