Sridevi's brilliant performance was the only redeeming factor of Boney Kapoor-produced Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja
Oscar-winning director Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate is considered to be the film that shut down the famed studios United Artist (UA). The studio was established by the quartet of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and DW Griffith. Starring Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken and Isabelle Huppert, Heaven’s Gate was Cimino’s next film after the hugely successful The Deer Hunter, but the losses it incurred post release were so much that the ownership of UA had to be passed over to MGM. Heaven’s Gate was such a colossal failure that it spawned several books and documentaries. Bollywood too has its several Heaven’s Gate(s) and though none of them became subject of documentaries or books, one film that stands tall in the rubble is the Sridevi-Anil Kapoor starrer Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja.
One look at the figures associated with this 1993 release and one gets a fair idea about the colossal losses Boney Kapoor, the producer suffered after its release. Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja involved more than 450 shifts spread over six years. The length of the raw footage gathered for the film was close to 4.4 lakh ft. while the actual length of the film was roughly 17000 ft. Sridevi had approximately 75 costume changes in the film and the villain of the film, as played by Anupam Kher, wore an attire worth Rs 35000 for a sequence.
The Hindi film, when announced, was slated to be India’s most expensive film. It was launched during the silver jubilee success party of Mr India by Boney. The film had everything going for it and there was no way it could have failed at the box office. It had the two leading stars of that era – Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff, who often spelled success at the box office. Shekhar Kapoor, after the mega success of Mr India, was given the reigns of the film and the final ace was none other than Sridevi, who at that time commanded a higher remuneration for her films than most established male stars of that era. Success was pretty much guaranteed as Javed Akhtar was responsible for the plot. With much fanfare, the shooting of the film started in 1988 but constant delays forced the film to hit theatres only in 1993. And when the film released it was nothing less than a shock to the film industry. It was a gamble that had gone horribly wrong and the Hindi film was declared a disaster soon upon its release by trade pundits.
The period from 1988 till the time the film finally finished its journey to theatres was marred by several incidents which ensured that the fate of the film remained in doldrums. It all started when Shekhar decided to quit the project midway. It was not a voluntary decision on his part. It’s said that that the delay in making of the film lead to a heated debate between Shekhar and Boney which resulted in Shekhar being shown the doors. In came Shekhar’s assistant Satish Kaushik who shared a great rapport with the Kapoor Brothers since the days of Mr India. The extravagant sets and the song sequences coupled with Yash Chopra’s request for Sridevi’s shooting dates for Chandni (which Boney obliged) forced the film to miss its deadline multiple times. The initial budget that was earmarked for the film was 7 cr which slowly climbed to 10 cr just before its release. With such a huge budget, the stakes had become too high for the makers. Sridevi had invested her own money in the production of the film apart from Anil Kapoor. It’s said of Anil Kapoor that after the losses became unbearable due to constant delays, he signed movies in bulk only to fund RKRCKR.
When the film was about to release Boney knew that it would be an uphill task to recover the investment forget about profits. In an earlier interview to a news portal, Boney had remarked that after seeing the first cut of RKRCKR he had thought of scrapping the film but he was suggested by close friends that viewers will get to see a Bollywood film which matches the standard of a Hollywood film. The desperation to minimise losses forced him to come out with plans which today might just fetch an executive from the film marketing team a pat on his back by his boss.
Apart from introducing the concept of merchandise for the first time, the film saw a tie-up with the makers of Dollops ice-cream and a toy company based out of Delhi. Two new flavors of ice-cream were launched and were suitably titled Roop Ki Rani and Choron Ka Raja. Buyers were given free audio cassettes of the film on the purchase of party packs. In another deal with Magna Publications, they went ahead and distributed 4 lakh calendar to readers of Stardust and Showtime magazine. The deal also included a contest, the winner of which was to participate in the premier of the film. The makers also went ahead and initiated a talent hunt program to select a female villain and ten children for the sequel to Mr India. The next in queue was another tie-up with a toy company who were to inundate the market with toys which reinforced the theme of the film. Singing toys named after Romeo and Seema, as played by Anil Kapoor and Sridevi, were another attraction. But in the end everything came to naught as the disaster was of gargantuan proportion. The Hindi film had all the glitz but no substance and the wafer thin plot penned by Javed Akhtar was nothing but a sham.
The only redeeming factor of the film was Sridevi’s performance. Her Madrasi woman act was nothing but sheer brilliance. It was an effort by a team to recreate the magic of Mr India in which they failed miserably. The debacle of the film made Boney go in some serious debt and it was only after the success of No Entry that he managed to clear his dues. Years later the film was put to good use by makers of English Vinglish when they decided to use portions of the film featuring Sridevi in Mongoloid look for the film’s promotion in Japan.
Updated Date: Mar 01, 2018 09:13 AM