Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Best Films That Never Were

Obviously, there was a huge amount of controversy on the list of the Worst Films I Ever Watched - as it seemed to coincide with Nilendu's list of the Best Films Ever! The others pointed out gems, which in hindsight, definitely deserved entry. DC even quoted John Milton to evoke the Purgatory!
The logical next step was to compile a list of my favourite films and I did that as well! This was met with widespread approval though my father cribbed that I should qualified it with the language of the films.

As a 'logical' next step, I tried to come up with a list of Hindi films that were 'announced' but never made. Some of them had flashy mahurats, all of them had more stars than Andromeda galaxy and they had story lines rivaling the greatest of epics. They had everything going for them - except that they never got made. Dates and egos, deaths and eccentricities got in the way of these brilliant films, which may have re-written the box-office if they released.

Ek - Devdas (made for Rs 50 Crores) was the first Hindi film, which used a film's budget as a selling point. Not one to miss any marketing gimmick, Ramgopal Verma announced a film on international terrorism around the same time with a budget of - hold your breath - Rs 100 Crores.
Amitabh Bachchan, Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgan and a top-billing international cast was supposed to zoom across the major capitals of the world in a saga involving the Al Qaeda, CIA and RAW.
When a journalist gasped at the budget, RGV pointed out that the budget was actually only $20 million and a top star like George Clooney or Julia Roberts got that kind of money for a film.
Maybe, but no producer - neither Ramsay nor Warner Bros - came forward to pick up the tab. And after RGV Ki Aag, they probably never will.

64 Squares - Imagine playing a game of chess with death. Okay, not too much imagining here because Mr Bergman has already shown a compelling version in The Seventh Seal. But Vinod Chopra felt that his first English language film - starring Amitabh Bachchan and Anupam Kher - should explore the emotions of two people across a chess-board. Amitabh and Anupam Kher have acted in several films together but none of them really pit them against each other and this movie would have been the first time.
Initially titled Chess, it was subsequently called Move 5 and now the website of Vinod Chopra Productions list it in their forthcoming projects as 64 Squares. If they are changing names so often, it probably means that the film is on the anvil and not in cold storage. And we may get to see Amitabh Bachchan fight death. One more time.

Galti Se / Jaan Boojh Ke - The film, which released as My Wife's Murder, was intended with a twist quite unique to cinema in general, not only Indian cinema. It is for things like this, that we see Ramgopal Verma get such massive bhao in the industry.
RGV intended to make two films, both of which started identically, about a man and his nagging wife. After the initial mood setting, the wife dies in both the film. But in the first one, the husband kills him accidentally while in the second, it is a planned murder. The plots diverge from there and you never know where they end. He intended to release both the films (with identical casts) on the same day and invite the audience to sample one or both.
This reminds me of a Jeffrey Archer short story (One Man's Meat) in which there were four different endings to the same story.
What eventually released was a tame story of an accidental murderer, that sunk at the box office. What was the point?

Bajirao Mastani - When Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced this film, my first thought was whether Salman would still have his American accent while playing the Maratha chieftain. But if working on accents and understanding his character's motivation had been Salman's strengths, he wouldn't have had a statue at Madame Tussaud's.
A Maratha warrior's affair with a courtesan promised to be a great story. Sanjay Leela Bhansali directing a period film added to the allure. And if there was anything missing, then the casting ping-pong made up for it.
After the success of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, it was Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai at first. Then, Sallu beat up Ash and she walked off. Kareena agreed to sacrifice her multi-crore fees to work with Bhansali. Salman stayed on. Bhansali got engaged in Black and to pacify Salman, he even gave him a walk-on part in Saawariya. In the meantime, Kareena had walked off. When last heard, Salman had screamed "I am not Bajirao" and sauntered off.
Breaking News: Abhishek and Aishwarya are being considered as the lead pair.

Allwyn Kalicharan - At one point of time, Anurag Kashyap had an impressive body of critically acclaimed works, none of which had released. Paanch and Black Friday hit the courts and Censor Boards with the regularity of a metronome before the latter got a release and Anurag was hailed as the greatest thing to happen to Bollywood since Macmohan.
With a reputation like that, he launched a sci-fi film with Anil Kapoor in the lead. He was supposed to play a cop in a Delhi of the future and sneak-preview-watchers swore that Delhi never looked as apocalyptic as it did in this film.
The name itself was a twist on the famous refrigerator brand and a pun on the West Indian brand. And there was supposed to be some reason for it as well - which we are supposed to see on silver screen.
The original producer blanched after the initial shoots at the massive budget required to get the futuristic feel of the film. With Anurag's reputation, there was enough hope that someone else would have stepped in but then, he directed No Smoking.

Time Machine - After the super success of Mr India, Shekhar Kapur consolidated his post-Masoom reputation as a director of intelligent, commercially successful films. Extending the mildly sci-fi theme of Invisible Man, he launched Time Machine - starring no less than Aamir Khan and Raveena Tandon. No film on time travel can ever be boring and this was slated to be a cracker.
Except that Shekhar was a brooding, plodding director and Aamir Khan was slowing upping his perfectionist gear as well. So, the scenes took a lot of time getting canned, made worse by the fact that Shekhar also had international ambitions.
In the end, Aamir started to doing one film a year. Raveena got married and had a kid. Shekhar got an Oscar nomination and did not want to make masala films.
And India still awaits a film on time travel.

There were at least two movies that were launched with Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit in the lead. And both of them had an amazing third lead.
There was Tinnu Anand's Shanakht with AB, MD and Rajanikanth. And there was Inder Kumar's Rishta with Aamir Khan as the third star.
But some jinx prevented this box-office dynamite duo from having a release together (unless you count the Makhana song in Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan). But with her comeback, we may still have one soon.

As a post-script, I think I will add the story of a title that never was.
After the success of Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi, Sudhir Mishra wrote a film about the Bollywood of the 1950s, got a financier, shot it in a hurry and released it as Khoya Khoya Chand.
If I ever get the chance, I want to ask him why he changed the original title, which was supposed to be Bahut Nikle Mere Armaan...
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