Three Bollywood films with same story, characters released in one week, all flopped badly, one was banned by court for..

Three Bollywood films with the same plot and characters released within days of each other in 2002 and all flopped

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Three Bollywood films with same story, characters released in one week, all flopped badly, one was banned by court for..
Ajay Devgn in The Legend of Bhagat Singh


Christopher Booker famously said that there are only seven basic plots in storytelling and all stories in all formats are derived from it. That would explain why many films and novels resemble each other a bit too closely. But often times, films decide to adapt the same source material and that too, close to each other. This happened in Bollywood most famously in 2002 when three films on the same man, all released within one week of each other.

How three films with same story released together in 2002

In 1998, Rajkumar Santoshi read several books on revolutionary Bhagat Singh and decided to make a film on him. Sunny Deol was eventually cast in the titular role but the director and actor had a falling out and Ajay Devgn was cast instead. This way, The Legend of Bhagat Singh came into being. Meanwhile, Sunny Deol decided to make his own Bhagat Singh film with brother Bobby in the title role and him playing Chandrashekhar Azad. Directed by Guddu Dhanoa, this film was titled 23rd March 1931: Shaheed. But both these films were beaten to the theatre by another Bhagat Singh biopic titled Shaheed-e-Azam. This film was directed by Sukumar Nair and starred newcomer Sonu Sood as Bhagat Singh.

(L-R) Bobby Deol, Ajay Devgn, and Sonu Sood as Bhagat Singh

The fate of the three Bhagat Singh films


Shaheed-e-Azam was the first of the three films to release when it hit the screens on May 31, 2002. The film bombed at the box office, failing to even reach the Rs 10-crore mark. The following week, both the other films clashed. 23rd March 1931: Shaheed was made on a budget of Rs 20 crore and earned only Rs 14 crore, receiving mixed reviews as well. The Legend of Bhagat Singh received favourable reviews but only managed Rs 12 crore at the box office. In the end, all three films were declared flops. Shaheed-e-Azam even faced controversy in Punjab over some scenes and was, for a short time, even banned by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The legacy of The Legend of Bhagat Singh

But even as Shaheed-e-Azam was relegated to a footnote in this battle, the other two films survived. Of them, The Legend of Bhagat Singh even managed to emerge as a cult classic. The film’s score by AR Rahman was praised as were the performances, most notably of Ajay Devgn, Sushant Singh, and Akhilendra Mishra. The film won three Filmfare Awards and two National Film Awards the following year, cementing itself as a misunderstood classic.

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