In the well-received suspense thriller Andhadhun, starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Tabu, the celluloid star of the 1970s Anil Dhawan is cast as a superstar of yesteryears who is bumped off by his wife.
Anil who had a very successful innings in the 70s can’t believe the popularity that Andhadhun has brought him. “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Friday. I am giving interviews in a loop. I keep asking myself, what is going on? All I know is, I am happy a new generation has discovered me,” says Anil who is Varun Dhawan’s uncle.
The star of the 1970s who featured in such path-breaking hits as B R Ishara’s Chetna, Basu Chatterjee’s Piya Ka Ghar, Asit Sen’s Annadata and many other hits, says he is proud that Andhadhun has opened well in spite of no major star in the film. “Andhadhun doesn’t star my nephew (A-list star) Varun. It stars Ayushmann Khurrana. And still it is being widely appreciated. It just goes to show the audience will embrace good content no matter who the actors.”
Anil says working in Andhadhun didn’t require any deep contemplation. “It was a big YES from me from the minute I was offered the role. For one, the director was the fantastic Sriram Raghavan who has done wonderful work with Varun (Dhawan) in Badlapur. Secondly I was being offered the role of a yesteryears’ superstar, which I was at one time. I had a glorious innings in the 70s with films like Doraha, Chetna, Piya Ka Ghar, Samjhauta, Annadata and Hawas. I got to sing some of the biggest hits on screen like Main toh har mod par tujhko dhund na saka(Chetna), Yeh jeevan hai(Piya Ka Ghar), Guzar jaye din(Annadata), Samjhauta ghamon se kar lo(Samjhauta) and Teri galiyon mein(Hawas).”
Almost all of these films and songs feature in Andhadhun. Where did Sriram Raghavan get this rare footage? “From me,” comes Anil’s prompt response. “I’ve a collection of all my films and songs. I watch them all the time. In the film my character Pramod is scolded by his wife for constantly watching his own films. It’s more or less the same in my real life. All the songs and scenes of my films that you see in Andhadhun were provided by me. I am glad I collected them over the years. No film archives in India keeps comprehensive footage of actors.”
Then came the clothes in Andhadhun. “I dressed up the way I used to in the past in the 1970s. This former star that I play lives happily in the past.”
Anil says Andhadhun is a new beginning for him. “For 17 years I did television. It was gruelling but satisfying. About three months ago I stopped working on television. Now I want to focus on good roles in films. Nothing faltu for me.”
Why is Anil not seen in his brother David Dhawan’s films? “That’s a good question. I’ve worked with David in Hero No 1 and Rascals where the role suited me. Otherwise I don’t fit into them. I can’t see myself doing the comedy that my brother makes. It wouldn’t suit my personality. In my heydays I had a very sober romantic image. This is why I withdrew from film acting when the action era arrived. I’d have looked ridiculous fighting a bunch of goons.”
Anil looks back with much joy at his brief stint with stardom. “It was a terrific innings. Sadly a journalist recently wrote about me recently mentioning some odd horror films like Darwaza and forgetting that I’ve worked with some of the best directors like B R Ishara, Basu Chatterjee and Asit Sen. I did trendsetting films. How can you forget all of this and write only about some horror films?”
There is one more reason why Andhadhun is special to Anil Dhawan. “I had shot my first film Chetna in the city of Pune and now Andhadhun was also shot in Pun. Chetna was considered a film way ahead of its time. Andhadhun is also very bold. So in many ways this is a homecoming for me.”