‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ Turns 21: SRK, Kajol, Rani & KJo Look Back

What went on behind the scenes of this iconic film?

6 min read
A poster of Karan Johar’s<i> Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.</i><i></i>

Karan Johar’s first film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai released on 16 October 1998. Yes, time does fly past, doesn’t it? For an entire generation, this Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol-Rani Mukerji film was the byword for romance - what with the tear-triggering story, catchy tunes and of course, that scene where SRK runs to meet his Anjali in Shimla.... Sigh.

The iconic film turns 21 this year, and we thought this would be a good time to look back into what went into the making of the film. The cast and crew shared a lot about what went on behind the scenes on Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s (KKHH) 10th anniversary in an interview to CNN IBN.


KKHH will not go out of style even 20 years down the line”

Shah Rukh and Karan Johar on sets of <i>Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.</i>
Shah Rukh and Karan Johar on sets of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/@karanjohar)

The Badshah of Bollywood was right back then in saying that the clothes in the film would go out of style in 20 years, but the style of the film won’t. He said:

“The movie is cool, and cool is cool forever. Hip is hip forever. And that is what makes the film timeless.”
Shah Rukh Khan, Actor

When Karan Johar actually narrated the story to Shah Rukh, he said “ I have an idea, I want to see you as a parent. And I want to see you as a parent of a motherless child”. While Shah Rukh was not impressed with Karan’s idea, he was confident in Karan’s ability to direct and decided to carry on with it anyway. SRK says, “He narrated some rubbish to me, some hogwash nonsense because he had to. And I said yes to that. And I think he started taking that seriously.”

A throwback picture of KJo and SRK from the time of <i>Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.</i>
A throwback picture of KJo and SRK from the time of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
(Photo Courtesy: 

Admitting that he underestimated the power of romantic films, Shah Rukh said he wouldn’t believe Yash Chopra, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar when they would say that he wouldn’t become a big hero unless he did romantic roles and beautiful songs.

Crediting his success to the film, he said:

“I have become a star because of KKHH and DDLJ. I am what I am because of these films. It gave me the courage to try new things. Earlier it was looked down upon to think that a romantic hero has a character. I think Karan and Adi made sure that romantic heroes are the character.”


“I had this great image in my head, the drama of dying”

Kajol was extremely thrilled when Karan initially asked her to play the role of Tina in his film. She says, “In the first draft of the film, he [Karan Johar] wanted me to play Tina’s role which was this girl - who was dying and I was like ‘oh my god I want to do this role!’. However, after six months, when Karan had changed the script and characters completely and told Kajol, he wanted her to play Anjali. She said “I don’t like this script, I liked the previous one... I had already pictured how I was going to die!”

Kajol and SRK in a still from the film.&nbsp;
Kajol and SRK in a still from the film. 

Rani Mukerji

“I would keep inching away from Shah Rukh”

Rani was extremely anxious about her role in KKHH and did not believe she was good enough to play Tina. She believed that Shah Rukh and Kajol had great chemistry, especially since they had just done Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and worried about how her relationship with SRK on screen would pan out. She said she expressed her concern, to which Karan comforted her saying, “Darling you leave that to me”.

SRK and Rani Mukerji in the film.&nbsp;
SRK and Rani Mukerji in the film. 

Rani’s nervousness was quite evident while shooting the song, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. There was a shot where Shah Rukh had to come and kiss her. Rani said, “I would go back a little whenever he used to approach to kiss me.” Shah Rukh would look at Karan and say, “What have you bought? I can’t be romancing her. I’m not gonna eat her up!”

Rani Mukerji’s first memory of the movie isn’t a very happy one either. As much as she looks confident dancing in the song Koi Mil Gaya, she was very nervous while filming it.

“Karan and Farah came to me and calmed me down, when they saw my nervousness on seeing that the platform where I had to dance was about 6 feet high. I was terrified that there were all these boys standing down, looking up at me in my short dress and shouting ‘Yayyy!’”
Rani Mukerji

Farah Khan, who choreographed the song, considers it one of Rani’s best.

“When Rani used to come for the rehearsals, I used to tell Karan that she is very okay. But the minute the shot came up, Rani became ‘maharani’, with all her expressions and filmy moves. I knew she is going to become a star that minute.”
Farah Khan, Choreographer-Director

Karan Johar

“I still can’t believe I was able to make KKHH

Karan’s fondest memory of the movie goes back to the Dimple Preview Theatre, where all of them watched the film’s first rush. He still remembers how his parents couldn’t believe that their son had made his first film. Karan said:

“My mother held my hand and broke down, and I broke down too. My father went out of the theatre and sat in a corner crying like a baby. The three of us were like a single unit, we hugged each other and cried for about an hour. Looking back now, even I can’t believe that I made this film.”
Karan Johar

Karan Johar is also one of KKHH’s biggest critic. He admits that the idea of Rani’s character writing eight birthday letters to her daughter, when she clearly wouldn’t have been able to understand the first four or five, was quite lame. He said, “I was just so convinced while writing the script. The conviction was so pure that I was able to convince the audience.”

Karan Johar isn’t proud of how he portrayed Kajol’s character Anjali in <i>Kuch Kuch Hota Hai</i>.&nbsp;
Karan Johar isn’t proud of how he portrayed Kajol’s character Anjali in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
(Photo courtesy: Twitter)

Recollecting Shabana Azmi’s complaints for the film, he said that she once called him and asked what he had to say about Shah Rukh’s character being such a male chauvinist in the film. And all he could say to her was sorry, as he agreed with what she had to say.

The Music

“The song sounded a bit cheesy”

Being a big Elvis Presley fan, Karan Johar wanted a 60s song with “Koi Mil Gaya”. However, the lyrics “Kya bataaun yaaron, main toh hil gaya sounded a bit cheesy to him. Karan said:

“When I told Javed Saab that it sounds a little down market, he said - Why? I’m all shook up is main toh hil gaya. Then I thought that now it sounds cool, because Elvis’ all time hit was ‘All Shook up’.”
Karan Johar

Farah Khan had a completely different problem to deal with during the shooting of “Saajan Ji Ghar Aaye”. She recollects, “It was my first big Indian number, so I was really paranoid about it. I wanted to make it Indian but not too filmy. On top of that, Salman and Kajol were not on talking terms. But people who aren’t on talking terms, have the best chemistry on screen.”

Karan Johar added, “I wanted to make it a quintessential wedding number. The song’s tune was one of a Punjabi folk song ‘Hum Ghar Saajan Aaye’, and Pam aunty (Pamela Chopra) gave me that tune.”

For the song, “Yeh Ladka Hai Deewana”, shot in Mauritius, Kajol suffered a major fall in a cycling scene. She fell on her face and was unconscious for a couple of minutes. When she regained consciousness, she had no memory of where they were and what was happening and apparently, she kept asking for only Ajay Devgn.

Karan recalls how SRK told him, “Let’s pull her leg, let’s tell her she is a dancer and make her dance in the fourth row and not the lead actress of the film.”

Shah Rukh also remembers calling Ajay and saying, “She doesn't remember you!”

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 16 October, 2018. It is being republished to mark the 21st anniversary of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.)

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