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THE HOMECOMING

I hate love stories

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When his father, the late Nasir Hussain, first narrated the story of 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak', Mansoor Khan was dismayed he would be directing a romance. As the iconic film turns 25 today, the director looks back at the anger and joy that made his directorial debut a runaway success

It has been 25 years since Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak's star-crossed lovers captured hearts, but at the reunion party held in Mumbai on April 29, cast and crew swapped stories like it was yesterday. Amidst tales of spats and make-ups, director Mansoor Khan was surprised to learn that many cast members had been confused about the kind of film he was making, because he was such an uncommunicative director. Pausing to reflect, Khan admits he wasn't that good at dealing with actors. "I think I was intimidated, " he says of the filmmaking experience. "Directing doesn't come naturally to me, like writing does. I find the mechanics of shooting a film a pain and am stressed while doing it. I guess I was a little abstract while communicating. "
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A sure-fire box office hit which launched its lead pair to stardom, QSQT, possibly the first Hindi film referred to as an acronym, was not a film Khan had set out to make. His father, legendary producer-director Nasir Hussain, had seen a short video Khan had made and convinced him to direct the love story he had written. "Initially I did it just to convince my father that I was not a lost cause, " says the director, who dropped out of engineering college in the US to return to Mumbai, full of youthful anger at the world. After QSQT's success, Khan went on to direct three more hit films, then walked away from the industry to set up a cheese-making farm-stay in Coonoor. In Mumbai to attend the QSQT reunion, he caught up with TOI-Crest to reminisce about the film. Excerpts:

I said to dad, 'Not another love story!'


Khan was struggling with the script of Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) when his father showed him the script of QSQT with nephew Aamir in mind for the lead role. "I said, 'Not another love story' and he said, it was different, a Rajput romance, " says Khan, who had never met a Rajput. After Hussainsaab narrated the first 11 scenes, he was hooked. "It was a Romeo and Juliet kind of set-up with such deep hatred that I found it interesting. " After all the initial criticism, Khan set out to transform this age-old story into something refreshingly different. "It was not the kind of theme I would have chosen. But I learnt a lot and it helped me with Jo Jeeta... which I really wanted to make, " he says.
Khan rewrote almost 70 per cent of QSQT, retaining what he liked from his father's script but changing the flow completely. He credits his father entirely for reintroducing romance to Bollywood and sparking a trail of films on young love. "He told me that it had been a long time since a good love story had been done, " says Khan. His own rendering of the story played a big part in the film's success too. "Everyone was totally against the sad end, even my dad. But I insisted we had to be true to the premise that the lovers can't be together, " he says.

'Dad was a huge entertainer;he never claimed to make new stories'


Khan grew up watching his father's films, and liked most of them. "There were a few I didn't like - Pyar Ka Mausam, for instance - Yaadon ki Baaraat was brilliant, as was Caravan, " he says. Hussainsaab was a huge entertainer, unabashed about making that his forte. "He wasn't claiming to tell new stories, except perhaps Yaadon ki Baarat, but otherwise he had the same plot in all his films, " Khan says. "He'd say, 'I keep people entertained. What else matters?'"
Khan says he learnt a lot from his father during the making of QSQT. "We had discussions, disagreements and even fights where we wouldn't speak to each other for a few days. Nuzhat (Khan's sister, who did the costumes) and Aamir would intervene and we'd start working again, " says Khan, candid about how insecure he was. "I wasn't sure of myself and my ideas weren't being accepted, " he says of his anger. "But I understood the value of what he was saying. "

'I had my reservations about whether Aamir would fit into Bollywood'


Khan says Aamir knew very early on that cinema was his calling, so they were certain he would play Raj. But he recalls how he was impatient with his superstar cousin back in the day. "I thought he was shy and had my reservations about whether he would fit into Bollywood, " says the director who believes Aamir has evolved into a tremendous performer today. "Many people think I am more intelligent because I went to IIT but Aamir's innate intelligence is incredible. I learnt quite a lot from him later. "
Khan, who had worked with Juhi Chawla on an ad film, loved her easygoing personality and was certain she was right for Rashmi. He didn't want to audition her but his father insisted. "I told him, you do it. So he met her and another girl and then told me, you are right, she's perfect, " Khan recalls.

'If we can't show them kiss, we can't make the film'


Khan reveals the on-screen kisses, among the film's most-talked moments, didn't go smoothly. Chawla was averse to Aamir pecking her on the cheek and forehead. "It wasn't even on the lips, but Juhi refused, " Khan says, revealing how upset he was. "For heaven's sake, we were making a love story about a couple who had run away from home, how could we not show her being kissed by her lover?" he asks.
Khan stopped mid-shot, and the unit sat and waited until Chawla agreed to do it. It took 15 minutes of patience. "I think I used the right technique, " he says, chuckling.

'I disliked the word 'Papa' in 'Papa Kehte Hain'


The film's music was a runaway success, launching the voices of Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik. Khan ran every song past his father, who had an unerring ear for songs. "With 'Papa Kehte Kain' he said this is a sure hit, he didn't even want to hear the whole song, " says Khan, who disliked the word 'papa'. "I called my father daddy and was conditioned to think very English, so papa sounded tacky to me. " He allowed himself to be overruled, but at other times, he stood his ground. "My father wasn't sure about 'Ghazab Ka Hai Din' but once it was recorded, he was convinced, " he says.

'I wouldn't mind the film being remade'


Khan's life has taken a new direction over a decade ago, but even today, guests at the farm-stay want to talk to him about QSQT. He admits it makes him uncomfortable. "I am not this great committed filmmaker who likes talking about the past but people remember the film and perhaps that is why Aamir and Nuzhat wanted this reunion, " he says. Connecting with the cast and crew was a great experience, and he enjoyed watching the film, to which he would make several changes if he could today, especially in the second half. "I wouldn't mind it being remade by someone else today, " he says.

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