S. Shankar’s Nayak was released exactly 20 years ago. Even though it wasn’t a hit upon its release, the Anil Kapoor, Rani Mukerji, Amrish Puri and Paresh Rawal starrer enjoys cult status now. As we celebrate two decades of the political action film, we take you back in time and tell you about how the lead cast was decided. Did you know Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan were also considered to play Shivaji Rao.
In a past conversation, the director got candid about the film’s cast and shared some interesting trivia about the casting. Read on to know all about it.
During an interaction with Filmfare for its August 2001 issue, Shankar opened up about how Anil Kapoor and Rani Mukerji came on board as the film’s lead. While stating that he first approached Aamir Khan to play the journalist-turned-politician, the Nayak director said, “But the two of us faced a huge communication gap. His views about Mudhalvan (1999) didn’t match mine, so I quickly moved on.” For the unversed, the film is the Hindi remake of Shankar’s Mudhalvan.
Continuing further about the casting for Nayak’s lead role, Shankar revealed that after Aamir he approached Shah Rukh Khan to play the role, finally essayed by Anil Kapoor. He said, “Shah Rukh was more receptive than Aamir but he begged off saying that since he had played a television reporter in his home production Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000) which had just been released, he wasn’t keen on taking on a similar role at such a short interval.”
Finally shedding light on how Anil Kapoor bagged the role, the director said that Boney Kapoor sent him a feeler stating that his brother would be happy to work with him. The filmmaker said, “I’d heard that Anil was one of the most disciplined actors in the Hindi industry and so I decided to sign him on. My gamble has paid off. Anil Kapoor has completed my film in record time, and he showed a level of discipline which I thought was there only down South.”
The Nayak director also shed light on why he decided to cast Mukerji as the film’s female lead. Talking about going with Rani for the village belle Manjari instead of the original film’s Manisha Koirala, Shankar said, “Rani Mukerji has the bubbly image I needed for the character. Manisha is a good actress but she has been around in Hindi cinema for a decade now. In the Tamil version, we could get away with casting Manisha because she isn’t all that exposed in the South. For Hindi, I needed someone like Rani Mukerji or Preity Zinta.”
Would you have loved to see anyone play the leads besides Anil Kapoor and Rani in Nayak? Let us know in the comments below.