An associate editor with Waman Bhonsle and Gurudutt Shirali, Pravesh Sippy was among the first few to see the rushes of Subhash Ghai’s Hero in the editing room. Impressed, he urged his father, NN Sippy, to acquire the distribution rights of Jackie Shroff’s first film as a hero. It was a blockbuster and an enthused Pravesh suggested to his father that having been associated with almost all of Ghai’s films till then, either as a financier or a distributor, they should collaborate with him on something big.
“Javed sahab already had a subject, which he had written with Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan in mind. We waited for him till Mr Ghai pointed out that he had another film coming up with busy stars and couldn’t mess around with combination dates, so, we would need to roll with Meri Jung soon. That’s how Anil (Kapoor) entered the picture as everyone’s unanimous choice,” Pravesh reminisces.
The muhurat at Sea Rock Hotel was a crowded affair, with Yash Chopra switching on the camera and Jackie Shroff giving the ceremonial clap. Pravesh’s first film as an associate producer took off with a dream song, O mere khwabon ke shehzade, which has Anil playing the piano on the beach and Meenakshi Seshadri grooving with over 100 dancers, several violinists playing in the middle of the ocean and colourful explosions going off.
“We shot it on the then deserted Manori beach, which was a daily commute of three-four hours with the nightmare of where to store the huge props as there was only one small hotel there. Costumes, too, were getting dirty and wet from the sea water and the sand and our first 10-day schedule dunked me into the ocean literally without a life jacket. But the Saroj Khan-choreographed dance was a huge hit,” Pravesh laughs, 36 years later.
Reeling back to the eventful first day, he remembers Parikshit Sahni taking him off for a walk in the afternoon to tell him gently not to call him early in the morning when he was not required to shoot at all that day. “Apologising profusely, I wondered how we had made such a gaffe till a production guy confessed that he was to blame,” shares the filmmaker.
The 1985 courtroom drama was not all song-and-dance. It had several high voltage scenes between lawyers, Anil Kapoor and Amrish Puri, with the former pulling off a surprise victory, knowingly drinking poison to prove that his client is not guilty of murder. That scene got a lot of raves when it played in the theatre. Anil was the new kid on the block, and he did not let the big names associated with the film intimidate him, coming up with a breakthrough performance,” Pravesh says appreciatively, recalling a moment in the film when an inebriated Anil confronts Amrish Puri’s GD Thakral, accusing him of letting his father die knowing he is innocent. “Anil was angry and aloof all day, building himself up to a pitch for the camera,” he applauds.
The film also had a memorable performance by Nutan as Anil’s mother, who loses her mental balance after her husband (played by Girish Karnad) is hanged for a crime he did not commit. Their song together, Zindagi har kadam ek nayi jung hai, is still hummed. Nutan and Amrish Puri bagged Filmfare Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor.
Debutant Jaaved Jaaferi was also impressive as Thakral’s brattish son, his dance number with Khushboo, Bol baby bol, rock ‘n’ roll, becoming a craze. “We had done several films with his father, Jagdeep sahab, and knew Jaaved to be a good actor and dancer with a great voice. We were happy to launch him,” smiles Pravesh.
The smile disappears as he remembers going to Delhi’s Sheila cinema on the day of the film’s release with the Meri Jung team. “It was a full house and we stopped the screening briefly to go up on stage and interact with the audience. This was the first time something like this was happening and viewers were delighted. But I was terrified. It was my first public appearance and having just returned from a film school in the US, my Hindi was rusty. I delivered my speech hastily and was happy to step out of the spotlight. Anil got the maximum taalis,” Pravesh recounts.
The film was originally titled Jung, but when they discovered it was already registered with someone else, they added Meri. And today, three decades later, we are still crooning, Jeet jayenge hum, tum agar sang ho, zindagi, har kadam, ek nayi jung hai.