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Salman, Madhuri and Shah Rukh Khan: A casting coup that could have been ‘Pardes’

In the period of 90s, filmmaker Subhash Ghai had already become a recognised name, and was one of the most bankable directors in Bollywood, after delivering successful films like ‘Karz’, ‘Hero’, ‘Karma’, ‘Ram Lakhan’, ‘Saudagar’ and ‘Khalnayak’. Sadly, there came a rough time when many thought his career to be finished after the debacle of his production venture ‘Trimurti’ (1995). But, the filmmaker bounced back with yet another successful film ‘Pardes’ (1997) and silenced his haters. Recently, the movie completed 20 years of its release, and on the occasion, we found an interesting unknown fact. The fact finds its roots during the casting of this film.

We all know that movie featured Shah Rukh Khan and two newcomers, Mahima Chaudhary and Apurva Agnihotri. Recently, Subhash Ghai had hosted a special screening of the movie where during the media interaction he revealed that he was first suggested to cast Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit along with Shah Rukh Khan. Yes! You read that right.

It was during the event, when Subhash Ghai was asked as to what challenges did he face while making this film. To which he replied, “As a director I had to face two challenges while making ‘Pardes’. First as a producer I was facing a challenge as our banner Mukta Arts’ last film ‘Trimurti’ didn’t do well at the box office. So, after delivering so many hit films, if you give a flop film then somewhere the attitude of the film industry, stars, media slightly changes towards you a bit. So, I was receiving a lot of flak at that time that my banner is finished, I am finished, I am now past. There were some who were even happy due to this. But, I didn’t want to let them have the satisfaction. I decided to make a film, and wrote the story of ‘Pardes’. Then, as a producer I faced a challenge, when after writing the story, the discussion about the casting of the film began. That was a very big problem. So, at that time our manager Gupta ji  of Mukta Arts, used to discuss about the casting, setup, about the budget, at what price it might be sold, how the distributors will behave for this film, what would be their reaction, etc. So, he suggested me there would be a casting of Shah Rukh Khan and the role of NRI boy could be done by Salman (Khan), and Madhuri (Dixit) would be perfect to play the central character. Initially, I had even told the idea of Ganga (the Heroine‘s character name in ‘Pardes’) to Madhuri while we were shooting for ‘Khalnayak’ and she had liked it. But, I thought of a setup where there should have been a new girl, a new boy for NRI’s role and Shah Rukh Khan.” [sic] (Also Read: Did you know? Shah Rukh Khan’s train dance in ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ was never the original plan)

“I was in a dilemma as Gupta ji and my office wanted me to make the film with Salman, Madhuri and Shah Rukh so that it would have been a big film which would have helped in covering the loss of ‘Trimurti’. They were right from a producer’s point of view but the director within me was not agreeing upon this casting and to make this film with a big starcast like this. My character Ganga demanded a new girl only and the other role of NRI also demanded to be someone who looked like he had come from abroad. He shouldn’t look Indian, his traits; how he sits, walks, style, talking in not so perfect Hindi, should all be there. So, it was a huge challenge for me to convince everybody that I want to make this film like this only. I was hellbent on this particular thing and then I did the casting with the newcomers. We took Mahima ji and Apurva (Agnihotri) and Shah Rukh Khan,” added the filmmaker. [sic]

And the rest as they say is history.

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