Talk of foot-tapping Bollywood music from the nineties, and there’s hardly anything to beat Chaiyya Chaiyya. Written by Gulzar and set to tune by AR Rahman, the song from Mani Ratnam’s 1998 film Dil Se.., attracted a cult following in the still-early days of satellite television in India. Choreographed by Farah Khan, the song went on to be epochal in several ways.
Here are six lesser known facts about the shooting of the song.
1. Plan B
Image: Bollywood Ghosts
Chaiyya Chaiyya was shot on top of a moving train because the shooting team could not get the permission to shoot on an Ooty railway platform. The permission was denied in the last moment as the railway authorities could not afford to block an entire yard for five-six days to complete the shoot, which would have disrupted train services. Mani Ratnam called Farah and inquired whether she can shoot the song on the top of a train. Farah later said, “I told him it was a great idea, without realising what I was getting into.”
2. A blessing in disguise
Image: DNA India
Luck was on Farah’s side during the planning phase of the song. AR Rahman was in peak form back then and had a crammed schedule. But a sudden strike in Chennai left some unexpected breathing space for the music director. He completed the recording and editing in three days flat, and sent the soundtrack to Farah who got enough time to rehearse.
3. ‘No’ to safety gear
When Farah broke the idea to Shah Rukh Khan on how the song will be shot, she clearly told him that no compromises would be allowed, and that he would have to prance, jump, go down on the knees, and do exactly as told. Shah Rukh was super-energetic and game for it, recalled Farah, adding that he even wanted to dance on top of the train’s engine room. The idea was promptly rejected by Farah who pointed out that the steam would burn him. Shah Rukh shot the song sans any safety harness. At the end of each day’s shoot, the entire team would be covered in soot and coal dust clogging their ears and noses.