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|SRK is a also a sensitive observer and listener. I remember a shot where one of the girls had to throw her hockey stick, and he had to pick it up using his legs in a typical filmi-hero style.
Keeping in mind the sentiments of the hockey players in the country, the scene was changed.
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ne day Shimit escorted Shahrukh Khan (SRK) into the stadium. He had a slight stubble and a couple of grey strands of hair. When he saw me, he bent down and touched my feet respectfully. He said that he had heard a lot about me, and also mentioned that he had played hockey for both his school and college.
We began our first session with SRK and the girls. What impressed me about the man was his athletic build; when a game began, he went on to showcase a couple of his old hockey skills. I later told him that he would certainly not require a double for his film. He stayed on to do a yoga session with the girls after the game was over.
SRK's involvement in any film project is well known in film circles. But being new to this world, I was amazed by his total involvement during the entire making of the movie. He breathed the character of Kabir Khan, transmuting to his role of a hockey coach in a flash.
The Bharat Petroleum grounds in Chembur became the set for the office and grounds of the Indian Women's Hockey Federation. Art director Sukant Panigrahi installed temporary stands and gave a completely new look to the existing clubhouse. An extra false floor was errected to give it a grander look. Thermocol hockey figures, statues, photographs and posters transformed the set into a lively hockey arena. The first scene shot was of Komal Chautala coming into the camp while playing hockey with some kids; my son Nilesh being one of them.
SRK is a also a sensitive observer and listener. I remember a particular shot where one of the girls had to throw her hockey stick, and he had to pick it up using his legs in a typical filmi-hero style. I was disturbed by this sequence. I told SRK that I understand the need to take cinematic liberties, but in India, we treat the hockey stick with a lot of respect. No hockey player ever kicked a stick, it was an insult to the game. Keeping in mind the sentiments of the hockey players in the country, the scene was changed.
Another of SRK's great gifts is his impeccable memory. He could narrate long dialogues without a single mistake innumerable times during retakes, and amazingly his head and body movment in the scenes used to remain perfectly synchronised every time.
The shooting was on schedule despite the rains, and now it was time to move to Australia, where the World Cup matches were to be shot. I was to accompany the unit to Australia to help with the shooting of crucial sports sequences. There was an initial hitch in getting my leave sanctioned from my employers, but I finally got special permission from the Board of Central Excise and Customs and was able to go to Australia.
Shimit from day one was worried about the set plays which we were going to film for the World Cup scenes. We sat for long hours and made the moves, and Vikki put those moves into a software called 'Hockey Pro'. When Rob Miller, the Sports Director, finally came on the scene, the set plays were ready.
The first discussion that Rob had with me was on the play of Kabir Khan that would mark him out as a traitor. We had taken fifteen days to design Shahrukh's only move in the movie. When Rob asked me how I had designed the whole move, I told him about the World Cup Football match where the French football legend Michel Platini had kicked the ball out during a penalty. He liked the move.
During the actual filming of that move, SRK improvised brilliantly and made a change in the sequence. He took a toss to the ground, which later looked very dramatic on the screen.
Negi with Shah Rukh Khan, Photo courtesy Yash Raj Films