When Tinnu Anand released Shahenshah in 1987, the film had already gone through a troubled production of nearly four years. With lead actor Amitabh Bachchan falling ill right before the film went on the floors for the first time in 1983, Anand had to wait through Bachchan’s treatment and let go of various other projects before realising this film.
Based on a story by Jaya Bachchan, the film’s screenplay was developed by the director’s father Inder Raj Anand. Modelled on the larger-than-life Superman template, the film saw Bachchan play both a corrupt cop and a righteous vigilante delivering swift justice. Son of an honest police officer who commits suicide after being wrongfully convicted, Vijay (played by Bachchan) moonlights as a vigilante who delivers his own justice outside the courts.
This was the second collaboration between the director-actor duo of Tinnu Anand and Amitabh Bachchan, after 1981’s Kaalia. And thus, it was only natural that Pran play a significant role in Shahenshah too. The film’s antagonist is played by the late Amrish Puri, who manufactures illicit liquor, runs gambling dens and kills newspaper folk in broad daylight. The film’s leading lady, played by Meenakshi Sheshadri, was initially meant to be played by Dimple Kapadia. However, considering the several delays in the project, Kapadia chose to drop out of the project.
Bachchan’s costume as Shahenshah was the stuff of legends, replete with a metal arm (yes, much before Winter Soldier). It reportedly weighed 14 kilos, giving Anand several nightmares about whether his lead actor would be able to wear it during the heavy-duty action sequences. Anand even tried to cheat by getting an aluminium double made for the metallic arm, but it was rejected by Bachchan who wasn’t sure that the lighter metal was giving the desired effect. Combatting health issues and showing singular dedication to his role, it was only natural that both Anand and Bachchan were rewarded with a box-office hit.
Releasing alongside ‘younger stars’ like Anil Kapoor’s Tezaab and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak starring some new actors called Aamir Khan & Juhi Chawla, Bachchan showed who is the boss. It goes without saying that the actor earned the moniker with the one of the best introductory lines for a Bollywood character.