15 years of Aankhen
Vipul Shah holds forth on his blockbuster debut film, which defied all sceptics
Director Vipul Shah never expected that his directorial debut, Aankhen (2002), starring Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal, Paresh Rawal and Sushmita Sen, would be such a massive hit at the box office. It was the second highest grossing Bollywood film of 2002. As the film completes 15 years today, the director shares his memories.
The film had two endings. What made you do that?
Basically, we weren’t sure if people would accept the ending, which showed Big B was on the loose. When we held a screening of the film with the original ending, there was a lot of debate. So I asked him (Bachchan) if he wanted the ending to be more conventional. He liked the original ending. But I wasn’t sure, and after thinking for a long time, I changed it, just for the Indian theatres.
In the film, Paresh Rawal’s character is tickled to death by Big B’s character. How did you come up with that idea?
My nephew was three years old at that time. I used to tickle him, because he had a wonderful laughter. One day, I tickled him too much, and he got breathless. From there, I got the idea that if someone was tickled uncontrollably, they could die. I remember, I was in a theatre, [and] there was pin drop silence, after he (Paresh) got killed.
Did you ever expect the film, your directorial debut, to do so well?
That time (the early 2000s) was quite interesting for Bollywood. People were surprised when they learnt that Amitabh was the antagonist, and Akshay Kumar had no heroine. The industry had its bets that Aankhen would not work. But I was sure that it’d do well, because I had made a play on a similar story, which was appreciated all over India.
When did you first realise that the film had become a hit?
There were rumours that (Hollywood actor) Robert De Niro was interested in the script. For someone to hear that their debut film was being taken by Hollywood was a big compliment.