With the new way of making films, the case of films being stalled or left incomplete, never to see light of the silver screen, has become non-existent.
The films are launched very much with release dates announced at the same time. Earlier, a film producer could not even dream of such an event. How would a producer of a film announce the release date when he himself was not sure of when his film would be complete? It was not at all up to him. Once a maker launched a film, he had to depend on outside forces beyond his control to complete the film.
Films were made in instalments as stars allotted dates in chunk of four to five days, and a luckier producer got as much as a week to 10 days allotted to his film. The distributor, if one was lucky to have sold his film, paid according to the progress of a film. The trade papers in those days published shooting reports not just issued by the filmmakers but also the ones reported through studio bookings. Both needed to conform to each other.
A film took anywhere between 18 months (for an affluent producer with a track record of being successful) to three years. But, these were the luckier lot who could complete their films and see them release.
There were a score of films each year which were launched successfully, shot for a few days or so, and, as the term was used back then, were complete in six reels or nine or 12 but never saw the light of day thereafter.
The reasons were varied for the films to never come to The End. And, not all of them were small films or starring lesser actors. Surprisingly, many films which were stuck midway, never to reach the silver screen ever, included big bill ventures. You name them: Rajkumar, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Mithun Chakraborty, Sanjay Dutt, Govinda, Suniel Shetty, Sunny Deol, Salman Khan... just about every actor worth his name.
Talking of Dharmendra, when he got a break, he was supposed to sign an exclusive three-year contract with his producer. Well, he signed the same contract of exclusivity with three producers. No producer went to court in those days, and the actor survived to become a well-followed and loved star. Amitabh Bachchan had an uncertain start mainly based on recommendations from powers that be. With his height and lanky figure, he was not taken seriously as star material. The lore says that his performance in "Saat Hindustani" had impressed actor Pran Saheb so much that he recommended him to Prakash Mehra for "Zanjeer" when no reigning star was willing to accept that role.
But, "Anand" in 1971, followed by "Zanjeer" in 1973 launched Bachchan to stardom. His underproduction films were compromised. He had realised what worked and what did not. "Ek Nazar", a BR Ishara film, was lucky to see release since it had an outstanding musical score. A few others, like "Ek Tha Chander Ek Thi Sudha", based on the story by Harivansh Rai Bachchan's friend, Dr Dharamveer Bharti, never went beyond six reels.
Amitabh Bachchan's major film that has remained stuck with no hope of release is "Zamaanat", produced and directed by S. Ramanathan - the director who gave the actor his first mass hit, "Bombay To Goa". Despite all kinds of concessions granted by investors, the film never saw light of day. It was launched when his co-stars Karisma Kapoor and Arshad Warsi were popular. Now, the maker has passed away ending all hopes of release.
Almost all actors had their lot of films. As mentioned in an earlier column, film actors suffered from two problems, insecurity and the greed of finance to last a lifetime. Not surprising, since a tenure as a saleable star lasts only for a few years. If a film is delayed and the star has lost his pull, the distributors as well as the financiers withdraw backing.
The reason for most stars to sign on a film in those days was the signing amount. It was the era of lakh, and a producer would walk by a star's home or studio to say: "Want to do a film with you", and casually drop an envelope containing a lakh or two lakh in cash as a token! This token, as it was called, served as the petty cash for the star's household.
Sunny Deol was one star who must have enjoyed the most signing amounts followed by Boney Kapoor, on behalf of Anil Kapoor. The interest-free money helped even if the actors did not plan to do certain films. Suniel Shetty had a few incomplete films, prominent being "Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke" (directed by Shashilaal Nair) and "Ek Hindustani" (Tinnu Anand), while Akshay Kumar's "Purab Ki Laila Paschim Ka Chhaila" was near completion when it got stuck. Shekhar Kapur had a strong star cast in "Time Machine", but the film as well as attempts to revive it failed. JP Dutta was very ambitious about his home production "Sarhad", which he had launched with Vinod Khanna in the lead but nothing happened thereafter. Another Vinod Khanna big-bill movie was "Zameen", with Ramesh Sippy directing it. It seems the film had overshot the budget long before its completion, which had made the financiers wary.
Sometimes, a film was held up because the artiste in the lead was not sure about its success. Rajesh Khanna did not let his "Mehmmob Ki Mehndi" release while he was at the top. Finally, because the film's music was very powerful, he acquired the rights and released it. But it was too late, the film had earned the tag of ‘stale' film and it failed miserably. Among Khanna's other films was "Majnoo", which was launched by his father-in-law, Chunilal Kapadia. The film had a grand promotion campaign with just about everybody who mattered in attendance at the launch. However, the film never progressed beyond a few days of shooting. Yet another film launched with fanfare was "Waapsi", by a Hong Kong-based businessman, Sam Sugnu Jethwani. Khanna was a fading star by then but the film, as its title suggested, was touted to be his comeback vehicle. It progressed till about 40 per cent.
"Ulfat", starring Raaj Kumar, produced by publicist-turned-filmmaker K. Razdan, was another example of an actor not being happy with the outcome. After stalling the film's release for over 15 years, the actor decided to buy out the film's rights and release it on his own as "Ulfat Ki Nayee Manzilen" to disastrous results.
Many producers were Dilip Kumar fans and hoped to work with him as an actor. But Sudhakar Bokade went one up on the others, and signed Dilip Kumar to direct a film titled "Kalinga", having worked with the actor in "Izzatdaar" earlier. "Kalinga" was doomed from day one and so was Bokade, whose earlier successes were washed out with this overambitious venture. Amit Khanna's film, "Sheeshay Ka Ghar" was completed in time, the music was out and became popular, but the film remains unreleased to date.
One film that has a different story, as far as stalling and finally seeing release goes, was "Love And God". The film was launched by K. Asif in 1963 with Guru Dutt in the lead. Dutt died a year later. Asif scrapped whatever was shot and re-launched the film with Sanjeev Kumar. But, again the film had to be shelved following the death of K. Asif, the maker. In a strange turn of events not seen before in the film trade, producer KC Bokadia got interested in the project. It was probably the melodious music of the film that attracted him. He joined hands with Asif's widow, Akhtar Asif, to put together whatever material was shot and release this incomplete film in 1985, a year after Sanjeev Kumar's death. The exercise proved futile.
There were scores of films in various stages of production that stayed incomplete, wasting miles of raw stock and man hours. Not to mention some great musical scores. In fact, Polydor released an album of late Madan Mohan's songs from incomplete films, and Yash Chopra later went ahead and used his songs in "Veer-Zaara".
Listing all the films that went into cold storage would be impossible. But the idea is to note that the era of incomplete films is over. The reasons are many: The corporate approach to filmmaking, more disciplined and committed artistes, high stakes, and the system of completing films in a start-to-finish schedule. The arrival of the corporate film companies are to be thanked for this kind of approach to filmmaking business.
* "War", with two muscle-flexing hulks in Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff, set a new opening-day box-office record, making the most of Gandhi Jayanti national holiday on Wednesday, October 2. With admission rates raised and 4,000 screens engaged, the figures were bound to be high. As it happens with most mid-week releases, the collections on the following days could not compare with the opening day. However, the film was set to draw footfalls in plenty.
With an extended five-day weekend business of Rs 159.7 crore (plus Rs 6.55 crore from Tamil-Telugu dubbed versions) and a Dussehra holiday falling on Tuesday, October 8, the film's march continued to show a handsome Rs 228.5 crore (plus Rs 9.85 crore from Tamil-Telugu versions) for the nine-day first week.
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