Anil Sharma had worked in a number of films with Dharmendra before he cast Sunny Deol in the lead role of Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. The filmmaker says he could imagine only a young Dharmendra or a Sunny Deol in the role of Tara. “When I was scripting Gadar, I could either imagine a young Dharmendra, from the time of Mera Gaon Mera Desh, or a Sunny Deol in the lead role of Tara. I could not visualize a third actor,” he says.
“We needed someone who would be a Punjabi Jat, talk in that tone, be well-built, have a soft and innocent nature. Both Dharamji and Sunny are like that. Sunny’s eyes have a lot of depth and softness. We couldn’t have cast anyone other than him,” he adds.
While casting for Tara’s role was easy to decide, finding a child actor for the role of Jeete, his son onscreen, was a struggle. Anil ultimately cast his own son Utkarsh in the role.
“We had a hard time looking for a child actor for the role of Jeete. All the kids who were trying to become actors were trained too much by their parents, we didn’t want someone like that. Ameesha Patel used to come home for training, the producers from ZEE too, everyone suggested that we cast Utkarsh. But we weren’t keen on making him a child actor. For 3-4 months we couldn’t find anyone, so then we finally decided to cast him, and his mother and baby sister too had to come to the sets. So for 100 days the whole family was part of the shoot. Utkarsh’s first shot was taken at 2:30 am at night,” Anil narrates.
As the film completes 20 years, the director says it still feel like Gadar has just released. He says, “It feels like Gadar has just released, it is so fresh in my memory. The amount of love it still receives, I am on seventh heaven. This film made my career as a director worth it, my purpose of coming into the industry is fulfilled. I might have made many other films, but Gadar is Gadar. It’s rare that you get the opportunity to make such a film. It’s no longer my film, it belongs to the audience.”
The songs, scenes and dialogues of the film became so popular that they are still recalled by the audience. “There was no social media at that time, but people at tea stalls and railway stations would sit and talk about films and that’s how dialogues and scenes would become famous. We wrote dialogues and put in songs because they were demands of the scene. We didn’t include them for the sake of becoming famous. The situation demanded it, and it touched the audience,” he says.
Anil says the reason Gadar is still loved by the audience is because of the basic thought behind the story. “Gadar’s story is still relevant. A child tells his father, please bring my mother. That sentiment will always touch people. In Ramayan, Ram goes to rescue Sita from Lanka, it’s a sentiment that’s people still relate to. The thought is big. People related to this story, that’s why it has become legend,” he says.
Gadar was set in the backdrop of Partition and is a popular patriotic film to watch on Republic Day and Indpendence Day. But Anil says his intention was to make a love story. “We wanted to make a love story, but it became about love for your country. We had thought about it, but didn’t imagine it would become such a big symbol of patriotism.”
The film released on the same day as Lagaan, and Aamir Khan in a recent interaction called the Sunny Deol film a ‘Tsunami that no one had anticipated’. Anil Sharma agrees, “In rural areas people would come in tractors, watch all the shows in a day, cook and eat right there. Such was the impact of the film. Lagaan was also a great film, it got India a lot of respect.”