Of Rs 65,000 and 8 points more!

Here is an interesting extract from the March 1949 issue of Filmindia concerning singing star Suraiya and a look at the film business scenario then…


Pakistan-returned Producer Hasnain of Fazli Brothers is reported to have signed up Suraiya for Rs. 65,000/- for his new picture. This is the highest price paid to any artiste during the last two years and is therefore a clear indication of the present boom in motion picture making in India, though the film producers keep shouting about a slump either to extract tax concessions from the Government or to persuade the Income-tax authorities to look at their returns more sympathetically. Surely an industry in slump cannot afford to pay such a huge amount to a single artiste for 3 months of work?

Incidentally, this is the sixth simultaneous picture Suraiya will be making and it adds one more producer to her nanny’s diary of daily schedule. It is a all-known fact that Suraiya is a hardworking and punctual girl who works every day of the week including Sundays but formally while she used to dole out 6 days in a month to every producer, now with Fazli’s new contract in hand she will be giving only 5 days a month.

If we call this greed on Suraiya’s part we would be accused of being unfair as it takes two to make a film contract and Suraiya is less to blame because in spite of her pitching the price higher and higher with every new contract, producers are falling over one another to secure her services in the hope of extracting finance from the distributors. It is no secret that all the distributors love Suraiya.

It is no wonder that Suraiya has become a superstition with weak minds like Baburao Pai of Famous Pictures, J.K. Nanda of Haldia-Nanda Productions and M. Sadiq. They seem to have lost faith in their own luck and intelligence and adopted Suraiya as their main mascot of success in production.

But such shivering producers do not seem to realize that after paying Suraiya 50 or 60 thousand rupees for a single picture and shooting her five days in a month they have to sit on pins and needles for a full month to get another five days and so on for 9 months till her 45 shooting days are over. By this time the cost of production has increased unnecessarily by at least 2 lakhs of rupees and the picture which was originally scheduled to cost 2 1/2 lakhs now costs 4 1/2 lakhs. Which all means that every producer pays for Suraiya as much as 3 lakhs on a single picture including her contract money.

Aaj ki Raat

Is Suraiya worth all that? We say, No! And why?

1. Though Suraiya induces the distributors to advance money on her picture that money is a loan on the picture and the producer has to pay it back with interest and loyalty, both of which are prohibitive.

2. That no star in India guarantees the box-office success of a picture merely on his or her name. A number of Suraiya pictures have failed miserably. The recent ones being “Vidya”, “Kajal”, “Dak Bungalow”, “Do Dil”, “Aaj-Ki-Raat” etc.

3. That people still rush to see good stories whoever the players and only good stories with proper entertainment value click at the box-offices.

4. That when 10 producers sign up Suraiya in a year, she is boringly multiplied on the screen and their is no novelty left in presenting her. And novelty is the spice of all entertainment.

5. That no artiste in the world, however talented, can work in six simultaneous pictures and six different roles. To do so is prostituting opportunity and merchandising art. No producer can claim to be an artist if he has only a one-sixth share in his leading lady.

6. That ten producers a year vie with one another in giving Suraiya more and more publicity. All this publicity helps Suraiya to put up her price and producers have to pay for both, the price and the publicity. This payment is made by borrowing money at exorbitant interest making the producers poorer and Suraiya richer.

7. That appearing in pictures after pictures Suraiya is getting typed and far from being the ideal village girl during her early screen career, she has now become a village bore and filmgoers have now come to hate both, the villages and the village girls,

8. That Suraiya’s terrific limitations in music have made the different music directors repeat themselves in tunes and at present Suraiya seems to sing only one common tune throughout ten pictures every year.

There are many more reasons, commercial and artistic, why this overworking of stars must be stopped. Other girls who are overworked in the same manner are Nargis, Munnawar Sultana and Rehana.

We don’t grudge the girls their huge earnings but in accepting too many contracts every year they are cutting short their artistic career and fast heading for a blackout.

The producers are following a suicidal policy in repeating these stars in their pictures. No audience in the world is prepared to see ten pictures of a single star in a single year and such pictures are already cutting one another out of popularity.

The ultimate stalemate resulting from this idiotic production policy is bound to shake the stability of the industry and once again producers will be shouting themselves hoarse over another slump.

Note: We have stuck to the spellings, punctuation and grammar of the original article.

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