Let’s start with the obvious. India is easily the largest Film ‘Industry’ the world over or what one could call the largest Institution of the Imaginary. And yet even though we release films by the hundreds every year, there are many, many more that fail to make it to the finish line.
A film has a long, arduous journey before it finally hits the screens and even after with obstacles abounding at every stage. How many films are announced in the hope that once a current project will be successful, the next will take off with the same team only to come to a crashing halt when the earlier one tanks? Then, there are the lot that even make it to the floors, only to be unable to complete their shooting. Some luckier ones finish their shoot and struggle to move further and it is even more frustrating for the ones that are complete but lying unsold and hence, unreleased.
A lot of films are stuck due to market dictates. A star’s saleability dipping or a previous film crashing quickly puts the brakes on a new project. I myself have been witness to a project I had done the screenplay for way back in 1995 halting not once but twice with a different cast each time thanks to the heroes being considered no longer economically viable.
Another factor is of course the mercy of the star. Once a star is signed up, he or she has to be ‘kind’ enough to give dates, adhere to them and see the film is completed on time. Thankfully, stars and filmmakers appear comparatively more committed today looking at the high stakes involved. But who can forget possibility the worst era of Hindi cinema, the 1980s to the mid 1990s, where it was not unusual for a film to limp towards a release after 2-3 years having gone hugely over budget only to flop spectacularly since what was the flavour of the month on a particular Friday 3 years ago is no longer so. Hmmm, the market again…
Little wonder we are in an era where marketing and hype is of utmost importance. A filmmaker can only say he or she has made a feature film after it has a decent theatrical release and is seen by audiences. And as the industry is still such a star dominated one and at a loss as to what to do with the smaller films and how to promote them, some well deserving films I have seen in recent times – Daayen Ya Bayeen, Doosra or Antardwand are fighting their battles to get to the theatres.
Sometimes it is the filmmakers themselves who will never let a film release unless they are completely satisfied with it. Kamal Amrohi took 14 years to make Pakeezah (1972) and another 12 to bring Razia Sultan (1983) to the silver screen, while Guru Dutt began and scrapped many films without a thought to the money he was losing if he was dissatisfied with the way the film was shaping up. But such artists are rare.
Then there are other spicy reasons. It is said the Dilip Kumar-Suraiya starrer Janwar came to a sudden halt as after a romantic scene, the hero made a not so nice comment about the heroine to his cronies and at that time being a bigger star than he, she simply walked out of the project when she heard what he had said about her.
And then there is the entire system of raising finance from the market of course, which is another nightmare altogether and the less said about the entry of the so called corporate entity into the world of entertainment, the better!
OK, I am digressing. This piece is not really meant to be some deep analysis of what ails the Hindi film Industry or an essay on the fate of incomplete films. But being an avid collector of old Bollywood memorabilia particularly the song booklets of yore and other stuff, I came across some announcements of films that in their time in the1950s, could not take off, or lay incomplete. As one looks at these, one can only wistfully imagine what might have been…