Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s doomed Inshallah had remained in news ever since it was announced. For starters, it was the homecoming of Salman Khan in the Bhansali domain. Even though any rational mind would shudder at the prospect of calling the supposed pairing of the 53-year old superstar opposite Alia Bhatt, younger to him by 27-years, a casting coup, it had set the cash registers ringing in the minds of trade pundits. The film continues to make news even though what could have been a great Khan-Bhansali reunion, unfortunately, now stands shelved.
Despite having worked together in two of their respective careers’ most memorable films, Bhansali and Salman remain highly unlikely collaborators. Bhansali’s debut Khamoshi: The Musical (1996), and later his breakthrough film, Hum Dil Chuke Sanam (1999) were the first few instances where the actor within Khan got a fair chance to show off without sacrificing the star quotient. Even though Khan was the first A-list superstar who put his weight behind Bhansali, the filmmaker moved on to greener pastures following the success of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Khan went on to specialise in the kind of characters and cinema that was unique to him (read Bhansali would not be caught dead imagining), while Bhansali ended up becoming the biggest attraction of his productions (read: no place for ‘other’ stars), and the two paths never met. In this context, their attempt to reunite after a gap of nearly two decades for Inshallah was worth the splash it made.
There are rumours doing the rounds that Khan had agreed on doing the film without even hearing the second half, and had a change of heart when Bhansali finally narrated what he had in mind. This is not the same Bhansali, who merrily waited for months in the hope that Madhuri Dixit would agree to do the role ultimately played by Manisha Koirala in Khamoshi, or could not think of Devdas (2002) without Shah Rukh Khan. Bhansali might have agreed to get Salman for his new film over the likes of Ranveer Singh, who played the lead in his three previous films, but he was not going to adhere to Khan’s whims. Apparently, the deal fell through because Khan wanted to co-produce the film. There is also speculation that Khan wanted specific changes in the script while Bhansali opted to stick to his guns.
Although it is interesting to see how someone such as Bhansali felt the need of a star at this stage in his career or Khan’s innate inability to shift gears, it is not the first time a top star and a filmmaker have parted ways due to different perspectives. The first instance that comes to mind would probably be the parting of ways between Subhash Ghai and Amitabh Bachchan in the late 1980s during the making of Devaa. By the time the two collaborated, Bachchan’s reputation as the one-man-industry and Ghai’s credentials as the wunderkind were firmly entrenched. It would have been interesting to see what the two would have come up with. Rumour has it that Ghai was not too pleased with Bachchan supposedly sharing his hush-hush ‘look’ for the film with people in the industry, and called it quits.
In the late 1970s, Nasir Hussain chose to shelve his magnum opus Zabardast even after shooting a fair bit because he did not want to antagonise the lead, Dilip Kumar. The film featured Dharmendra and Rishi Kapoor along with Zeenat Aman and Amjad Khan, but Hussain and Kumar could not see eye to eye on the tone of the film. JP Dutta also shelved his Bandhua, that featured Amitabh Bachchan opposite Madhuri Dixit after a rumoured run-in with the lead.
The most recent instance in the list would be the inability of Mani Ratnam and Aamir Khan to come on the same page for a film set in the pre-Partition India. Tentatively titled Lajjo, the film was a musical based on the works of Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai. Ratnam had got Anurag Kashyap on board to work on the screenplay. Lajjo was also supposed to be the first film that brought Kareena Kapoor Khan and Aamir together.
Going by Bhansali’s track record, the chances of Inshallah getting revived are quite high but not as much with Salman still headlining it. In the past, the filmmaker had initially thought of Bajirao Mastani with Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and later Kareena, but finally ended up making the film with Ranveer and Deepika Padukone. For a while there were rumours of Shah Rukh Khan and Bhansali collaborating and who knows one Khan’s loss could be another’s gain?