Thousands of hours of unused film footage from India is still lying on the shelves in labs or producers offices. One wonders if the footage of possible great unseen cinema still exists or has rotted in storage. Hours of labour, millions of expenditure and the craftsmanship of a director is end-resulted to the developed celluloid material not being completed to be delivered to the cinema projectionist. This article is my shortlist of unreleased films over the years that have been highly anticipated in my eyes – since its inception to its stir in the media. The insights into these films are all the reading from newspapers, magazines, websites and hearing of the mouth over the years, the information gathered could be a gist of air or the smoke from a blazing fire.
So here is an insight of 15 films from India I would have loved to have seen being made and released – possibly one day, I may even call out a hunt to find the remainders of these films! (The list is in order of preference)
(Launched 1992 – was planned to release in 1996)
Launched with much fanfare, this was supposed to be Dilip Kumar’s official directional debut. Although he has been alleged to have ghost-directed films such as Ganga Jamuna, Bairaag and Ram Aur Shyam but this was to be his first official baby. Launched in 1992 by producer Sudhakar Bokade (Izzatdaar, Saajan fame) things began to have gone wrong within the early stages of production. Firstly Sunny Deol had exited the film due to his back problem, over-budgeting issues began by the first schedule leading to the production being halted for over year. Once the second schedule had started, the Bombay Riots, Dilip Saab’s health and Bokade being accused of links with underworld all delayed the film from developing further. The story about a righteous Judge Kalinga (played by Dilip Saab himself) and his honourable ways is double crossed by his two sons (played by Raj Babbar and Raj Kiran) and with the help of the village stable boy (then newcomer Amitoj Mann) he seeks to get back at them.
Despite the issues during the making of the film over time, Dilip Saab had refused many offers to act as he wanted to concentrate on his directorial venture. By the time the last schedule had taken off in 1995 (by this point it had become a whopping 4 crore venture) Bokade had to pull the plug. It was getting over-budget beyond means as Dilip Saab was exaggerating his perfectionism as a director. Unfortunately, being 70% complete, Kalinga never saw the light of the day. Sadly, we doubt we will ever see Dilip Saab again behind the camera at his current age.
One of the most ‘buzzed about’ films during the year of 1997. Launched with huge power cast of Vinod Khanna, Sanjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Raveena Tandon and Rahul Dev had gone into production in May 1997 as being one of the biggest action spectaculars the country would ever see. The film’s key theme was terrorism. The story was about a Captain Raja Sethi (Sanjay Dutt), who is part of a secret organisation known as Force 10 is sent on a mission to find an Afghan terrorist named Nasheman (Raveena Tandon). After he is captured and tortured by Nasheman and her right-hand man Mast Gul (Rahul Dev), his partner Captain Jeet Sharma (Salman Khan) is sent to rescue him. However by this point it’s too late, Raja is brain-washed in which he also becomes a terrorist.
Sadly, director Mukul S Anand died due to a heart attack when the film was 40% complete. Producer Nitin Manmohan had approached directors such as JP Dutta, Ramesh Sippy, Priyadarshan to complete the film. David Dhawan was willing to come on board, but unfortunately none of these directors could see eye-to-eye with the vision of Anand. Nitin Manmohan had decided out of respect for his fellow friend Mukul Anand, he handed over the 9 hours of footage to his family and gave them the option of what they would want to do with the remainder of the film. The family felt it was better to leave the film how it was. The family released a few promos, released the soundtrack and left it to peace as a tribute to Mukul S Anand.
Raju Raja Ram
So interestingly enough, Rohit Shetty’s now favourite screenwriter, Yunus Sajawal, was to debut as a full-fledged screenwriter with this feature. David Dhawan had told him to write him 10 scenes adapting from the successful Marathi play All The Best to full commercial comedy Hindi film. David Dhawan being impressed with the written 10 scenes and Jackie Shroff being overly impressed that he decided to become producer for the first time. Launched with high hopes, promotions began before the film took off. A lot people from the trade held their expectations in the film.
Story about a Raju (Jackie Shroff), Raja (Govinda) and Ram (Salman Khan) who fall for the same girl and in their attempt in wooing her, they try not to make her aware about their physical disabilities. Issues for the film began to arise firstly when Govinda was not exactly happy about how his role was shaping out, then Jackie had begun to reconsider the budget of the film later the dates had become a mess for the cast. Eventually Producer Shroff decided to shelve the film. But don’t be too disappointed because the film eventually got made. How? Yunus Sajawal handed the script over to Deepak Tijori who eventually Tom Dick and Harry out of it. But one would have liked to see Dhawan’s interpretation of the film.
After Karma, Subhash Ghai being at the peak of career had joined hands with the biggest superstar of the country, Amitabh Bachchan. A huge mahurat was launched in 1987 and the producers of the film announced it was going to be the most expensive film ever made in India. Post days of shooting, things began to turn sour between Ghai and Bachchan. Many had said it was an ego clash in which Ghai was demanding more attention from Bachchan who had his hand already in many projects. Other mouths had also said that too many cooks, such as the producers and Bachchan’s team got involved with issues that caused friction between Ghai and Bachchan. Losing patience, Ghai eventually came to the sets of Shahenshah to break the news to Bachchan that he was shelving the film.
Details about the film were never disclosed but Bachchan’s look for the film was reused (or simply just lifted) in Khuda Gawah as Baadshah Khan. Apparently, the outline of the plot for Devaa was reused and reworked for Ghai’s Khalnayak. So we could say that Devaa had died its chances of being revived. Years later, Ghai and Bachchan had sorted their differences and shared that they would like to work again someday.
Shekhar Kapur post Mr India made to the nation’s elite director’s list. Being a director with a foreign touch, he desired to make films for India on a big scale that would be matched to any Hollywood feature. Launched in 1992, Time Machine was to be his next big sci-fi venture with Aamir Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha and Raveena Tandon in the lead. The film was about a young boy (Aamir Khan) and his friendship with a scientist (Vijay Anand) who builds a time machine which eventually sends the boy back time in which he meets the younger version of his parents (rings a bell? time machine, younger parents etc)
Despite being over budget after 75% of completion, Kapur was not exactly happy with the technology India had supplied him. He already had foreign technicians but he wanted take the film to Hollywood to finish the post production, but his budget did not allow him to do so. Aamir even had suggested to waive off his fee for the budget but the enormous amount Kapur had desired, Aamir and many other experts of the industry understood that recovery would be almost impossible. Years later, eventually clips of the film became available online and Shekhar’s confession that he didn’t have any interest in completing or reviving the film.
Footage of the Film:
Many are unaware but this confirms the one and only time Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi ever faced the camera together. Ramesh Sippy brought together a huge cast with Vinod Khanna, Sanjay Dutt, Rajnikanth, Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit with a huge budget began to run into problems after it was almost 50-60% complete. The main issue being the date issues with actors, Sippy began to have issues with scheduling.
Actors such as Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar and Paresh Rawal exited the film because of their concerns with the script. It was mentioned several times that Sippy had his apprehensions and doubts with the script, he had it changed several times in which actors became a little vigilant in completing the film. The last nail in the coffin was the ego clash between Madhuri and Sridevi. During the shoot of this film, Tezaab had released and emerged a huge success making Madhuri a star overnight. Naturally, Madhuri at this point not wanting to play a second lead to her main competitor Sridevi, she then demanded her role to be rewritten. In all of this stress, Sippy put his hands up and just left the film simply to be.
The duo of Sanjay Dutt-Sanjay Gupta, not only known as actor-director but also as best buddies had a fallout during the making of the film. It was said to be Gupta’s closest film to his heart as it was based on a life experience which he wrote and planned as a quickie. Taking a break from action and attempted to experiment with the slice-of-life genre, this quickie became a ‘stuckie’. It is said that a rift between the two became pretty ugly. Over some issue of finance and some personal issues, Dutt walked out before completion.
The film boasted a huge cast of Sanjay Suri, Rohit Roy, Manasi Joshi Roy, Mandira Bedi, Gul Panag, Sameer Soni, Sudhanshu Pandey, Dia Mirza, Tisca Chopra, Parvin Dabbas and Masumeh Makhija. It was said the performances by Suri and Roy really stood out and presented them like never before. Gupta not losing hope in reviving the film, replaced Dutt with Irfan Khan but sadly after resuming and reshooting it ran into problems again. Sad for a film that had so much positive mouth publicity before it released just couldn’t make it to the public. Years later, Gupta and Dutt had sorted their differences but there was no talk about reviving the film because of the black chapter in their friendship but Gupta still has expressed he is interested in reviving the film.
(Launched 1991, to release 1993)
Salman Khan was teamed with his then girlfriend, Pakistani model Somy Ali, who was launched in Hindi cinema and managed to work with some big banners during that period. Her involvement with Salman made her a favourite for the tabloids. Story of the film was said to be revenge saga about a man who is out to avenge the rape and murder of his girlfriend but in process loses his eyesight, despite being blind he manages to take revenge with the strength of his other senses (sound familiar ala Roshans?)
Recalling them days, I remember seeing a six-sheeter in a cinema with Sunny Deol in a paghri attire holding an Indian flag and slightly covering his face (one could make out this was Deol) with the tagline ‘Patriotism can be dangerous’ and mentioned ‘launching 11th December 1997’. The ‘launching’ tag confused people as publicity material was never brought to cinemas before being launched or before the mahurat. Sadly, for producer Pahlaj Nihalani only managed to shoot just one song for the film which cost him a whopping 1.5 crores which was unheard of at that time.
The was co-produced by Sunny Deol’s Vijeta Films, it’s actually the only film to star Sunny and Aishwarya in the lead (not including Sunny’s cameo in Aur Pyar Ho Gaya and Aishwarya’s cameo is Shaheed). Not only was the producer hesitated with the budget, but some issues with the script was a problem for Nihalani which caused some friction between him and Deol. The script was said to have strong anti-Pakistani overtones which the producer had doubts on. Years later, Deol retained the title for different script all together.
Again, I remember the film also having posters in cinemas just around the time of it being launched, another failed effort of super early promotion as the film ran into problems days into shooting. The film was to be helmed by British director Gurinder Chadha, who was on a high after Bhaji on the Beach. Chadha couldn’t come onto the same page as Deol as she probably, or most likely, did not understand the basic format of commercial Hindi cinema. What she was prepared out to make was a cross-over British-Indian film.
Deol had called in Rahul Rawail to come and make changes, which obviously did not go down well with Chadha. It was then decided she would be the director of the English version (yes, in the midst of the production they decided there was to be an English version). Once Deol had worked out that the Hindi version alone has already cost him 1.5 Crores till now, he dropped the idea of the English version and waved goodbye to Chadha. Karisma Kapoor’s tantrums began because this exit which made Deol also show her the exit door. Some of the portions shot for London, mainly with Sunny and Bobby were reused in Sunny’s directorial venture Dillagi. Which apparently was London Revived!
(Launched & Completed in 1997)
In the late 90’s, Kamal Hassan decided to produce a remake of his petite budget Tamil hit film Magalir Mattum, which itself was a remake of the Hollywood film 9 to 5. The film starred Randhir Kapoor, Seema Biswas, Shilpa Shirodkar, Heera Rajagopal and Kamal Hassan himself. The story of three women, working in the same office. They are constantly harassed by their lecherous boss Randhir Kapoor. The three decide to gang up against him to teach a lesson, but a strange accident complicates things when the boss lands in a hospital and the three women end up with the dead body of a terrorist.
Kamal Hassan plays a dead body throughout the film who is carried out by the women, said to not have a single dialogue or a movement throughout. The film was completed in 1997, some people of the industry had seen it and enjoyed it, but for some unknown reason the film never made it to the theatres and Kamal Hassan didn’t seem to bother getting it out, instead he moved onto Chachi 420.
(Launched in 1988)
The story of Habba Khatoon has been a jinx for the Hindi film industry. The story of a girl Zooni, as she was known, was a fine poetess in her own right. Married to a poor man who disapproved of her poetry and saddled with a hostile mother-in-law, she would divorce her husband and go on to become the empress of Kashmir taking on the name Habba Khatoon after marrying Yusuf Shah Chak, the then ruler of Kashmir. The story was also selected by renowned directors such as Mehboob Khan (with Dilip Kumar) and B.R Chopra, both directors had gone into pre-production with their take on Habba Khatoon but never went further.
Muzaffar Ali, of Umrao Jaan fame, went into production with the story starring Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia. It was a dream project for Ali, who wanted to shoot the film capturing all four seasons of Kashmir and also wanted to make two versions – one in English for International audiences and one in Urdu for Indian viewers. More than half the film was shot by 1989 with two seasons complete when insurgency hit the valley in a big way. The film could not resume shooting and coupled with other problems that Ali was facing at the time including his father’s death, Zooni came to a halt in 1990. After waiting for quite some time for better days, Ali had to shelve the film. In an interview in 2015, Ali remarked that if Zooni had been complete, Kapadia would have been a legend today.
(Launched & Completed in 1988)
This one is a completed film but just hasn’t been released yet. The film based on the short story Seema, published in collected stories in Raavi Paar. About married couples of urban India having extramarital relations and the issue of adultery. The film won critical acclaim in international film festivals, but has not been released in India to date. Firstly, distributors were always hesitated in releasing Gulzar’s films as none of them were commercially sustainable. The second reason being the fear that the film would cause a stir because of its bold theme.
The censor board did not approve of the film due to its adultery theme saying ‘it’s nothing but purely misguiding the Indian public’ in which they refused to certify it. Hope then came knocking at the door in 2014, when the film premièred at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and there was a rumour it would make a digital or a theatrical release but still as of now, one can just hope it would reach the public.
(Launched 2009, Completed 2010)
Shoojit Sircar second directorial venture after Yahaan, Shoebite is the story of a man in his early 60s named John Pereira who sets out on a journey of self-discovery. After the film had completed production in 2010, problems began for the film when two production houses had claimed the script legally belonged to them. Percept Pictures and UTV fought this long battle in which by 2012 the case was dismissed by the court in the favour of UTV.
Sircar went out to make Vicky Donor in hope he would return to Shoebite once things were cleared by the court. Despite this issue and UTV now are legally the owners of the content of the film, for unknown reasons it still has not been released. In March 2018, Bachchan requested the makers to release the film in his tweet, saying “Yes… put aside the internal debate, issues, or personal view points and give this labour of love from Shoojit Sircar a chance for others to appreciate this novel story and film… Please”
My last film on the list and the only film which is a non-Hindi language Indian film. This had to be done as its quite a special one. Launched in 1997 by Queen Elizabeth II who usually stays away from social events, appeared as the chief guest at the launch of the prestigious project which happened at the MGR Film City, Chennai on 16 October 1997. During the 20 minutes that the Queen spent at the event, a teaser (a pilot film which was shot much before principle cinematography began) was screened. The short video, which featured a shot battle sequence, was reportedly made on a budget of 1.5 crores (equivalent to 9 crores in 2018),
The film was based Maruthanayagam Pillai a warrior in the Arcot troops, later Commandant for the British East India Company troops. The British and the Arcot Nawab used him to suppress the Polygars in the south of Tamil Nadu. Later he was entrusted to administrating the Madurai country when the Madurai Nayaks rule ended. After a dispute, Maruthanayagam became a rebel and was sentenced to be hanged.
Hassan originally pulled together several prominent names across Indian cinema for its principal cast and crew. Screenwriters from the world were collaborated to write the film. Post the launch, the film was being shot for around three months before the work was suddenly ceased after a British production house that had planned to co-produce the film backed out, causing the film to be indefinitely postponed.
Other than Hassan, the film starred Nassar, Om Puri and Amrish Puri (if its ever revived, this would be the final released footage of them in a film) while Amitabh Bachchan and Rajnikanth were rumoured to play cameos. Kate Winslet at the time was offered the lead role just before a British production house had pulled out. Hassan had gone to various productions houses in the west to revive the film but because of the huge budget (at the time it was said to be around 85 crores which is roughly equivalent to 500 crores now) it was almost guaranteed no one would make their money back. Hassan had already spend 8 Crores of his own money on the two scenes he had shot in the three month of shooting which involved 7,000 artists in one scene. In 2008, 2012 and 2014 the film has been in the news for being revived by a major Hollywood studio.
In 2017, posters of the film were placed in Cannes, a sign of a possible revival. But who knows, it can happen and it might not. Seeing Hassan is not getting any younger and he already expressed that he may pull the plug from movies if he does get busy with politics. Currently he is finishing his commitments for Indian 2 and Shabash Naidu for now but we cannot say if this will ever be revived or it might find its life on the shelf after all.
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