Parampara. Pratishtha. Anushasan. And the magic of first love. This is best to describe Aditya Chopra’s directorial film, Mohabbatein. The film got what it’s title read — Mohabbatein, or love. It’s been 20 years to this classic, which saw two industry giants Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan come together, and that was enough to ensure a hit. Add to that the music which is still remembered today, the feel-good college romance elements, and the six fresh faces — Uday Chopra, Jugal Hansraj, Jimmy Sheirgill, Kim Sharma, Shamita Shetty and Preeti Jhangiani.
As the films clocks two decades, we get these actors to take a trip down the memory lane and talk about their experience of working in the film and share how the perfect blend of tradition and modernity is the reason why it still remains etched in peoples minds.
Jugal Hansraj: It was a good blend of modern and tradition. On one hand you had the whole strict Gurukul and Mr Bachchan with his shuddh Hindi and principles. Then there was the middle ground so as to speak in Shah Rukh Khan’s character between the old and the new. In us , there was the fresh wide eyed youngsters, the first falling in love, lot of people relate to it. The guys we were all in the late 20s and were told to lose weight and get small haircut and sleep well and look fresh. I used to go jogging everyday. It was the blend that’s still remembered. There was an Indianness and a western global kind of feel that was the appeal of the film. Everywhere outside of India also, it was relatable. All six of us have good memories, it was a lot of hard work but it was good enjoyment also. There was no competition between all the boys and it was a great working experience. It doesn’t happen like that anymore.
Kim Sharma: The mood of this anniversary celebration would be grateful given that in such times, we have certain amazing things to commemorate and feel happy about. But it really doesn’t feel like 20 years have already gone since Mohabbatein released. It just gave me the much required start to my career. I was 18 and working on this film was like a proper learning experience under the mentorship of Aditya Chopra. We went through acting, diction, dancing workshops and many more. The entire journey was a treasure and there’s no one or two things about it that I’d count as special. I’ve found good friends in Jimmy and Preeti. You don’t get to make such memories and such films often.
Shamita Shetty: It is a very surreal feeling. I was so raw at that time, but it was a beautiful experience. I loved the end product on the big screen. I made some beautiful friendships, and am still in touch with most of them. Today, when I meet people, they have only good things to say. I was someone who always loved watching Yash Chopra’s films, and it was a dream debut. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I grew up watching his films, and I had to work hard to become my character. I had to put on weight, it is not as if I auditioned and immediately got the part.
Jimmy Sheirgill: 20 years is a long time. I remember, right from the amount of rehearsals all six of us did, to the first scene. I remember it was with Mr Bachchan, and before that was the scene with the three of us looking out of the window — I, Uday and Jugal. Then towards the evening was the shot of Uday being caught by Mr Bachchan, we were there on set. The music was beautiful and the film became a rage when it had just come out. I went to Delhi theatres to see some shows, and the reaction inside was insane. The best thing is that people till date talk about the film, and comment on my social media that they want a second Mohabbatein. I was very new at that point. For me, I was not in a position to kind of comment on the trade of any film. But as a matter of fact, it was interesting to sit down and listen to Aditya and Yash (Chopra) uncle discuss what they feel. Initially, people were saying ‘You should reduce the film’s length’, but Aditya was clear, ‘I’m making a film and trying to tell a story, I don’t want to cut anything. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’
Preeti Jhangiani: That people still enjoy watching the film, talk about it, hum the tunes, sing those songs is an overwhelming feeling altogether. I never auditioned for Mohabbatein. Aditya saw me in some of my music videos, and my dad and I went to meet him in his office. While we were still contemplating whether to take up the offer, our friends and relatives were like, ‘You shouldn’t miss working with Yash Chopra and of course Aditya’. The film was a training ground for me, Barry John took acting workshops, I was given voice training and learnt Kathak. For eight months, Aditya hired a dance teacher who’d come to my house early morning to train and Tarun Mansukhani (director), who was assisting in the film, would record my progress to show it to him. We all were young on the set and had fun. I remember Mr Bachchan would come and sit with us and say, ‘I’m young, I enjoy spending time with youngsters, not the oldies’. Most days, Shah Rukh Khan and Aditya would play IQ games and both were good. I think I remember each and everything about those 120 days we shot the film.