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  • Writer's pictureRamachandran Srinivasan

Screwvala’s solution to Bachchan’s shoebite

Updated: May 25, 2020

As Amitabh Bachchan’s Marathi film Ab Aani CD released online – fans of the actor started demanding the release of his stuck film Shoebite. Amitabh Bachchan too has been fervently and frequently appealing to the ‘rights’ and right owners of the Shoojit Sircar directed Shoebite – it has not released yet 12 years after completion.

The film was shot extensively in Himachal Pradesh as well. But then a former producer of the film Ronnie Screwvala finally came up with a solution to the problem which had been stuck over rights issues.

“Uday Shankar, Fox Star India and Star Movies India can make it happen as it was a UTV movie and the rights were with Fox and now and all of that is owned by Disney,” mentioned Screwvala offering a simple solution.

“Utv & Disney, put aside the internal debate, issues, or personal view points and give this labour of love from Shoojit Sircar a chance for others to appreciate this novel story and film… please,” sic,” Amitabh Bachchan had tweeted a while ago. Even Ayushmann Khurrana who is working with Bachchan and Shoojit in the upcoming Gulabo Sitabo said that he had seen the film twice on the edit table – once alone and once with wife Tahira and loved the film and had appealed for the film to release.

For those who have been living under a rock, the film is a co-production between UTV Motion Pictures and 20th Century Fox. It has been written by famed Hollywood filmmaker Manoj Night Shyamalan for Fox – who didn’t make it but gave the green signal for UTV to do it.

“We shot the entire film and then UTV (now Disney) said that they had some legal problem with 20th Century Fox because they said that this property belongs to them,” Bachchan told us long ago. The film directed by Shoojit Sircar is the first Hollywood project for Bachchan who has been shying away from working in the West. Amitabh Bachchan is not the only guy who is hopeful of Shoebite which was earlier titled as Johnny Mastana and expects the film to release. Shoebite was directed by Shoojit Sircar much before Vicky Donor was conceived.

Shoojit was fresh from the release of the film Yahaan. And the film had an average response at the box office then. Hence Shoebite did not seem to have enough financial outcome for UTV and Fox to get into a strategic alliance. “I spent three years of my life in the film. It has a milestone performance by Mr Bachchan. I am pretty disappointed that the film has not released as yet. I can only request the producers to sort their differences out and release the film soon,” Sircar told us earlier.

Shoebite is the story of a 60-year-old man who sets off on a road journey for self-discovery. Sarika, Jimmy Shergill and Dia Mirza are also in important roles. The story goes thus: In 1994, Manoj Night Shyamalan sold the rights to his story Labour Of Love to Fox Studios, but the film wasn’t made, wasn’t made. Years later, UTV bought the rights of Labour Of Love to make into Johnny Mastana alias Shoebite since Shyamalan was apparently not keen on turning the story into a film. So UTV Motion Pictures bought the rights and almost completed the film with Bachchan in the lead. But as Johnny Mastana neared completion, Shyamalan changed his mind and along with Fox, told UTV that they shouldn’t release the film until the Hollywood filmmaker made his own version in the US and released it there. Shyamalan announced the film as Labor of Love with Denzel Washington but has not made it since.

Now Disney who has taken over Fox Star India as well as UTV can actually make it happen.

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