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’ and ‘Ram Lakhan’, every ardent lover of cinema was waiting for his next venture. And indeed, the wait was worth it as Ghai achieved the seemingly impossible feat of casting two legendary actors of Indian cinema in his next project. No points for guessing, it was his 1991 released film ‘Saudagar’ which featured Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar sharing screen space together on big screen after a gap of 32 years. And it was today on August 9, when this Indian adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was released that witnessed this clash of the titans on celluloid.
Both these legendary stars had first worked in a film titled ‘Paigham’, which was released in the year 1959. Both of them had their distinctive acting styles, strong personalities and magnificent screen presence. Reportedly, it is heard that Dilip and Raaj did not get along well and hence they didn’t worked together after ‘Paigham’. It was during an exclusive conversation with Nation Next when the filmmaker explained how he managed this casting coup of the decade. (Also Read: Sounds strange! Here’s why Raaj Kumar rejected ‘Zanjeer’ before Amitabh Bachchan did it)
He said, “Dilip Kumar’s and my relationship was pretty strong because we worked together on films like ‘Vidhaata’ and ‘Karma’ prior to ‘Saudagar’. We had a lot of mutual respect for each other. So, I was confident that he wouldn’t mind working with me again. When I thought of casting Dilip Sahab and Raaj Kumar in ‘Saudagar’, I knew it would be difficult but I still decided to give it a try. I went and narrated the story to Dilip Sahab. He liked the story and agreed to work. He came to see me off and when I sat in my car, he asked, ‘Subhash, yeh dusre dost ka role kon kar raha hain? I closed the door of the car and just said, ‘Raaj Kumar’ and took off! I didn’t go to meet him for the next five to six days. Then, I went to meet Raaj Kumar at his house over drinks. He said, ‘Haan jani boliye.’ I narrated the story to him and asked him whether he would do the film. He said, ‘Bilkul karenge! Aap bhi talented hain aur hum bhi talented hain.’ Then he asked about the other role. I said, ‘Aapke sath toh koi bada actor nahi kar sakta. Dilip Kumar hain na, woh kar lega!’ He picked up his glass, and said, ‘Jaani iss Hindustan mein, apne baad hum kisi ko actor mante hain toh Dilip Kumar ko mante hain! Hamare samne jab Dilip Kumar aayega toh jalwa toh aayega!’”
Thus, one of the most iconic films in the history of Indian cinema took off. Talking about the film, it also marked the debut of actors Manisha Koirala and Vivek Mushran, both of whom arrived with a bang with the movie and later made a mark for themselves in the film industry.
‘Saudagar’ was the second and the last time when Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar worked together and ultimately their enmity slowly turned into friendship during the making of this film.
The movie is still remembered for the memorable performances of the cast, iconic dialogues, melodious songs and undoubtedly the powerful confrontation scenes between Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar.
Indeed, this day will be remembered for the coming together of both these veteran stars, which was magical.