In mid 70s, Gyani Zail Singh (CM Punjab 1972 -1977) took special interest in entertainment sector and those filmmakers who were interested in shooting at various locations in Punjab, were assured some better facilities. Well known Bollywood film maker, B R Chopra, was member of Punjab Govt Film Organisation and was already shooting his film Karm starring Rajesh Khanna, Shabana Azmi & Vidya Sinha in Chandigarh. Like many others, he too was greatly impressed by Chandigarh's cleanliness and beauty.
Broca Brothers came on the board to produce a Punjabi Film and BR Chopra decided to make it on the Punjabi folklore Sohni Mahiwal. Rajesh Khanna, who was already working in Chopra's Karm said yes immediately and for Sohni's role, Neetu Singh was approached. She too accepted the offer, considering she was going to do an author backed role. Both already did a cameo appearance in another Punjabi Film Sawa Lakh Se Ek Ladau, around the same time.
For this film's mahurat, the entire cast and crew went to Chandigarh and on the occasion, CM Gyani Zail Singh was invited as chief guest. A few scenes were even shot near Sukhna Lake. Cine Lovers would come in huge numbers to get glimpse of Rajesh Khanna, Neetu Singh and Dimple Kapadia, while the team shot in Chandigarh. The entire cast and crew stayed in the city beautiful for nearly a week and then headed back to Mumbai (Bombay then).
While in Bombay, BR Chopra was already planning for his next schedule. During that time Rajesh Khanna's career was going through a rough phase as he was delivering back to back flops. Distributors were least interested in Karm because of its controversial story line based on a live-in relationship. Chopra decided to concentrate on Karm first but its debacle took Sohni Mahiwal down the drain and the film ultimately got shelved.
Alas! A star studded big Punjabi film could not go beyond mahurat, a few scenes and song recordings.
(Pic Courtesy: GhaintPunjab)