The director said he had even a title for the film, which was to be called "Mother Land".
"In 2003, I wanted to start a war film called 'Mother Land', where I had cast Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. The script was ready and three songs were also recorded, but at the last minute Shah Rukh backed out," Ghai says in a PTI interview.
The filmmaker, who has previously worked with Shah Rukh in the 1997 hit film "Pardes", said the superstar wanted a solo-hero project back then and hence the dream project could not go on floors.
"He (Shah Rukh) felt there are so many characters in the film. He wanted to do a solo hero film then, but mine was not.
It was a story of Dilip saab, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh. On my wish list were also Aishwarya Rai, Priety Zinta and Mahima Chaudhry for the film but that's destiny," he says.
"Mother Land" did not take off but there was another film, called "Shikhar", that Ghai had planned to make with Shah Rukh. However, that also got shelved, thus giving birth to "Pardes".
"Before 'Pardes' I had designed a film called 'Shikhar', staring Jackie Shroff and Shah Rukh, where we were to cast a new girl. It was a love story with a war backdrop. We had done our muhurat too and recorded a song after signing A R Rahman," he says.
"'Ishq bina kya jeena yaaro' was a song from 'Shikhar' (which eventually became one of the most popular songs from his 'Taal'). But when 'Trimurti' (1995) released and flopped, the media and distributors said 'how could you give a flop after ten hits? You better retire'!" he says.
The phase put Ghai and his team in confusion, as they decided to scrap the ambitious war film and instead focused on making a "small film."
"My team thought, since 'Shikhar' was a very big war film with huge investment, let's make a small budget film. I thought let's make a small film, which happened to be 'Pardes', shoot within a year and come back to 'Sikhar' later," Ghai says.
When "Pardes" released and became a hit, Ghai moved on to helm "Taal" (1999).
The 72-year-old filmmaker recently showcased "Pardes" at New Excelsior Cinema, acquired by Mukta A2 Cinema, a branch of Ghai's Mukta Arts.