Alfred Hitchcock — ‘The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.’ This quote hardly holds true for Bollywood. The average run-time of Hindi cinema ranges from two and a half hours to three hours. Whilst films with running time exceeding two hours are considered a constraint in Hollywood, Bollywood adopts a different approach. The roaring and record-breaking success of recent films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Baahubali shows that Hindi filmmakers are in no mood to meet any international or multiplex standard of playing-time. Both films proved that if there is good content on offer, people don’t mind getting affixed to their seats.
There is no particular trend to spot regarding the length of films. Even in the past there were length films. Some films were lengthy owing to their content and script, and some were nothing but soporific screenplays. Let’s take a brief look at films which were made longer than the usual.
A 1964 Bollywood Romance film written by Inder Raj Anand, directed and produced by Raj Kapoor, Sangam stars Vyjayanthimala in the leading role opposite Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kaumar with Hari Shivdasani, Achala Sachdev, Lalita Pawar, Nana Palsikar, Raj Mehra and Ifitikhar appearing as supporting cast. Sangam was notable for several distinct features. It was Raj Kapoor’s first colour film, and one made at an epic length even by the standards held by Bollywood. The film, a love triangle, was the first to be shot in foreign locations like Venice, Rome, Paris and Switzerland. Made at three hours 58 minutes, Sangam had two intervals. It is also recognised as one of the best works of Raj Kapoor which became a hit and is regarded as a classic today.
Mera Naam Joker
A 1970 drama film directed by Raj Kapoor, Mera Naam Joker was written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. The film marked the debut of Rishi Kapoor. Considered to be one of the lengthiest films of Bollywood, Mera Naam Joker became a blockbuster. Made at a running time of four hours and 4 minutes with two intervals, the film turned out to be a commercial disaster wiping out the savings of Raj Kapoor. However, over the years the film gained a cult status.
An action-adventure film directed by Ramesh Sippy and produced by his father G.P. Sippy, Sholay is, if adjusted for inflation, the highest grossing film of all time. Not many know and can fathom an interesting fact that Sholay flopped as soon as it was released but the film started doing gradually well after it was released again. At three hours and twenty four minutes, the film starred Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan along with Sanjeev Kumar and Amjad Khan. Sholay is considered a classic and remains a masterpiece of Indian cinema.
Govind Nihalani directed the 1988 period television film Tamas based on the Hindi novel of the same name written by Bhisham Sahni. The award-winning tele film set in the backdrop of riot-savaged Pakistan at the time of Punjab Partition in 1947 features Om Puri, Deepa Sahi, Bhisham Sahni, Amrish Puri, A.K. Hangal, Pankaj Kapur and Surekha Sikri. The length of the film stands at four hours and 34 minutes.
Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!
Written and directed by Sooraj R. Barjatya and produced under the banner of Rajshri Productions, Hum Aapke Hai Koun is an adaptation of the studio’s Bhojpuri film, Nadiya Ke Paar. Starring Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit in leading roles, the film also boasts an ensemble cast of Mohnish Bahl, Renuka Shahane, Anupam Kher, Reema Lagoo and Alok Nath. A typical Rajshri drama, Hum Aapke Hai Koun depicts the journey of a married couple and the relationship between their families. The film was three hours and twenty six minutes long with fourteen songs.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
Running at a length of three hours and nine minutes, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is one of the many blockbusters which audience savoured despite the duration. Directed by Aditya Chopra and produced by his father Yash Chopra, the film stars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and is still running at Maratha Mandir in Mumbai.
Hum Saath Saath Hain
Written and directed by Sooraj Barjatya, Hum Saath-Saath Hain was a drama film produced and distributed by Rajshri Productions. The film stars Mohnish Behl, Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendra and Karisma Kapoor in lead roles whilst actors like Alok Nath, Reema Lagoo, Neelam Kothari and Mahesh Thakur made key appearances. Made at a time when family dramas were the flavour of the season, Sooraj Barjatya scored a hattrick of successful films with Hum Saath-Saath hain following Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hai Koun. The film has a running time of three hours and 48 minutes.
After the iconic DDLJ, Aditya Chopra came back with Mohabbatein, a musical romantic drama film film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and six young debutantes, Uday Chopra, Jugal Hansraj, Jimmy Shergill, Shamita Shetty, Kim Sharma and Preeti Jhangiani along with the supporting cast of Anupam Kher, Archana Puran Singh, Amrish Puri, Shefali Shah and Helen. The film was the first time when Shah Rukh Khan and Big B shared the screen space. At a running time of three hours and thirty six minutes, Mohabbatein was not as successful as DDLJ but turned out to be a commercial success.
An epic sports drama film written and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, Lagaan was produced by Aamir Khan and stars Aamir himself along with Gracy Singh and British actors Rachel Shelly and Paul Blackthorne. The sports drama at three hours and forty four minutes was as nail-biting as a cricket match of same length. The film placed Aamir Khan in a different league for his perfectionism.
Released on the same day as Lagaan, Gadar emerged an even bigger success. Starring Sunny Deol, Amisha Patel and Amrish Puri and set in the time of partition of India, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha is loosely based on the life of Boota Singh.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero
Directed by Shyam Benegal, the film starred an ensemble cast of Sachin Khedekar, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Rajit Kapur, Arif Zakaria and Divya Dutta. The film is a biographical war film depicting the life of the Indian Independence leader Subash Chandra Bose in Nazi Germany and Japanese-occupied Asia which led to the formation of Azad Hind Fauj. At three hours and forty two minutes, the film received critical acclaim but failed to make a mark at the box office.
With a running time of two hundred and fifty five minutes, the war film based on Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan is produced and directed by J.P. Dutta. The film featured a plethora of Bollywood actors like Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgn, Karan Nath, Puru Raajkumar, Nagarjuna, Saif Ali Khan, Sunil Shetty, Sanjay Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan, Mohnish Bahl, Mukesh Tiwari, Akshaye Khanna, Manoj Bajpaaye, Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Esha Deol, Raveena Tandon and Priti Jhangiyani.
Written and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, Swades remains Shah Rukh Khan’s best performance in the lead role. Although the movie could not succeed at box office due to its length of three hours and twenty three minutes and documentary style narration, it has a cult following now.
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
A masterpiece from Ashutosh Gowariker starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jodha Akbar had a running time of three hours and thirty six minutes.