Salman Khan was keen to work with Prabhudheva and we were developing a script with him in a triple role of a dude father, his son who’s an introvert and Salman Khan, the star, who arrives where the duo is living for a film shoot,” reminisces Boney Kapoor, admitting that while on paper the comedy seemed like a great idea, it wasn’t turning out the way they had envisioned.
Meanwhile, Prabhudheva had started filming ‘Pokkiri’, the Tamil version of Mahesh Babu’s 2006 Telugu blockbuster, ‘Pokiri’. Two actors from the Hindi film industry had seen the original and passed it over, but Prabhudheva believed it was the perfect film to bring Salman back into the action genre and urged Boney to see it before his ‘Pokkiri’ released and someone else evinced interest in a Hindi remake. “So, one day, around midnight, Sri (his late actress-wife Sridevi), and I sat down to watch it together. We loved it, and with the then recently released Casino Royale showing James Bond engaged in hand-to hand combats, we believed it wouldn’t be long before the masala movies of yore, with lots of maar-dhaad, would return to the mainstream. Hoping to be one step ahead of the competition, I coaxed Salman to see ‘Pokiri’,” the producer recounts. To their delight, the actor was equally impressed and Boney immediately air-dashed to Hyderabad to buy the rights from the Telugu film’s producer-director Puri Jagannadh. And ‘Wanted’ happened!
He is, however, quick to add that they had toyed with a number of titles before fixing on ‘Wanted’, then, realised it was already registered with Firoz Nadiadwala. “So, we started looking for options, but ended up coming back to ‘Wanted’. At one point, I had decided to call it Wanted: Dead or Alive. Fortunately, Firoz gave me what I wanted,” Boney chuckles.He is, however, quick to add that they had toyed with a number of titles before fixing on ‘Wanted’, then, realised it was already registered with Firoz Nadiadwala. “So, we started looking for options, but ended up coming back to ‘Wanted’. At one point, I had decided to call it Wanted: Dead or Alive. Fortunately, Firoz gave me what I wanted,” Boney chuckles.
To play Salman’s leading lady several actresses, including two A-listers, were approached, but things didn’t work out. Ayesha Takia had impressed in ‘Socha Na Tha; and Boney had her in mind for a film he was planning with Salman and Saif Ali Khan on the lines of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 psychological thriller, Rebecca, with Nikkhil Advani. “Nikkhil got busy with Salaam-E-Ishq and that film didn’t happen, but I then signed Ayesha for ‘Wanted’,” he narrates.
The film also introduced a new villain to Bollywood, Prakash Raj, who was already a big name in Tamil and Telugu cinema. He had done only a couple of Hindi films, including Boney’s ‘Shakti: The Power’, before this. So, Wanted was his big break. “I had approached some of the conventional villains, but they had issues with a particular scene where watching Salman decimate his entire army, Ghani Bhai wets his pants. We conveyed the ‘accident’ through sound, but they still objected to the scene. I pointed out that we used terms like ‘you will s**t in your pants’ or ‘p** in your pants’ in everyday conversation, but they were unconvinced. That scene got the maximum taalis in the theatres after the film’s release,” Boney beams, adding that they filmed Prakash Raj’s introduction and a few other scenes in Thailand.
The song ‘Dil Leke’ was shot in Greece. On the second day, Prabhudheva got the news that his son, who it was believed had recovered from cancer, had gone into remission and had to rush back to Chennai. His brother Raju Sundaram finished the song with Prabhudheva’s signature step. He also choreographed ‘Jalwa’ while Vaibhavi Merchant did ‘Le Le Mazaa Le’.
The film was shot over 208 days with Salman himself filming for around 165 days, in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Surve Farms near Pune and Binny Mills in Chennai. It released on September 18, 2009, and was applauded not just by the aam janta but also the critics. I remember, during an interview with Boney, both his phones were ringing non-stop, with distributors from across the country sharing box-office figures. Single screen theatres that had been on the verge of shutting shop got a new lease of life, with many exhibitors having to get new ‘Houseful’ boards to proudly display outside their cinemas. “I just wish we had got a ‘U/A’ instead of an ‘A’ certificate. Then, the business would have been double. I know many families went to see Wanted, then, on learning they couldn’t see it with their kids, bought tickets for ‘Dil Bole Hadippa!, which opened on the same Friday,” Boney shares.
Eleven years have passed, but Salman’s “Ek baar jo maine commitment kar di, toh main apne aap ki bhi nahin sunta” still resonates. “The script of No Entry Mein Entry and the idea for a Wanted sequel are locked. Aur mera yeh commitment hai that I will make both films soon,” promises Boney.