No more junked films

There were scores of films in various stages of production that stayed incomplete, wasting miles of raw stock and man hours, but it’s good to note that the era of incomplete films is over and the reasons are worth reading about...

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.

A film took anywhere between 18 months 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. 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, 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, film never saw light of day. It was launched when his co-stars Karisma Kapoor and Arshad Warsi were popular.

Almost all actors had their lot of films. 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 and Ek Hindustani, while Akshay Kumar's Purab Ki Laila Paschim Ka Chhaila was near completion when it got stuck.

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.

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 corporate film companies are to be thanked for this kind of approach to filmmaking.

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