The legendary Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida who passed away on January 16 ,came really close to doing an Indian film before she backed out, for reasons that are not clear to this day.
Shalimar which was completed and released in 1978, boasted of an international and national cast: Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman, Shammi Kapoor,Rex Harrison(of My Fair Lady fame), John Saxon(of Enter The Dragon)…and above all, the legendary sex symbol Gina Lollobrigida.
Gina flew down to Mumbai for the grand Mahurat of Shalimar. Pictures of her with Zeenat Aman and Dharmendra were duly splashed all over the papers.
But when Shalimar went on the floors, there was no Lollobrigida in the cast.
What happened? The rumours floating at that time whispered at the cold vibes between Gina and Zeenat which the latter denies completely. Many insiders say the film’s publicist Bunny Reuben masterminded(read: manufactured)the whole rivalry between the two gorgeous sex symbols. In Reuben’s book on the making of Shalimar there is even a chapter devoted to the Zeenat-Gina rivalry, distastefully entitled ‘The Battle Of The Boobs.’
However the film’s leading man Dharmendra recalls no such rivalry, or the reason why Gina opted out. “Initially she was in the film. Then she was replaced by Sylvia Miles.”
Lucky escape,I say. Shalimar was a god-awful caper film, poorly scripted, oafishly directed and with every actor including the legendary Rex Harrison hamming to the hilt.
The film’s only redeeming factor was R D Burman’s music. Kishore Kumar’s Hum bewafaa hargiz na tthe(with an obtrusive tribal beat), Lataji’s Aaina wahi rehta hai, Usha Uthup’s One two cha cha cha and Asha Bhosle’s Mera pyar Shalimar were far superior to the film.