Naseeruddin Shah has been in the film industry for over three decades, but if Bollywood were devoid of distribution problems the actor would have been 30 films older today.
“I probably hold the world record for maximum unreleased films,” says Shah, who has over 30 films, still lying in the cans. “Yes, some of them weren’t very good, but it takes hard work to make even a bad film. They have been dubbed for, mixed and even the prints are ready. They deserve a release.”
Shah’s oldest unreleased film is a film directed by Mrinal Sen, co-starring Om Puri and Shabana Azmi. “We shot this movie more than 25 years ago in Jaisalmer. Om and I grew beards for more than a year to suit our caveman-like characters for it,” he reminisces.
More recently, he completed a comedy that he shot for in London. His action-adventure film Valley of Flowers too has not released even four years after completion.<b1>
When asked for a possible solution, he shrugs, “These things should be taken care of in the beginning itself. But there are so many problems when films are under production, especially the smaller ones. Releasing them is the last thing on anyone’s mind.”
The actor feels that most problems arrive due to the grand budgets of films today. “The only remedy to this Bollywood monster is to make the kind of films you believe in, but cheaply,” he asserts. “Directors spend money only because their producers are ready to do so. If everyone straps their belts, it is very possible to cut corners.”<b2>
Shah cites the example of Mughal-e-Azam (1960), a film known for its grandeur and magnificent sets, made within a one crore budget. “Regional films too, are made within tight budgets. Why not Hindi films then?” he says.