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Lifting the curtain on what it was like to make an all-time classic

Making Agneepath was a huge responsibility. First, it was a big decision to remake a classic film like Agneepath. The original featured Amitabh Bachchan and Danny Denzongpa. My first decision was to retain the ’90s backdrop like in the original. After deciding on the era, it was very important to decide who would play Vijay Dinanath Chauhan and Kancha. Also, writing the film was a Herculean task for all of us.

We had to take care not to distort the charm of the original. This was a film which was close to Karan Johar and is also among my all-time favourite Hindi films. Since I was a huge fan of Agneepath, it made my job that much harder. Every time I thought of a scene or sat to write it, I had to make sure I was not putting the original down. I  had to make sure I respected the original while making my version of  the film. It was nothing short of a tightrope walk.

It was a very big decision for me to exclude the character played by Mithun Chakraborty in the original. It was equally tough to decide on inking in Rishi Kapoor’s character. Apart from the characters, what made it difficult for us was that the original had so many classic and iconic scenes. So when you’re re-shooting or incorporating those scenes in your version, you need to be cautious that your version should be equally impactful while not marring the charm of the original.

The pressure was tremendous but after my script was approved by Karan, I put my fears behind me and tried to do full justice to the script. I realised that if I succumbed to pressure, I would never be able to create the world I wanted to. So I went into an overdrive. So, from Karan announcing his plan to remake Agneepath to casting every character, from Hrithik Roshan to Sanjay Dutt to Rishi Kapoor to Priyanka Chopra… everything made headlines.

The film was always in the news and one can imagine the pressure I was living with, not just while writing the remake but while directing it and then during post-production! I was on my toes till the film was released and accepted. But it was pure thrill.

Although, he is the only producer I have worked with, I can say with full confidence that Karan Johar is the most generous and liberal producer a first-time director could ask for. It is the dream of every aspiring director to make movies for Dharma Productions and when you get the chance to do that, you’re in seventh heaven.

Unlike many other producers or production houses headed by former film directors, Karan gives you a free hand. I was a first-time director and I was making my debut with Dharma Productions. Add to that the stress of working for a BIG director like Karan!

But after he green-lighted the script, there was no looking back. There was not a single instance where Karan tried to thrust his opinions on me. Of the 150 days we took to shoot Agneepath, he visited the sets only three times. Another thing I really like about Karan is that once he takes a decision, he stands by it. So if he decides that someone has the talent to make a film, he gives you the freedom to do that job to the best of your ability. He trusts you and that’s why I could make Agneepath the way I wanted to.

Apart from Agneepath, this year has seen so many successes. Most of these films were remakes but I honestly don’t think a filmmaker starts by saying, ‘Remakes are doing well, let’s make one’. It is all about what appeals to you as a creative professional. If there’s no connect, you will not be able to deliver. If the story doesn’t strike a chord, you will not be able to bring out the charm of the original.

I had never planned that my first film would be a remake. When the opportunity of adapting one of my favorite films came my way, I jumped at it. I am proud Agneepath happened to me.


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