As the lights dimmed, the crowd at Mumbai’s Matterden Carnival cinema erupted in cheers. Awaiting the entry of a young Aamir Khan on screen, they crooned Papa Kehte Hain from Mansoor Khan’s popular Hindi film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Going by the excitement, it was hard to believe that a 30-year-old film was being shown on the screen.
The makers and stars of the 1988 hit, including Aamir Khan, Mansoor Khan, Dalip Tahil and Raj Zutshi, had gathered at the event on Saturday to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the film that propelled Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla to stardom. The film was released on April 29 that year.
“I cannot believe 30 years later that people still want to watch it,” director Mansoor Khan said at the event, which was followed by a screening of the Romeo and Juliet inspired tragedy.
Written and produced by Nasir Hussain (Mansoor Khan’s father), the love story centres on a young couple (Aamir Khan and Chawla) caught in a tussle between two families. The film also stars Tahil, Zutshi, Goga Kapoor and Alok Nath. “It is wonderful to be here and watch the film together with the audience after 30 years,” Aamir Khan said.
The film was Hussain’s brainchild, the film’s cast and crew said. “I dropped out of college and wasted my father’s money and was writing Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander at the time when this film came my way through my father,” Mansoor Khan said. “He [Hussain] had a great sense of the audience. He told me it was a love story and he narrated to me a few scenes, convincing me that it was a legitimate story.”
Mansoor Khan had reservations about making his directorial debut with a story about young love. “I was very hesitant to make this film because it was a rom-com and I asked him what could be different,” he explained. “In my head, it was a tragic end.”
Aamir Khan added, “He [Hussain] had told to shoot both endings: the happy and the sad part. All of us shot the tragic end with a lot of gusto and we halfheartedly shot the happy ending.”
The end result was a compromise between father and son. “There was a great balance and compromise between my father’s wit and his kind of situational sense of humour and my idea to break the cliche,” Mansoor Khan said. “But the ball was in my court. Fifty per cent is exactly his scenes and roughly half of the film are my ideas.”
Aamir Khan recollected the simple promotion strategy for the film, a far cry from the social media-driven blitzes these days. “We did the earliest forms of promotions for the film by sticking posters at the back of auto rickshaws and taxis,” Khan said. “Some taxi drivers did not recognise us, but some did and were kind enough to agree and stick the posters.”
One of the film’s biggest selling points was Anand-Milind’s soundtrack, with such gems as Ae Mere Humsafar and Papa Kehte Hain.
Anand Shrivastav, one half of the composer duo, recalled how the timeless tunes were born. “At around 8.15 in the morning Nasir saab asked me if was ready with a song,” he said. “I told him the tune was ready, but I did not really have anything ready. So we went to the studio. I just closed my eyes and this tune started forming in my head and I immediately recorded it. The next moment Nasir saab entered and he loved it. That is the story behind Ae Mere Humsafar.”
Udit Narayan voiced the tracks and came to be associated with Aamir Khan’s voice in numerous subsequent films. “Whatever I am right now is because of this film,” the playback singer said, breaking into a verse from Papa Kehte Hain as the audience cheered. “I think my voice still suits Aamir Khan.”
Aamir Khan, who has since established himself as a serious actor who picks roles with care, said he was not impressed with his performance in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. “We could re-shoot now if we want,” the actor joked. “I was very raw and in some scenes I fumbled through. I thought people would not like my work after watching the film. I don’t know how people liked me. It was just my luck, I think.”
Dalip Tahil, who plays Khan’s ill-tempered father in the movie, was all praise for his character. “The film and the emotions are the same as how it was 30 years back,” Tahil said. “Nasir narrated the film until the part where my character guns down the groom at his wedding for revenge in the prologue. That very moment I told him I was in. I did not even need to hear the rest of the story.”