Maqbool Completes 20 Years: Did You Know Kamal Haasan and Akshay Kumar Almost Played Irrfan Khan’s Role in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Masterpiece?

Maqbool is not only considered one of the finest films by composer-director Vishal Bhardwaj but also a gem in Indian cinema. A cinematic reinterpretation of the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, the 2004 film starred Irrfan Khan and Tabu in the lead, with a tantalising supporting cast that includes Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Piyush Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal, Ankur Vikal, among others. For his portrayal of the ageing don Jahangir Khan in Maqbool, Pankaj Kapur even won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor. Maqbool Would Never Have Been the Same Without Irrfan Khan, Emotional Tabu Opens Up.

Maqbool recently marked the 20th anniversary of its release. Although not a strong box office success, the film garnered acclaim from critics and discerning moviegoers. Even now, it continues to captivate viewers with its impeccable direction, stellar performances, and exploration of themes like greed, jealousy, and tragedy.

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than the late Irrfan Khan as the doomed, morally conflicted titular protagonist, but not many know that he wasn’t the first choice for the role. Other actors were considered, including some surprising names like these two:

Kamal Haasan

The Tamil superstar and acclaimed actor in Indian cinema is no stranger to Bollywood, having acted in Hindi films like Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Sanam Teri Kasam, Geraftaar, Saagar, and Chachi 420 (which he also directed). Since the ’90s, though, Kamal trickled down his Hindi movies, though he was part of bilinguals like Hey Ram, Abhay and Mumbai Xpress (also the last film he made in Hindi, which came out in 2005). But if Vishal’s initial plans were to come to fruition, Kamal would have played the protagonist in MaqboolKamal Haasan Birthday Special: 7 Times Ulaganayagan Set Internet on Fire With Priceless Throwback Photos on Instagram!

In an interview, the director revealed that he had almost finalised the legendary actor for the titular character. So why didn’t it work out? Apparently, Kamal’s inclination towards making bilingual films created a roadblock, as Bhardwaj was not a fan of the idea. The director explained, “Our conflict was the way we were seeing the film. He wanted the film to be bilingual, in Hindi and Tamil, with another star cast and filmed simultaneously. I thought I was falling into the trap of business here, and back then, I used to be very stubborn. I wanted my film to be made my way.”

Watch a Scene from Maqbool:

While it would have been intriguing to imagine Kamal in the role, another factor that might have worked against his casting was Naseeruddin Shah. According to reports, the veteran actor was not keen on Kamal being part of the film. While Vishal Bhardwaj didn’t outrightly deny the allegation, he tried to downplay any potential rift, stating, “Maybe he didn’t say it in the same words. Perhaps he would have said, ‘Tum soch lo kya karna hai’. He did say this because Naseer bhai has also worked with Kamal. It is not that they don’t get along. Kamal is a very strong personality, and he is very clear about what he wants.” Khufiya Movie Review: Tabu, Ali Fazal and Wamiqa Gabbi’s Netflix Spy Thriller is an Unfortunate Vishal Bhardwaj Misfire!

Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar would have quite the left-hand choice to play Maqbool, though let’s remind you the actor, who later won a contentious National Award for Rustom, had also been cast as the male protagonist in Deepa Mehta’s controversial Water before the casting was entirely rehauled and John Abraham came in his place.

So why didn’t Akshay appear in Maqbool? According to a Subhash K Jha article from 2006 in Telegraph India, the Bollywood star didn’t find the character ‘heroic’ enough, something even Vishal Bhardwaj admitted to the senior journalist when he said, “That’s very true. I still haven’t forgotten. I guess my script justifies the stars only because I could get them.”

Other actors considered for the role were Anil Kapoor, Akshaye Khanna, and Kay Kay Menon before Irrfan stepped in. We are thankful to all our cinema stars that this casting choice eventually happened! Maqbool is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jan 30, 2024 05:41 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website

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