2015-10-28 : How words 'OM SHANTI OM' inspired Subhash Ghai in KARZ?

Subhash Ghai reveals that Karz was conceived out of a need to retaliate against a comment he'd heard from the film fraternity that while he was an excellent director who could make blockbusters of crime thrillers like Kalicharan and Vishwanath, he had no sense of music. The observation haunted him and was the inception for this musical thriller which, 35 years after its release, still has six year olds crooning, "Om Shanti Om."

With the thought of a musical in his mind, Ghai stumbled upon a 1975 American supernatural suspense thriller, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, directed by Cafe Fear maker J. Lee Thompson. "I didn't understand the film but I liked the idea of a mother recognising her son's soul even in a different body," reminisces the filmmaker, who, holding on to the thought, took off to Ooty alone, returning after 20 days with the first draft of Karz, which he narrated to his screenplay writer Sachin Bhowmick.

"Sachinda thought it was a good murder mystery in the mould of Vishwanath and Kalicharan. He was surprised when I told him I wanted to make it like a musical thriller. When he suggested I stick to doing what I was good at, I told him that I was good at many things, people just didn't know it. He smiled and asked for a second draft," recalls Ghai, who went back to Ooty to figure out how to integrate a musical theme into the plot and found his answer in Om.

Having studied Vedic science, he knew that Om was one word which vibrates in the soul. In a moment of epiphany, he decided to create a musical note which would be the soul of the film. After completing the second draft he narrated the story to Laxmikant-Pyarelal, telling them he wanted them to compose the music. "But you are known for your traditional Indian scores, I want a more westernised orchestration," he told the duo, who accepted the challenge and came up with the first song, "Dard-E-Dil, Dard-EJigar", a ghazal penned by Anand Bakshi, which Rishi Kapoor aka Monty sings when he sees Tina (Munim) and falls in love with her at first sight.

"While we were recording this song, I asked Pyarelalji to give me some theme tunes. He played six of them for me on the piano. I picked number three, a haunting tune which played through the film as the script and music travelled together," says Ghai.

Besides music, he also used Hindu mythology and the concept of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh being reborn as different avatars to tell a story of intrigue and murder, revenge and retribution which continues beyond death, into another life to climax at the same Kali temple where Part 1 ended. Rishi was Ghai's choice for Monty, the reincarnation of Ravi Verma, because "he's a great dancer and lover, and one of the best actors we have".

He was paired with an innocent Tina Munim. Ghai named her character Tina and told her to simply be herself.

The biggest casting challenge was Kamini. "I didn't want a conventional vamp to play the sly princess... the elegant countess, I wanted Simi. But she wasn't ready to accept a performance-oriented role because it had grey shades. It took two months to convince her," he admits.

Three decades later, Karz is unforgettable for Simi's class act and Rishi Kapoor's cult song, "Om Shanti Om". Ghai wanted to travel through Om to the film's theme and while his music directors loved the idea, they were at a loss to come up with a happy song about a man in love which began with the words "Om Shanti Om" and moved to "Mere Umar Ke Naujavanon" in the second line. But like their director and lyricist, they proved equal to the task and were rewarded with the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director. The trophy vindicated Subhash Ghai whose innate sense of music was never questioned again.

In 2008, Karz was remade by Himesh Reshammiya as Karzzzz. Quiz Ghai on it and he says once he sells the rights of a film, he never contributes, interferes with or even sees the remake. "It's a deal between two companies, my job is over once I sell the rights," he reasons, admitting he has never wanted to remake any of his films. "But a sequel to Karz is a definite possibility."