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The unreleased films of Amitabh Bachchan-Entertainment News, Firstpost

Throughout his checkered career, Amitabh Bachchan has slowed his name to many films. Most of them have seen stupendous success, and a few haven’t been as lucky. But in his heydays, there were quite a few interesting films which he shot for but were never completed. Amborish looks at a few of those.

It’s borderline redundant to go on about how significant Amitabh Bachchan has been in the grand scheme of Hindi cinema and all that it entails. His impact on him can be summarized in one stray phrase used in the cover story of the 1984 issue of a magazine: “One man sneezes and the industry catches a cold”. There were others who had their own fan following, but for crores of Indians, he was the numero uno star. He was the only one with a gold-plated guarantee of a massive box office opening. But it wasn’t always so. There was a time when everyone in the industry was convinced that this lanky man with a baritone didn’t have a future in this line of work. He had to face rejections at every step.

While his debut Saat Hindustani (1969) brought critical acclaim, producers didn’t exactly line up outside his door. He had to actively look for work. It was around this time that he came upon a project called Ek Tha Chandar Ek Thi Sudha. It was based on Hindi novelist Dharmvir Bharti’s novel Gunahon Ka Devta. But a Jitendra-starrer film of that name had already released in 1967. So, the adaptation was named after characters of the novel, Chandar and Sudha. The original cast included Rekha, Jaya Bhaduri and Amitabh Bachchan. It was prophetic. The shoot began on the streets of Allahabad, Bachchan’s home ground. Everyone knew the son of poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, which required a certain amount of clandestinity.

But the shooting was halted abruptly after making a few songs and some scenes. It wasn’t uncommon back in the day to stop shooting a film midway if the money-taps ran dry. Something similar happened to Ek Tha Chandar Ek Thi Sudha, and the film could not be completed. One of the songs featured Amit and Rekha, likely their first on-screen appearance. The song, “Ye chehra ye zulfein/ Tauba tauba”, surfaced many years later on YouTube. There were some attempts to complete the film, but to no avail. A few years passed by, and Bachchan’s stock was already on the rise. The fun is, he was one of the factors why the money on the project had dried up. Bachchan wasn’t a bankable star back in 1969. But now he was an overnight sensation, and reviving Ek Tha Chandar Ek Thi Sudha made no sense. But Bachchan did worry about the fate of the producers who had backed the project. Veteran producer Poornachandra Rao heard about the quagmire and offered to buy out the producers on one condition. Bachchan had to do a film with him. He was working on Rajinikanth’s Bollywood debut, and who else to provide support than Bollywood’s greatest superstar? Andha Kanon (1983) was, needless to say, a phenomenal success.

In the early days of his career, Amitabh Bachchan had signed on for a film which co-starred his friend Shatrughan Sinha. Shatru and Amit were great friends. The young actors struggled together, and kept looking for ways to work together. Mehmood’s brother Anwar Ali was a common friend. It was at Anwar’s house that Bachchan had put up in his days of struggle. The first time Amit and Shatru worked together was in Parwanah (1971). It was directed by the same Jyoti Swaroop who had earlier made Padosan (1968). Bachchan had a negative role in the film and Shatru appeared in a cameo as a lwyer. then came Mumbai to Goa (1972), in which it was finally Bachchan’s time to play a hero and Shatru was the villain. Their friend Anwar played a comic role as Rajesh, shadowing his brother from him Mehmood’s Khanna.

Shatrughan Sinha and Amitabh Bachchan signed a film called Yaar Meri Zindagi. They started shooting in 1971. The director was lyricist-filmmaker Mukul Dutt. Mukul was going through a prolific phase. He had just made Raaste Ka Patthar with Amitabh Bachchan, Chhalia with Navin Nischol, and Aaj ki Dhara featuring Mahendra Sandhu. But his most ambitious film by him till then was Yaar Meri Zindagi, in which he pit two upcoming talents. He had immense faith in these two unknown young men. Shatru was just back from Khilona (1970), which gave him plenty of (much deserved) attention. Bachchan hadn’t made it yet, but the critics were all praises, and Hrishikesh Mukherjee had cast him in Anand (1971).

For some reason, the shoot got delayed. Due to an issue with dates, they were not being able to complete the film. The hiccups continued, with shoots happening by fits and starts. It was very slow progress, and again, Bachchan’s meteoric rise from 1973 onwards became a hurdle the frail little film just couldn’t cross. Mukul Dutt eventually passed away, and film remained incomplete. Two decades later in the 90s, someone decided to complete the film. But both Shatru and Amit had advanced in age. Regardless, Shatrughan Sinha decided to complete the shooting for the film. Finally, Yaar Meri Zindagi was released in 2008, almost 40 years after it started shooting. Imagine an early Amitabh-Shatru film releasing in 2008! The film can still be found on YouTube with Shatru’s facial age fluctuating as the film progresses. Some of Bachchan’s incomplete scenes were done by using someone else as a stand-in, and the camera was placed behind them. The film had a lot of actors who weren’t even born when it began shooting. Sudha Chandran starred in it, and she was six years old when the project was first put together.

Manmohan Desai and Amitabh Bachchan were an unbeatable team in the 1970s and 80s. Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb, Coolie, Mard…the hits just kept on coming, without any end in sight. Before I have made Amar Akbar Anthony, Manmohan Desai had promised he would henceforth be called ‘Anthony Bhai’. And that’s exactly what happened. For a while, that’s what the average called this superstar. Amar Akbar Anthony was followed by Suhaag, both of which struck gold at the box office. Around this time, Desai signed Bachchan for another film called Khuda Gawah. Khuda Gawah. And it is, Khuda Gawah. Desai had conceived of a desi western, to the Sholay, but it would have been a very different film. The film was written, and they started shooting. Bachchan had a double role, with Parveen Babi as the heroine. This was the first time he was essaying a negative role. One of the Bachchans was a good guy, and the other the villain. A few scenes were shot before the project shut down. It was said that Desai wasn’t convinced with the way the script had unfolded. Again, one of the scenes of Manmohan Desai’s Khuda Gawah landed up on YouTube, in which one of the Bachchans is fighting the other. Epic.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975) inspired Subhash Ghai to make Karz (1980) but there was someone else who was inspired from the same source material. It was actor Pran’s son Sunil Sikand. It had a stellar cast, with Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Parveen Babi, Sharmila Tagore, Danny and Pran headlining the cast. The film was called Karishma. But Pran was already working in Ghai’s film so he advised his son to not go ahead. There was simply no point. It is often believed that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzarish was the first Hindi film on the subject of Euthanasia. The fact, a film on that subject was almost completed in 1984. It starred Kamal Hassan along with Bachchan, Sridevi and Jaya Prada. Kamal played the patient. About 80% of the film was shot. But producers chickened out for fear of public outcry. The subject was too controversial, and more so for the rather tame 80s. The shooting stopped, and this extraordinary casting coup was never seen.

Amborish is a National Film Award winning writer, biographer and film historian.

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