indian cinema heritage foundation

Kanti Shah

  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Children: Shaurya (Tiger)

Kanti Shah is acknowledged as the undisputed king of B-grade cinema. A successful director, producer, and screenwriter, he specialises in the horror and adult film genre. Known for his speed in making films as well as for producing work with a minimal unit, he has more than 50 films to his credit as a director. A hot-selling filmmaker, his films, in industry parlance, would sell ‘on the table’. Some of his productions include Phoolan Hasina Ramkali (1993), Rangbaaz (1996) and Gunda (1998). He initiated the trend of casting well-known character artistes in his films. Despite the criticism from some quarters about the quality of his films’ content, fact remains that he made the films that worked in that particular period, with dialogues that were lapped up by the audiences. His cache of horror films includes Qatil Chudail (2001), Maut Ki Pukar (2001), Khooni Shaitan (2002), Pyaasi Bhootni (2003), Cheekh (2004), Khooni (2004), Darinda (2005), while his adult films include Raton Ki Rani (2004), Garam (2005), Bed Room (2007), and MMS Kand (2014). He is also known for directing films featuring Mithun Chakraborty and Dharmendra in the latter half of the 1990s, such as the action films Gunda (1998) and Loha (1997). 

Hailing originally from Gujarat, Shah reportedly used to sell pirated DVDs before they were discontinued from 2010 onwards. Among his early directorials are a series of action thrillers includingGanga Jamuna Ki Lalkaar (1991) starring Shagufta Ali, Charan Dev and Goga Kapoor; Basanti Tangewali (1992), which was a spin-off of the popular character Basanti from Sholay (1975), revolving around the female tonga-driver and her twin sister who becomes a dacoit later; Ganga Bani Shola (1992); Phoolan Hasina Ramkali (1993); Aag Ka Toofan (1993); and Rani Aur Maharani (1993). 

Highly prolific, he would go on to direct close to 60 films from the 1990s till 2014. In the 2000s, he hit upon a successful formula for B-grade horror films, directing a slew of them such as Qatil Chudail (2001), Khooni Shaitan (2002) starring Anil Nagrath, Amit Pachori and Tina Sequeira; and Pyaasi Bhootni (2003) starring Amit Pachori and Sapna Sappu. His directorial Darinda (2005) revolved around a police inspector (Amit Pachori) who investigates murders in an old mansion which are the result of a monster (Randhir Singh) created by black magic. 

Interestingly, many of his films have a unique commentary on social affairs. The central figures of his films would also often express their anguish in a poetic fashion.

As a producer, he has Maar Dhaad (1988), Ganga Jamuna Ki Lalkaar (1991), Basanti Tangewali (1992), Phoolan Hasina Ramkali (1993), Rangbaaz (1996), Garam (2005) and Angoor (2005) to his credit. Of these, Rangbaaz was an action genre film revolving around three men, who have lost faith in law and order, and decide to fight for justice on their own terms. It starred Ishrat Ali, Mithun Chakraborty and Jack Gaud

In the new millennium, he also faced the camera as an actor in films such as Zaroorat (2001), Darwaza (2002), Pyaasi (2003), Pyaasa Haiwan (2003), Pyaasi Bhootni (2003), and Kora Badan (2003).

In 2012, debutante director Sneha Tulli spoke about making a film inspired by Shah, titled Dekho Ye Hai Mumbai Real Life. The comedy drama film featured Sharat Saxena and Preeti Jhangiani in the lead roles. Line producer Rakesh Sabharwal of Prince Movies had shared about the topic, “Kanti Shah was the one who started the trend of small films. He made the entire B-grade cinema industry boom. At one point, even big producers used to be apprehensive about releasing their films alongside his. Kanti Shah would make four films in a year…He would simply add a couple of words to any major film that was announced and within a fortnight release his film alongside it. His career is inspiring. That’s why we are making a film on him.” The makers had planned on spoofing the filmmaker, even as they incorporated a few instances from Shah’s life in the film. “For example, we have the entire episode involving the Deols, wherein Sunny and Bobby bashed him up, as a part of the film. His famous ‘rivalry’ with Yash Chopra is also a part of the film,” Sabharwal had shared. Regarding the episode concerning the Deols, Shah had allegedly once bluffed Dharmendra into acting out a scene, which turned out to be quite risqué. Dharmendra’s son, Sunny Deol, on learning this, confiscated all the prints of the film and gave Kanti Shah more than an earful.

Shah had also created waves when he released a poster of his then under-production film OK, which purportedly revolved around the flesh trade. The poster was a copy of that of the Aamir Khan-starrer PK (2014). Similar to the PK poster, which pictured a nude Aamir Khan with a transistor hanging around his neck, Shah’s poster featured actress Poonam Rai posing in the nude with a camera hanging around her neck. 

Shah was also featured in Cinema Marte Dam Tak - Vasan Bala’s reality docu-series on 1990s pulp cinema, streaming on Amazon Prime. In the course of this series, celebrities pointed out various facets of Shah as a filmmaker, including the fact that he is “very sharp, very intelligent”, that he “used to work with a small unit yet his films were a hit” and that “he has directed more films than Karan Johar, Farah Khan, Aditya Chopra and Madhur Bhandarkar combined.”

His brother, Kishan Shah is also a director, writer and producer, known for Malkin (2001), Police Lock-up (1995) and Tan Aggan (1999).

Kanti Shah reportedly married film producer Surekha Gawli on 6 August 1992 in Mumbai. Other reports maintain he is married to actress Sapna (Tanveer), and has a son named Shaurya (Tiger).



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