Completed in 1973, opening in 2013—few films can boast of such a long journey from processing laboratory to multiplex screen. On 2 August, PVR Cinemas’ programming initiative Director’s Rare will release Joy Mukerji’s Love in Bombay four decades after it was made. The movie was supposed to conclude a trilogy of Love in… movies starring Mukerji. Directed by and featuring the popular romantic hero in the lead alongside Waheeda Rehman, the sequel to Love in Simla (1960) and Love in Tokyo (1966) started production in 1971 and was wrapped up two years later, but rather than playing in cinemas, it languished in cold storage.
Most of the movie’s talent is dead—the actors Kishore Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Rehman (he plays the villain), Rajendra Nath and Tun Tun, the music composing duo Shankar-Jaikishan, lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri and singer Mohammed Rafi. Mukerji died on 9 March last year, his dream of seeing his pet project in the cinemas unfulfilled. “Joy tried his best to release the film at the time, but there were so many problems with one of the local distributors,” explains his wife, Neelam Mukerji. “Joy was mired in so many legal hassles, and everything seemed to work against the release. So he gave up and let it be.” His two sons and daughter would periodically enquire about Love in Bombay’s whereabouts, but its non-release was a “closed chapter” for the actor, says his wife. “It was such a sore spot with Joy, it was his Waterloo,” she adds. “It was the only film of his that was never released.”
Before his death, Joy Mukerji spoke about Love in Bombay on several occasions, Neelam says. “Sometimes, I would tell him, what is the point? He would say no, I let my own work down, if only I had worked harder towards releasing the film. By the time he started his efforts, he was gone.”
After his demise, the actor’s elder son, Monjoy, started digging around for the negative. It was eventually located in a cold-storage vault. “The negative was in a bad condition, but not as bad as it could be,” Neelam says. “One of the old workers told my son that now that Mr Mukerji is no more, I can tell you that he used to come here every year with one of his assistants and clean up the negative himself.”
Love in Bombay continues in the light-hearted romantic comedy vein that Mukerji successfully mined in the hit movies Love in Simla and Love in Tokyo. Mukerji plays simpleton Badal, who loses his heart to Waheeda Rehman’s urban sophisticate on board a cruise liner. They get marooned on an island and eventually wash up in Mumbai. “It is a typical 1970s film and a typical Joy Mukerji film,” Neelam says.
She has three enduring memories from the shoot. One is of one-year-old Monjoy dressed in a Pathani-style costume that was a replica of his father’s garb in the song Rani Nacho. The other is of her husband draping a leopard skin around his shoulders which made him resemble Tarzan. “When my youngest son was born in 1972, my mother-in-law said that we should call him Boy, since the name of Tarzan’s son is Boy,” Neelam says. Boy’s real name is Sujoy.
A third memory involves the song Maajha Naav Aahe Ganpatrao, which has Marathi lyrics and a lavani dance theme. One of the guests at the shoot was Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who was well acquainted with the Mukerjis. “Balasaheb was laughing away and said the song would be a superhit,” Neelam says. “He even made a couple of suggestions in terms of the steps when the lavani dancers make their entrance, which were incorporated into the song.”
Love in Bombay is the fourth restored movie after Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Salaam Bombay! and Chasme Buddoor to be released by PVR Director’s Rare. Avitel Post Studio has digitally restored the picture and sound quality. Love in Bombay’s music score was released in June. Contemporary audiences might experience a better-looking and sounding film than before, but it’s important to regard Love in Bombay as an artefact of an older film-making style, Neelam says. “The movie cannot and should not be compared with today’s releases—it is a tribute and must be seen that way,” she says.
Neelam Singh Sodhi met Joy Mukerji in a book store at The Oberoi hotel in Delhi in 1965. She was from a family of Armed Services professionals and politicians; he was the son of Sashadhar Mukerji, co-founder of the storied studio Filmalaya. “We both love books—wherever Joy would be shooting, he would make a beeline for a book store,” she says. Neelam had only seen Mukerji in Love in Simla, which remains one of her favourite films starring her husband. She points out that her dashing spouse was among the few leading movie stars to set aside his shirt for the song Raat Nikhri Huyee from Hum Hindustani. A bare-chested Mukerji serenades a bare-legged Helen in the song. “His mother was very annoyed and terribly embarrassed by the song, and he got a terrible scolding,” Neelam says. “I have made a mental note to myself that when I meet Salman Khan, I will tell him that he isn’t one of the first guys to take off his shirt in the movies.”
Love in Bombay releases on 2 August.