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Incomplete Films: Shikwa

One of Hindi cinema’s biggest tragedies is that Dilip Kumar and Nutan only came together as a pair much, much past their heyday as late as 1986 with Subhash Ghai’s multi-starrer, Karma. They would then act with each other once more – in B Gopal’s Kanoon Apna Apna (1989). If one could, one would give an arm and a leg to see them together as a leading pair playing off each other’s incredible histrionic abilities at their peak in the 1950s and even the ’60s.

What is even more heartbreaking is that they were actually cast together in 1954 for a film that unfortunately would never see the light of day, Shikwa. The film was being directed by Ramesh Saigal, who with Shaheed (1948), had not only given Dilip Kumar one of his early hits, but the film also helped majorly to consolidate the thespian’s image as a tragedy king. Post Shaheed, Saigal and Kumar  worked together in Shikast (1953), which saw Nalini Jaywant, acting opposite Kumar, give one of the finest performances of her career.

Shikwa sees Dilip Kumar play an under-trial army officer. In the film, he plays a soldier, Ram, who, disillusioned by war, appeals for peace on the battlefield even as he loses an arm and an eye and is disfigured in the face. However, he is courtmartialed for rebellion and for refusal to fight on the battlefield and is subsequently tried. His girlfriend, Indu (Nutan), pleads with the investigating officer of the case, Narendra, who also loves her, that she would be his if he saves Ram from death. Ram is then put into a mental asylum from where he escapes. He reaches Indu only to find her in bridal clothes. He lets himself be captured to be sent back to the asylum…

According to Karunesh Thakur, an assistant director on the film, the film was being produced by the Filmkaar company owned by Makhanlal and Rajendra Jain. The company had already made films like Chhoti Babi (1950), Deedar (1951) and Ghunghroo (1952). Thakur joined them as an apprentice when the company was making Maan (1954). However, the film flopped and the company launched Shikwa with Dilip Kumar to recoup losses. Sadly, Shikwa could not be completed  and Filmkaar had to close down altogether.

Thankfully, some footage of a few edited scenes from the film survive and give us a glimpse of what might have been. Sadly, they also confirm that here is a film that should have been completed and released. Looking at one of the court martial sequences alone in this footage indicates that Shikwa would undoubtedly have been yet another milestone in the careers of both Dilip Kumar and Nutan.

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