May 23 marks 18 years to the theatrical release of Suneel Darshan’s Andaaz with Akshay Kumar. The film launched the careers of two international beauty queens, Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who went on to have their own successful careers, with the latter even making her name globally. The film was a much-awaited affair as it was introducing the Miss Universe and Miss World 2000 and was a critical and commercial success upon release. It even bagged the Filmfare Award for Best Debut Female for both the leading actresses.
As the film clocks in on 18 years this Sunday, ask Suneel if he feels a sense of pride when he sees where Priyanka is today, and he responds, “I feel very happy for her. The heroines I have worked with, I categorize them as Before PC and After PC. The girls that I worked with before Priyanka Chopra were Karisma Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Juhi Chawla and they were very different from Priyanka,” he asserts.
Suneel then goes down memory lane to recall his first meeting with Priyanka. “When Priyanka initially walked into my office to meet me for this movie, I had a bit of reservation initially. She didn’t fit into the mould and perception of the star of my movie. I had to launch that girl to become a star so I had to be convinced myself,” he shares, adding that it took minutes for him to change his mind.
“Ten minutes into sitting with Priyanka and talking to her, I had observed a lot of things about her. One was her mellifluous voice. She is still such a brilliant talker and the way she presented the conversation was mesmerising. The way she smartly used her eyes and body language, she was an actress in total,” Suneel raves.
However, Suneel clarifies that Andaaz wasn’t Priyanka’s first film that she signed. “By the time she came to me, she had signed about four movies before and even started shooting for a few, I was told. But they never happened and were all shut down. She was in a phase when nothing right was happening and she was contemplating if nothing happened, what will she do. When you go through that, a lot of people don’t accept you for the way you are. They don’t see your finer points because you are going through a low,” he avers.
However, Suneel saw something in her which nobody else did. “I was very sure, along with my team, which included the actors and the technicians on the film, that here was a girl who had all the potential that I once saw in a person I had interacted with and observed from close quarters years ago. And that was Rekha. Initially when Rekha came, she actually was the person who evolved and I believed that Priyank Chopra, in the process, was going to evolve like nobody’s business, and that is exactly what happened,” he says gleefully.
Suneel goes on to share details about their further collaboration. “I did one more movie with her, Barsaat. I presented her in both the movies independent of each other, and I felt that her performance in Barsaat was brilliant. Then I noticed that she was growing and it was time for her to move on,” he shares, adding that it was a long time before they met again. “I didn’t meet her after that until she invited me to her wedding reception a few years ago. She introduced me to her husband, Nick Jonas, as the person who introduced her and gave her her first movie,” Suneel signs off with a smile.
To celebrate the 18 years of Andaaz, Zee Bollywood will have a special premiere of the film this Sunday.
Image Source: instagram/priyankachopra, Think Ink PR, spotboye archives
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