Subhash Ghai says it was shocking when Madhuri Dixit's Khal Nayak song Choli ke Peeche ‘was labelled vulgar’
30 years of Khal Nayak: Subhash Ghai recalled people's reaction to Choli ke Peeche, which was picturised on Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt and Neena Gupta.
Choli ke Peeche was originally conceived as a folk song and the brouhaha over its lyrics was shocking, says filmmaker Subhash Ghai as he remembered his 1993 film Khal Nayak, which turned 30 on Sunday. The film, remembered as one of the biggest hits of the 1990s, has attained cult status over the years. Also read: Alka Yagnik says she was initially shy about singing Madhuri Dixit's iconic song Choli Ke Peeche
Choli ke Peeche was a folk song
"My closest memory of Khal Nayak is when people labelled Choli ke Peeche as vulgar. It was a tragedy for me... a major shock. We treated it as a folk song and presented it in an artistic way. But when the film was released, there were protests," Subhash Ghai told PTI in an interview.
"I remember, a leading newspaper wrote 'The song is a classical piece of Indian cinema' and that was a relief. It was a folk song and now people understand that," the 78-year-old director added.
About Choli ke Peeche
Choli ke Peeche, penned by celebrated lyricist Anand Bakshi, was composed by veteran music director duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Singer Alka Yagnik did the playback for Madhuri Dixit, while Ila Arun sang the folk version filmed on Neena Gupta.
Khal Nayak controversy
Khal Nayak was a trademark Subhash Ghai movie – full of entertainment, elaborate musical pieces, and a star-studded cast in Sanjay Dutt as the anti-hero Ballu, Jackie Shroff as police officer Ram and Madhuri Dixit as undercover police officer Ganga.
The protests over Choli ke Peeche lyrics was not the only controversy that Khal Nayak faced as Sanjay Dutt, who played a terrorist in the movie, was arrested under the TADA and the Arms Act months before the film's theatrical premiere leaving many to draw parallels between the real and the reel.
Subhash on Sanjay Dutt's arrest
"When Sanju (Dutt) got arrested none of us ever thought that something like this would happen. There was a lot of noise. Our film was supposed to arrive two months later... And it was in the making for a year before that... But people just joined the dots as he was playing a terrorist in the film. Media and people do a lot of things in excitement... but over a period of time they realised that it was wrong," he said.
About Khal Nayak
Khal Nayak was an anti-hero story, a concept that was not much-explored by the Hindi film industry till that time. The story revolved around Dutt's Ballu, who escapes from jail, and police officers Ram and Ganga's quest to capture him. As Ganga goes undercover to bring him behind the bars, she realises the good in Ballu and tries to rehabilitate him.
Subhash Ghai, who had collaborated with Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt and Jackie Shroff on separate projects before Khal Nayak, said he never writes characters keeping a star in mind and the process was the same for this film.
"I wanted to cast somebody who had a face that can show shades of a son, lover, murderer, terrorist... I believe an actor's real performance comes out when they are silent and it's just their eyes that are expressing. So, Sanju was the only actor who had that. The combination of pain, innocence and anger in his eyes was perfect for this role," the filmmaker said.
Ballu was a complicated character, and the director recalled how many of his industry colleagues were surprised by his choice of actor for the role.
"People were shocked. But I knew Sanju and I can pull this off together. I enacted a lot of scenes in front of him, and Sanju still acknowledges that," he added.
Khal Nayak, the writer-director said, was supposed to be a mother-son story, but the entertaining aspects of the movie sort of overshadowed his intent. Veteran actor Rakhee played Dutt's mother Aarti in the film. Khal Nayak also featured Anupam Kher, Siddharth Randeria, Aloka Mukherjee, Ramya Krishnan and Pramod Moutho.