In spite of the fact that it was a fantasy and magical debut for director Nikhil Advani, 14 years back, when he helmed the sentimental film Kal Ho Naa Ho, he comprehends producer/director Karan Johar`s disappointment of not being able to direct the film himself, chronicled in his book — An Unsuitable Boy.
"I don`t blame him for regretting it. He wrote it from his heart. But, I think, he underestimated himself, and he thought that he won`t be able to do justice to it. Now when he says that, I feel his pain," quoted Nikhil Advani.
According to Nikhil, the film had an uncommon concept, not delved into much before. "It wasn`t a film about Aman and Naina (played by Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta respectively) or Rohit and Naina (Saif Ali Khan played the role of Rohit). It was about the friendship that Aman and Rohit shared. It was about a guy, suffering from a terminal disease, who couldn`t confess his feelings to his beloved but knows that his friend, loves the same woman and will be able to take care of her. It`s how he tries to get them together. None had attempted to make a film on those lines, and that`s why it was so successful," says the filmmaker, refusing the plot`s correlation with the film Anand (1971), starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. "No, it isn`t. If anything, it`s similar to Rajesh Khanna`s Safar (1970) to some extent. The only thing similar is that in both the films, the protagonists (SRK and Rajesh Khanna) knew that they were going to die and so they decided to enjoy each and every moment of their lives."
However, Nikhil believes that the film`s success is due to the collective effort of the crew and not his alone. "It was a complete effort. From Karan Johar creating an extremely democratic working environment for actors being absolutely professional, everything was great. Even the music deserves a lot of credit. I personally feel Kal Ho Naa Ho was one of the best albums composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy," he says.
"It`s like a curveball. I can`t believe its been 14 years already. I remember everything from the shoot. When everyone was shooting the sad Kal Ho Naa Ho song sequence, with the bride leaving, Saif had got a bat and was playing baseball catches with me and Jhanak (the girl who played the role of Athit`s stepsister, Jia). Mrs. Bachchan (Jaya Bachchan) used to get brownies for us on the sets and Preity taught us the New York lingo. Shah Rukh was recovering from a back surgery and he was in terrible pain. But, he shot for the film, as if nothing had happened," recalls Athit. Athit played the role of the younger brother of Preity Zinta in the film. Now, he has changed his focus from being an actor to a cinematographer.
Director Nikhil Advani likewise shared a couple of things about the film that you presumably didn`t have the foggiest idea:
1. Shah Rukh Khan nearly hauled out of the venture:
After the initial four days of the shoot in Mumbai, SRK fell sick. He called Karan and stated, `I figure I won`t have the capacity to do it`. In any case, Nikhil advised Karan to sit tight for Shah Rukh Khan to recuperate and the shoot started after 6 months.
2. Kal Ho Naa Ho`s tune was created in German Bakery, Pune:
Nikhil and Loy (Mendosa) were sitting at the German Bakery, Pune and the movie producer was murmuring the melody, My Heart Will Go On, on the grounds that he needed a comparable tune as far as music for the film goes. Also, Loy thought of the tune that he recorded in his telephone. From that point, Shankar (Mahadevan) and Ehsaan (Noorani) tuned in to it and thought of the whole melody.
3. Nikhil Advani was condemned for not demonstrating a conventional death scene:
Film pundit Komal Nahata rang Nikhil and had stated, " How can you show death with such irreverence? " To this, Nikhil had answered, " I show everything with irreverence." Even Shah Rukh wasn`t convinced about the scene. Nikhil, who didn`t want to show death on screen, said, "We wanted to show that Aman is still alive. So, in the final scene, after years later, Naina is shown talking to Jia, about Aman. "
4. The film should have been shot in Toronto:
The film was at first set in Toronto. Yet, later, the shooting area was moved to New York.
It`s been 14 years since Kal Ho Na Ho released, but every time we hear the music of the song, we get goosebumps! That is how powerful impact the movie had in our life.