Understanding the aftermath of the 1992 riots and the ’93 blasts and their effect on Bollywood

The month of December 1992 will forever be remembered as one of the darkest months in the history of Mumbai, then Bombay. It was on December 6, 1992 when the entire bustling city of Bombay came to a grinding halt with communal riots breaking out in almost every nook and corner of the city. However, it was not only the riots that turned the city into a war zone, but following it were also the series of bomb blasts that rocked Mumbai that sent every person diving for cover. With businesses across the island city getting affected, Bollywood that firmly resides within the city, was hit as well. Though the physical, mental and financial damage caused can never be recovered or forgotten, we at Bollywood Hungama decided to take a walk down the memory lane to see how exactly the industry was affected.

Understanding the aftermath of the 1992 riots and the ’93 blasts and their effect on Bollywood

It all started with the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya that led to the wanton destruction of personal property in the city in the wake of the communal riots in 1992. It was during this period of unrest and unease that the shoot schedules and release patterns of films were thrown haywire. In fact, following the eruption of the riots, releases from January 6, 1993 were disrupted. With a curfew being imposed in various parts of the city, films like Kshatriya and Divyashakti faced a tough time. Slated to release on January 22, 1993, the release of both the films were deferred with the possibility that neither of the two would ever see the light of day. Rakesh Roshan had announced the release of King Uncle on January 22, but the distributors were hesitant to release it in such circumstances. If that wasn’t enough, in view of the on-going tensions at that point of time, the leading cinema house of the era, Alankar had cancelled all shows virtually shutting down the cinema house. Mughal-e-Azam which was being screened at Minerva cinemas was discontinued following threat from rioters.

But it wasn’t just Alankar cinema that had to shut its gates. The popular film studio in Bandra, Mehboob Studio too had to shut down. Reports stated that Mehboob had shut its gates for filming work in the stage areas as well as the recording studios, essentially sending the shooting schedules of underproduction films for a toss. It was rumoured that Mehboob studios would reopen its gates only on February 1. With the rising tensions and the volatile atmosphere, the general audience preferred to stay away from crowded locations, a decision that had dire effect on cinema houses that began to run empty. However, the biggest blow to the industry came with the CBFC being shut down for a whole week. Following the violence, the CBFC discontinued the certification process of various films leaving the filmmakers in a lurch. With no film being viewed during this one week’s time, a number of releases had to be rescheduled to accommodate the new dates. Following this unrest, members of the film fraternity banded together launching a peace march. In true Gandhian style, the march saw industry stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and others appealing to the government to take stock of the situation and help ease matters.

Also, participating in the march was the film industry’s representative Sunil Dutt, who promptly tendered his resignation in light of the unrest. Then a sitting Member of Parliament, Dutt ultimately withdrew his resignation following pressure from his colleagues, political workers, leaders and the PM as well. Later with the tensions finally abating towards the end of December 1992, the industry suddenly saw a spate of film mahurats being organized. In fact, the third week of December saw as many as six films being launched within a week. Prominent amongst them was Nitin Manmohan’s Eena Meena Deeka and Saawan Kumar’s Khalnaaika.

But though films were being launched, matters were far from resolved. The following month saw the city erupt in flames yet again, this time when a series of bomb blasts rocked the city. A direct aftermath of the issues that caused the riots in December, the blasts shook the city bringing the land of dreams that never sleeps to a grinding halt. Once again the industry bore the brunt of the attacks, with one cinema house in Dadar being targeted. In fact, the Plaza cinema in Dadar that was one target had a bomb that was placed in a Maruti car, went off destroying one part of the cinema house. Though no lives were lost, the cinema house itself was out of commission for a good six months with restoration work amounting to a staggering Rs. 60 lakhs at that point of time. However, an interesting fact to know was that though Plaza cinema was destroyed considerably, two photo frames that had the image of V Shantaram were untouched though the surrounding walls were totally destroyed.

Almost all the shoots came to a halt in January as well. However, Manmohan Desai’s Anmol was shot regularly at the Trombay Club, Chembur from 12th January. Despite the riots, Dharmendra who made a special appearance in Aag Ka Toofan participated in the shoot at Film City on 8th January.

But this period wasn’t all dark and sombre; in fact it was at this very time [7th January] when the songs of Subhash Ghai’s Khalnayak were being recorded. And following the happenings, a recording that usually lasted for multiple sessions was completed within a matter of just 3 hours!

Another fall out of this phase was the sudden boycott by reputed hotels that became rather selective about leasing out banquet halls for parties, especially if it involved Bollywood fraternity. As per reports of that time, the hotel industry was of the view that hosting a party that featured celebrity names would and could invite unwanted trouble. In view of this, most hotels opted to decline Bollywood party bookings. But on the rare occasion when a party was permitted, vehicles belonging to the attendees were not allowed to be parked on hotel premises, due to the fear of car bombs. However, the silver lining in this was for Filmalaya Studio that quite suddenly became the most happening location for launch events and general film parties.

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