Every few years there are rumours about a possible reboot of the Munna Bhai franchise. Expectedly, this time around the rumours have an added layer of mystique attached as it involves the ‘return’ of the star originally slated to play the loveable rogue. Amidst the buzz of a solo film with Shah Rukh Khan, Rajkumar Hirani is also supposedly working on a Munna Bhai reboot with Shah Rukh Khan as the goon with a heart of gold and Varun Dhawan as his true ages sidekick, Circuit.
A few years ago, speculation was rife about the future of the series when the judgment in the long-standing case that Sanjay Dutt was embroiled in was to be delivered. Dutt had played Munna Bhai in two films - Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. (2003) and Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006). At that time, Hirani and producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra were believed to be working on a third Munna Bhai film that would see the characters travel to the United States. Once Dutt was sentenced, the future of the film was doubtful and many thought the film would be revived after Dutt completed his jail term. In the period between Dutt’s incarceration and his subsequent release, Hirani became a much bigger brand thanks to the success of P.K. (2014). This was around the same time when Chopra and Hirani went ahead with a Sanjay Dutt biopic, Sanju (2018), which raked in big bucks. In this period there was much talk about Aamir Khan stepping into Munna Bhai’s character with Sharman Joshi as Circuit for a revival of the brand.
Replacing ‘Munna Bhai’ makes sense as Sanjay Dutt was getting too old and although this wouldn’t be a problem for the character as the narrative could be tinkered around to suit his personality, it would limit the scope of the franchise. Aamir Khan was a bigger box office draw and his appeal across markets beyond India such as China would also help boost the brand. Munna Bhai was one of the most popular franchises and with remakes that were immensely successful in Tamil (Vasool Raja MBBS) and Telugu (Shankar Dada MBBS) with Kamal Haasan and Chiranjeevi playing the lead respectively, this brand would enjoy a shot in the arm that could be replicated in other languages. Although the move could have helped Aamir Khan remain relevant amongst a wider-audience group, nothing came out of the speculation. One reason could be that this was the work of an over-enthusiastic PR firm more than anything else.
Shah Rukh Khan has a long-standing association with not only Hirani but also the Munna Bhai series. In the early 2000s, Hirani was graduating from being Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s editor to directing his first film for his mentor. Hirani had envisioned Khan as Munna Bhai and the actor had even agreed in principle to play the role. The two held a series of meetings and many of the nuances that went on to become famous with Munna Bhai were in fact, suggested by Khan.
As luck would have it when it finally came to making the film, Shah Rukh Khan was too busy to spare time. He walked out of the film and that is when Dutt stepped in to play what went on to become an indelible part of his filmography. Hirani and Khan have been trying to work together for a while now but things just don’t seem to work out. The star was reportedly offered 3 Idiots (2009) as well and a few years before Munna Bhai, Khan was also finalised for Mission Kashmir (2000). However, Chopra finally made the film with Hrithik Roshan instead of SRK and Sanjay Dutt essayed the role that was originally meant for Amitabh Bachchan.
There hasn’t been any official confirmation or denial from Hirani about the possibility of SRK playing Munna Bhai. It would be interesting to see if Khan can finally slip into a character that he was supposed to play or is it two decades too late?