Shah Rukh, Arjun, Hrithik considered for 'Rang De...'

Feb 23, 2006 Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Feb 24 (IANS) Very few know that the star cast of "Rang De Basanti" underwent several changes before it reached the final stage. Amongst those considered for the ensemble cast were Arjun Rampal and Hrithik Roshan as well as Shah Rukh Khan.

While Arjun was the first choice for the role of Karan Singhania, the rich kid in the gang, Shah Rukh was approached to play Ajay Rathod, the cameo of the MiG pilot enacted by R. Madhavan.

Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra sets the record on the actors who were considered for the film. "Yes, we underwent several changes. It had to be that way. It is a huge ensemble cast and I needed each actor for nine months... Yes, initially I approached Arjun Rampal for Karan Singhania (Siddharth)'s role. It didn't work out. When the character crystallised Arjun didn't seem the right choice...

"Hrithik Roshan was also spoken to for Karan's role. He loved the script but didn't have the time. Shah Rukh was approached for Ajay Rathod's role. I pursued him for a while. But the dates didn't work out. With Shah Rukh, you don't question too much. We share a healthy relationship."

Tell him how all these stars would have overwhelmed the script, and Rakeysh replies: "But Aamir didn't overwhelm the script. I think the stars tend to attune themselves to whatever the script required. These are all intelligent actors. They know what to do, and where. I find them extremely sincere."

Interestingly, Rakeysh reveals that Atul Kulkarni and Kunal Kapoor were the only actors associated with the project from the start.

"They were with me before the first draft. Aamir came on after the first draft... He was the first and last choice for DJ... But our initial choice for Soha Ali Khan's role was Canadian singer Nelly Furtado. Three months before the shooting we realised Nelly wasn't the right choice, especially with Alice Patten coming in.

"Nelly was part of the project when I planned to make 'Rang De Basanti' in English also. But then I realised I wasn't being sincere to my vision. That's when Soha came in... I screen-tested several new girls for the role. The day I tested Soha, I knew she was the right choice for Sonia."

Rakeysh still believes in the star system. "Aamir made my dream so much bigger. It was graceful of him to merge into the narration and not hog the limelight. And I'd love to work with him again."

The reach of "Rang De Basanti" grows by the day. The latest is an invitation from the University of Miami.

"This is basically for the teachers, students and families of the faculty. The organisers have asked me to travel with the film to three universities in the US. They have large theatres, which can accommodate 3,000 viewers at one time. They have something called Global Rhythm devoted to Hindi film music. Global Rhythm is doing an A.R. Rahman special, and they've chosen three songs from 'Rang De Basanti'," says Mehra.

The Miami sojourn for "Rang De Basanti" will happen in April.

"Producer Ronnie Screwvala, Siddharth, Madhavan and I took the film to the IIT students in Chennai... The response was overwhelming. But it's not just youngsters. Families are equally enthusiastic. I have been to Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, Baroda...

"The responses to the film are very interesting. I never knew filmmaking had this experience (of connecting first-hand with the audience) to offer me... The stars keep joining me in various places... It is not so tiring. You sit in a plane and you get to wherever you want," says Rakeysh.

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