Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge turns 25 today and it’s time to revisit the innumerable memories associated with this iconic flick. Each and every character in Aditya Chopra-directed film was well fleshed out and hence, each and every actor’s work is fondly remembered to this day. And Parmeet Sethi’s part was special as he the anti-hero of this film. Though he has a late entry, one can’t deny that he left a tremendous mark as the gabru munda Kuljeet, despite being his first film. On this joyous occasion, the talented actor and now also a writer and filmmaker, goes down memory lane and exclusively shares his experience with Bollywood Hungama of doing the film, earning a fan club of his own and why Shah Rukh Khan is an ideal co-star. As a bonanza, he also reveals several never-before-known trivia about the film and how he bagged the part. Needless to say, this is a must read for all the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuljeet fans!
Could you take us through the entire process of how you earned the part? I read that you went dressed for the role, replete with leather jacket, cowboy boots etc during the audition. How did you know about the film’s plot beforehand?
I didn’t know anything about the story. But Adi (Aditya Chopra) had told me to come and collect the scene from his office. So when I went through those scenes, I realized that this character should have a hunter kind of a feel. That is the reason that I dressed up that way and went for the audition. I was wearing taaviz, leather coat, boots etc and looked very manly. I also added a little bit of the Punjabi tadka to it. The moment he saw me, he said, “90% of the job is done. Your look is perfect”. That boosted my confidence for sure. He and his team asked me to do 4 major scenes of mine, with Shah Rukh Khan, Anupam Kher, Amrish Puri, Kajol etc. It obviously went off very well and that’s how I got the film.
Aditya Chopra in the book ‘Aditya Chopra Relives…Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, written by Nasreen Munni Kabir, revealed that Armaan Kohli was the original choice. In an interview, you confessed that initially, he had turned you down…
The first time I met him, he was very nice and sweet to me but 2-3 days later, he told me, ‘you’re too positive looking’! This was thanks to the TV show ‘Dastaan’ that I was doing at that point. I assured him that I can play the negative part. He promised that he’ll think about me but I knew he’s not convinced. A few days later, I read in the papers that Armaan Kohli has been signed for the part. I didn’t feel too good about it (laughs). I knew this role was mine and that nobody can play it better than me. 15 days passed and I couldn’t sleep. I called up Adi and told him, “It’s going to be your first film. It could be my first film. Please don’t leave any stone unturned. Just give me a chance to do a screen test. If I don’t pass muster, I won’t bother you”. Adi replied, “Tu itna hi interested hai toh fir theek hai. Come tomorrow to my office. I’ll give you the scene.”
In an interview, you mentioned that Shah Rukh Khan tried his best to comfort you on the sets. How was it working with him?
He was extremely cooperative as a co-star. His shot used to be great but when my turn would come, there were times when I would not be satisfied with my take. So I’d ask Shah Rukh, “Ek aur take le le?” He would tell me, “Tujhe jitne chahiye utne retakes le. Tu tension mat le!” That was really very sweet of him. He was already a star while I was a newcomer. And that shows in the film too. Our give-and-take was so good. We even improvised. The scene where I tell Shah
Rukh to join me for hunting and he refuses, citing fever, was 50% improvised. In the scene, he claims he was having chills in the night and that he slept wearing shoes. However, he was wearing the shoe in just one leg and I ask him the reason. To which he says, “Ek hi pair mein thand lag rahi thi na!” That was all improvised! This is what happens when actors give-and-take.
You also made a startling revelation that the much-loved action scene in the climax between you and Shah Rukh Khan wasn’t there initially in the script…
I believe so. In the original script, there wasn’t a fight sequence. But Shah Rukh insisted, “Ek fight toh honi chahiye yaar”. Adi gave in to his request and obviously, it turned out brilliantly.
Apart from Shah Rukh Khan, which were the other actors in the film with whom you enjoyed working with?
All of them were nice. I can’t really pinpoint. Satish Shah was great. Then I had some lovely scenes with Anupam Kher and he was such a darling. We also knew each other personally as my wife Archana (Puran Singh) was great friends with Kirron (Kher). So it was like one happy family shooting a film and having fun. It didn’t seem to me that I was a newcomer. Everyone made me feel very comfortable.
Kirron Kher also suggested the title of the film…
Yes, the title was her contribution. Also, if she had not been there, I would have never gotten to know about this role!
Why do you say that?
So I had gone to Adi’s house to play cards on Diwali along with Archana since we had common friends. Adi saw me at the party. A few days later, Kirron was with us and told me that Adi is searching for an anti-hero for his film and that he’s looking for someone like Parmeet! I wondered, “Why not me? Why somebody like me? Doesn’t he know that I am an actor?” I was very perplexed! Believe it or not, at that very moment, I got a call but it got cut. Those days, mobile phones were very rare but I had one. And the call came on my mobile phone. And I just read aloud to everyone that this is the number from where I got a missed call. Kirron heard me and said, “Yeh toh Yash ji (Yash Chopra) ka number hai!” Had she not been there, I would have never known that it was Yash Chopra’s number. And I would have not even called back because in those days, making an outgoing call used to cost Rs. 20 per minute, exclusive of taxes! But thanks to her, I called and after five minutes of waiting, Adi came on the line. And he told me to come and meet him. So you see that’s how I got to know and that’s how I also got a call at that exact moment. So I saw it as a sign. That’s why I had this inkling that this role was mine. And anyway, this whole film was blessed. Nobody in their wildest dreams thought it’ll become such a big hit and that it would be still running in cinemas!
What kind of reactions did you get for the film? I was surprised to read that up North, a lot of people who sympathized with Kuljeet…
Kuljeet became such a cult character that I used to get mobbed more than any other actor when I used to go in and around Punjab. Till today, I have a huge fan following over there. I see the craze there and wonder, “Wow, is this how Shah Rukh feels 24x7?” (laughs). I was already popular due to ‘Dastaan’ but thanks to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, it went many notches higher. They used to say, “Yeh toh apna banda hai”. Many don’t even know my real name. Even today, when I am speaking to someone from that region and they don’t recognize me, I tell them that I am Kuljeet from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. And they are like “Oh achcha ji”! And the job gets done. Such kind of fan following is not normal. It’s godsend.
Have you seen Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge at Maratha Mandir, where it’s still running successfully?
No, but I have seen the long queues outside the theatre for the film’s matinee show.
Do you feel you got stereotyped after playing the negative part in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge?
Yes, I got offered more villainous roles. But that’s okay. At that time, you feel that “Mujhe toh hero banna hai”. I did play the second lead in Diljale (1996) though. However, life has its own way of playing out. You should embrace what life offers you rather than refusing the chances. So I embraced it. Of course, in the beginning, I was a bit reluctant but then I went with the flow. In the West, they say that it’s great that you’re getting typecast. It means that you are going to get work! So in hindsight, I don’t have any regrets at all.
You directed a great film, Badmaash Company (2010). You also dabbled into direction in TV with ‘Sumit Sambhal Lega’ and ‘Har Mard Ka Dard’. I believe you were supposed to make a film on Gama Pehlwan, with John Abraham. However, it was kept on the backburner because there was an overdose of wrestling films then thanks to Sultan (2016) and Dangal (2016). Do you have any plans of getting back to film direction?
Well, I have a couple of scripts. I am hoping that I’ll do something with Yash Raj Films (YRF) as well. At the same time, I am also working on a web series. I keep myself a bit open. These days, it is not that simple to make movies. There are a lot of factors that have to come together – the right producers, the right script, the right actor and also, the right timing. Sometimes, an actor has just done an action film and he might refuse your film if it’s in the same zone. He may have liked your script and yet he may not do it. So all the stars have to align if you want to make a film. It’s like a marriage! I have understood this because I waited for my second film for a long time but things didn’t align. But things fell in place when it came to television and so I went for it. The same happened when I got acting offers – I took it up. So I have got the material with me for my next film. I have a script which I am very confident about. But when things will align is something I really can’t say.
Are you directing a web series?
Yes, I have written and I’ll be directing it. It’s okayed by one of the leading platforms. If the pandemic hadn’t struck, we would have been shooting by now.
Have your sons – Aaryamann and Ayushmaan – seen Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge? What do they have to say about the film?
They have not seen it too many times. Woh kehte hai na, ghar ki murghi, daal barabar (laughs)! They didn’t care about it while growing up. It’s only now that they are coming into the industry that they realize that Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was an iconic film and that Kuljeet was an iconic character. They feel the same about Archana’s role of Miss Braganza in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), again an iconic part and an iconic film. They finally realize that they are sons of these two actors who have worked in legendary films!
Do you mean to say that both Aaryamann and Ayushmaan plan to get into films?
Yes, Aaryamann is 24 and is already going for auditions. Ayushmaan meanwhile is 21 and is working on his singing. Both have done a course in filmmaking. Let’s see what’s in store for them.
Are you still in touch with Aditya Chopra?
Yes, I in fact spoke to Adi a month back. I told him that I have written something and so we had a discussion. He is one of the busiest people in the industry. I can’t just call him anytime. But he’s always there. Even when I wrote a script before Baadmash Company and showed him, he was so kind and considerate. He thought, “I have worked with this person. Let me at least meet him”. So he called me and met me and that gradually led to Badmaash Company.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge completes 25 years on October 20. How do you plan to celebrate?
I don’t know. I would have loved to open a bottle of champagne. But Navratri is going on and hence, I can’t do that! Maybe, YRF has planned a virtual party. Let’s see!
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