Yash Chopra’s 1981 film Silsila is remembered as one of the pivotal movies in mainstream Hindi cinema. The film’s subject of an extra-marital affair was quite scandalous for its time and that already had people raising their eyebrows but what drew them to the film even more was its casting – Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha. The rumours of an alleged affair between Bachchan and Rekha were doing the rounds at the time, which had the audience gossiping even more.
In a 2012 chat with Shah Rukh Khan, Yash Chopra had revealed that this was not the original casting of the film. Initially, he cast Smita Patil and Parveen Babi in the lead roles alongside Bachchan. Smita was cast in the role that was eventually played by Jaya, and Parveen in Rekha’s role. “I had signed both Smita Patil and Parveen Babi and both of them were to start shooting,” he said.
In the meantime, Yash met Amitabh in Srinagar where the actor was shooting for another role. This is where the actor asked him if he was happy with the cast of the film. The veteran director hesitated but Amitabh pressed him. Yash finally confessed that his dream cast would be Rekha and Jaya Bachchan. “I told him I wanted to cast him, Jayaji and Rekha. He took a long pause and told me that he was fine with the decision but asked me to convince the two actresses,” he recalled.
The Deewar director spoke to the two female actors and, to his surprise, they agreed instantly. Yash mentioned that he spoke to all three of them separately and told them that he doesn’t want any antics on his set and they promised the shoot would be hassle-free, and so it was.
Yash added that he asked one of his assistants to convey his message to Parveen who was in Kashmir to shoot for another film. When he ran into her at the airport, Parveen was completely okay with being recast as she believed that he was doing what was best for his film. But Smita Patil was a little upset as Yash had asked actor Shashi Kapoor to convey his message to Smita. When Smita expressed her grudge, Yash humbly apologised for his mistake of passing the buck to Shashi Kapoor.
Silsila was not wholly accepted by the audience at the time, but in the years since, the film has developed a cult following. (Courtesy: IE)