From novel to screenplay, the adaptation of Literature to Film describes the central current in film history with filmmakers commonly turning to novels – the source of the novel, short story or play then been building for a visual medium for the consumer. Before cinema, novelist had adapted their works to theatre for a visual medium of the art work, later developing to celluloid, became the new source of entertainment – it began with the works of literature, known pieces of work that were later made to feature films. When adapting certain pieces of literature, its ideal for the filmmaker’s vision to paint the portrait according their vision of the novel while taking certain liberties as well as keeping the visuality of the film loyal to the written material.
In India, various novels, plays and other literary works have been adapted from Indian writers and literaturists – but we commonly forget the adapted works of foreign literature been attempted in India. Forgotten largely, could be due to exposure of the works been to the readers in the past or a possibility of culture clashes in the literature work and the cinemagoers of India – the possibility of a filmmaker’s fear of possible identification for the consumer of the written foreign material source.
Although, many filmmakers from India have found their methods of adapting for the Indian audience with choosing subjects that have a vast appeal. Writers such Shakespeare that have a vast appeal and works that continue to be relevant in any part of the world centuries later when being performed to the English-Play watchers.
Here are some of the works of Foreign Literature art that have been adapted for the Silver Indian Screen which many are unaware of and taking an insight how the films have adapted for India in with the filmmaker’s sensibilities intact and their interpretation of the literary work. Also, we have ruled out in this article the 101 adaptations of Romeo & Juliet in Hindi cinema! (We all know all of them!)
Bandish (1996) – Adapted from Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities
The Dicken’s quote ‘it was the best of times and the worse of times’ was applied in Prakash Jha’s earlier directorial venture Bandish which was adapted from the Dicken’s novel. A Tale of Two Cities tells a story of three characters, Darnary, Lucie and Carton during the French Revolution where all three are stuck in unfortunate series of events between cities London and Paris. Darnay being a righteous man with his way of principals and Carton being the drunk, scrounger with the sharp lawful mind. Both men share an uncanny resemblance and both fall in love with Lucie. In Bandish, Jha made both characters played by Jackie Shroff – the village righteous man Ram Ghulam and the Bombay Street smart goon Kishen, who fall for the same girl. Jha changed the revolution to a modern grim Bombay setting, amongst a world of deception and crime.
Jha’s simplification of the novel for his audience added the Indian commercial spice of conflicts between both Shroff’s characters and their triumph over Juhi Chawla’s character. The film gets short numbers right as the novel dealt with lost love and the ways of the cruel world taking advantage of situation – like Shroff’s play of Carton but the film itself seemed too lost in trying to keep both worlds or cities even, faithful and happy. An attempt at Commercial Hindi Cinema at the same time attempting to bring to life Dicken’s world. Jha’s adaption did not just bomb at the box office but was bashed for ‘dumbing down a Dicken’s novel’, it was Jha’s only and final attempt at ‘popcorn cinema’ later leading him to making issue-based films.
Banarasi Babu (1997) – Adapted from William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew
David Dhawan meets Shakespeare with his favourite Govinda playing his leading thespian. Many may not remember this David Dhawan venture which was the team from Raja Babu (1994), including the producer, music directors, writers etc to adapt this Shakespearian work. The play was based on two sisters with the eldest, Katherine, being the ‘shrew’ in her towering personality and male repellent finds her suitor in a village bum, Petruccio, and despite having contrasting personalities both form chemistry. In Dhawan’s adaption, one of the two sisters is out and only Katherine is Indianzied as Rambha. Govinda being from the East (in a sense playing Raja Babu again) and wife (played by Rambha) from the West and how their contrasting personalities attempt to stay together after marriage and dealing with the dominating mother-in-law.
Nandu Tolani, had admitted that the film was an attempt to stay in the zone as their previous venture Raja Babu and had told the media “Its not a direct adaption. But have Indianized this subject as of today’s times”. Although with the right elements of being a commercial pot-boiler, failed to garner to an audience despite having the Govinda-Dhawan combination. Due to the film being delayed for years (Launched in 1994), by the time the film had released it had a stale look to the film.
Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966) – Adaption of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
Dilip Kumar known as the tragedy king had also been apart of one literature’s tragic lasting tales. Kumar not only starred in this literature classic but ghost directed it also, as Director Abdur Rashid Kardar suffered with ill health during the making of the film leading to Kumar participating in shooting several moments of the film without taking any credit from the direction department. The 1847 British classic novel by Emily Brontë, tells the unfortunate love story of two childhood friends and their life of sorrow from childhood to adulthood while growing up in the home ‘Wuthering Heights’. Here, Cathy and Heathcliff, played respectively by Dilip Kumar and Waheeda Rehman – who are pitted against several unfortunate circumstances in order to live their lasting desire of being together but going through a phase of guilt, ego and revenge.
This adaption sure does stay faithful to the novel but only to an extent. As Brontë’s novel, quite complex , lasting saga with several characters, here Abdur Rashid Kardar takes out a large sum of the plot out and choose to stick the focus on the lead protagonists. Wuthering Heights is known as one of the greatest tragedies in literature – Kardar’s adaption is somewhat, happier. Kardar’s twist on the novel takes out the explicit, dark detail in order to make it more cinematic friendly. Dil Diya Dard Liya is a good example of simplifying, hedging-cutting filmmaking adaption of a romanticism novel.
Jaanwar (1999) – Adapted from George Eliot’s Silas Marner
The Darshan Brothers (Suneel and Dharmesh) known for their commercial family orientated dramas, Suneel peculiarly chose George Eliot’s English tragic works to adapt for the Indian screen. Silas Marner tells the story about a man who is wrongly convicted of robbery later lives his life in gloom until he when he comes across a 2 year old orphan child that wonders into his home. Marner then takes responsibility of raising the child. Years later, when the child grows older – Marner and the child form a parent-child relationship but matters change when the parents of the child begin to search their long-lost child.
The Darshan took a slight modern spin with Jaanwar with the story of a gangster (played by Akshay Kumar) leaves the world of crime and raise a child he finds– mending his way but his past and the parents of the child (played by Shilpa Shetty and Mohnish Behl) begin to plea Kumar to give their child back. Both novel and film set in different eras and geographic setting – and of course the levels of drama being a level notch higher, the film’s core relying on the man and child’s relationship. Jaanwar connected with the Indian audience at the time of release and was known as a revival of Akshay Kumar’ s crumbling career.
Shalimar (1978) – Adapted from The Vulture Is a Patient Bird
James Hadley Chase, known for his famous crime novels – published this novel in 1971 and the rights were later acquired by Indian Hollywood television director Krishna Shah in 1976 for his adaption of the novel Shalimar. Although officially adapted, many had labelled Shalimar as an ‘inspired by’ as both the novel and film follow different narratives. The novel’s protagonist is the millionaire guarding a poison ring and in Shalimar, the narrative is told in the perspective of the thief. The film’s protagonist (Played by Dharmendra), was hardly existent in the novel and the film’s narrative is follows his journey from escape to reaching the island later leading to the plot revolving the Shalimar Stone.
Shalimar was simultaneously shot in English and Hindi, the film was a Hollywood-Bollywood co-production with major stars as the likes of Rex Harrision, John Saxon, Sylvia Miles to Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman and Shammi Kapoor all sharing screen space. Both versions were slightly different (The English version was songless and cut slightly differently) but both films in both markets did not find an audience at the time. Shalimar over the years had found a cult following and marked as an ‘advanced thrillers’ from Hindi Cinema.
Aisha (2010) – Adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma
This Jane Austen novel has been adapted several times in the West, but this interesting attempt in the East – based in Delhi amongst the Elite Class, set amongst the modern-day social media world did not exactly find strike with the audience at the time. Emma tells the story of a lady trying to play cupid and leading to making love stories work to her accord without her realising the emotions she is toying with, leading her getting tangled in her own mess. A strong headed Emma, yet confused only makes her own love life illusional while playing matchmaker to others.
This Sonam Kapoor starrer, attempt was to be fresh and appealing for the younger audience, did not find much of an appeal when released in 2010. Director Rajshree Ojha’s intention was to retell Austen’s story as a modern in a ‘click-flick template’, but many had pointed it was rather Producer Anil Kapoor’s purpose was of making his daughter central.
Saawariya (2007) – Adapted from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s White Nights
This short story by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, originally published in 1848 deals with a story of a nameless narrator who suffers from loneliness – who befriends everyone in the hope to battle with his hidden feelings. His loneliness being almost like his illness, attempting to find his cure in the streets of St. Petersburg. The story takes places over four nights and then the following morning, over the four nights the narrator falls in love with a young woman who is wanting to be reunited with her lover.
White Nights are days without any darkness which Bhansali had identified with from his childhood but in Bhansali’s Indian take on the Russian short story the Indian audience found a little hard digest not knowing or ever seeing what a White Night is – and just to add to the confusion for the Indian audience, the snowy and make-believe areas which have a Russian context with Hindi speaking characters didn’t go down well with the audience of India. Bhansali’s attempt of this imaginative world suffered losses at the box office, with Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor’s debut venture proving to be disastrous.
Tere Mere Sapne (1971) – Adapted from The Citadel
This Dev Anand-Vijay Anand venture, which both starred in together was adapted from one of the greatest English Novels about the English Health System prior to the English National Health Service, a journey of a doctor’s discovery of medicine and idealism to help the less fortunate and poor, later leading his ways to believing the ways of the world and the fortune made in the health sector – leading to him losing his morals to capitalism. The battle of medicine and the idealism of general practice to the idea of curing the wealthy leads the doctor’s principals changing.
This Navketan production did not work wonders as expectations from the brother duo. Expectations was raised exceedingly high post their evergreen Guide (1965), critics at the time found the film too lengthy and pitted against earlier production touting it as ‘this is no Guide’. Tere Mere Sapne was touted as a dud but both Anand brothers in later years had often mentioned it was one of their proudest films from the production house and how it was overlooked looked at the time of the release. Tere Mere Sapne recently was analysed by Hollywood Critic, Bregman, and mentioned how the film followed a ‘distinctive narrative within not barring to Indian Cinema norms. Subtle without the contrast of gloss or glory. The film remains true painting the picture of the characters as similar to the novel.’
Bhardwaj’s infamous trilogy of adaptions of the ‘father of English Literature’, William Shakespeare’s three plays Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet – adapted and tailored for the Indian audience. All three plays dealt with particular themes – Macbeth is about Power, Othello is about Jealously and Hamlet is about Revenge, Bhardwaj had taken Shakespeare’s stories and their battling themes and based them in modern Indian. Maqbool, Bhardwaj’s second directorial venture takes Macbeth to the Mumbai Underworld, the reach of greed and power drives its characters to destruction.
Omkara, with the backdrop of Uttar Pradesh politics, a jealous lieutenant’s extremes of bringing down his leader’s power after a wrong decision. Haider, set in the midst of the Kashmir political situation and the missing fathers of Kashmir – a boy’s journey to avenge his father’s death from his uncle.
All three were adapted with the current on-going political and social environment in India at the same making them more digestible for the Indian audience. Bhardwaj casted some of the best actors and the biggest stars in his adaptions, with reaching a wider audience at the same time gaining recognition as modern-day adaptions of the Shakespearian work. As to be believe, Bhardwaj had announced he was next to adapt Twelfth Night in order to continue his Shakespeare series.
Lootera (2013) – Adapted from O’Henry’s The Last Leaf
This Phantom produced adaption of O.Henry’s short story about an unsuccessful artist and an ailing woman during a pneumonia epidemic. This Vikram Aditya Motwane venture is loosely based on the O.Henry short story, the narrative of the short story takes more into practice in the second act of the film. Lootera is a story of a young conman posing as an archaeologist with a hidden talent of art, and the daughter of a Bengali landowner who shares the same passion – their passion leading to loveand a tragedy in the couple’s saga.
When released, the film was divided between opinions as many didn’t expect the film to be a tragedy. Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh both newly in the industry and known for their commercial images (especially with Sinha’s baggage at the time) – the audience didn’t quite expect this from the lead couple and many had even skipped the viewing in theatres at the time. Over time, and with Ranveer Singh’s later stardom – the film has a cult following and given a ‘delayed success’ title as it found an audience and appreciation much after its release.
Angoor (1982) – Adapted of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors
This Shakespeare farcical comedy has been made in various different forms in India but it was Gulzar’s adaptation of the play that remained as one of the very many that is still remembered. Gulzar usual genre being the realistic, often issue-based films suddenly took a turn to comedy with The Comedy of Errors and casting Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma as the master and slave, twice. Based on a day of mistaken identity of two sets of twins, this story of errors and confusion with both twins trading places resulting to two sets of twin reuniting before causing a day of havoc.
Angoor was widely appreciated and worked amongst the audience for a being a subtle, real and humorous take on play in contemporary day set in India. The play was adapted years later in Punjabi with Double Di Trouble, Sajid Khan’s Humshakals and now currently, Rohit Shetty is remaking Angoor with Ranveer Singh and Varun Sharma in Cirkus.
Fitoor (2016) – Adaption of Great Expectations
This Charles Dicken’s novel has had many versions in various different styles, from gothic dark to a gloss city setting when been adapted previously before Abhishek Kapoor’s adaption. This adaption is set with the backdrop of Kashmir packaged in a romanticism format. The Victorian novel is a coming-of-age story of Pip, an adopted orphan in a quest to find love and a social status but only to receive disappointments and a heartbreak throughout his journey from childhood to youth. Great Expectations a saga of continuous displeasure of the central character, is a Dicken’s anecdote of lasting hope in a callous world.
Fitoor, was India’s first attempt at the Dicken’s novel with a hunky Aditya Roy Kapoor and mesmerising Katrina Kaif fitting the bill of Pip and Estella. On release, Fitoor proved dismal and went on to become one of the biggest box office disasters in recent times. Many argued it was due to the ambitious, non-recoverable budget but many critics, who are familiar with Dicken’s novel mentioned how Kapoor’s adaption takes on a different stride from the novel and builds on a somewhat strange ‘twist’ that results various unanswered questions. Also saying that Kapoor’s version was neither faithful nor soulful as an adaption to the original Dicken’s classic.
The sad demise of legend Dilip Kumar sent shock waves around the industry, with members joining at this Pali Bungalow for their final ode to the superstar. Although, Dilip Kumar hasn’t acted for more than 20 years, his presence and influence amongst the newer generation is still felt. Legends who were once influenced by the Thespian before entering the industry, now have children and grandchildren being in awe of the legend.
Dilip Kumar, married to actress Saira Banu, have no children on their own but found love amongst every film household in Mumbai, where they were regularly visited by children of Dilip Kumar’s co-actors and colleagues. Although, the actor’s ill health in recent years hasn’t been the greatest but it was the wishes, prayers, admiration and love of the Bombay Film Industry that made the legend experience today’s atmosphere of the industry despite not physically being present in any Hindi film for years.
Following the thespian’s journey; an actor with only did 62 films which includes 5 guest appearances, a short span of films but with a large span of influence with his limited number of films. Taking a look into the thespian’s film journey is our final ode to the legend – who has influenced us as spectators and people of the film fraternity.
Thespian to a Star. How it began
Born Yusuf Khan, was son to a fruit vendor born near Kissa Bazaar which is now located in Peshawar, Pakistan. After World War II, his father was struggling in bringing back the family business on its feet and Yusuf had set himself out to Bombay to find work to earn bread and butter for the family. While finding work, a friend had suggested to visit a nearby film shoot in which he had gone to see and was told by a production controller to stand quietly in the crowd during the shot.
The production controller was caught by his good looks and charisma and had asked him if he was an actor. Yusuf, replied with that he had no experience and had no understanding of acting from far. The production controller dropped the question “would you act for a profession?” in which he answered “as long as it pays!” was the actor’s entry to the world of films.
The production controller circulated Yusuf’s name until Amiya Chakravarty was casting for his film Jwar Bhata (1944) in which he was looking for a young actor for the role as one of the girl’s suitors. On suggestion of others and being new to the industry, Yusuf Khan christened himself to Dilip Kumar in order to be ‘market friendly’ going by the current scenario at the time.
Jwar Bhata and many others ventures at the time went unnoticed and failed at the box office miserably. It wasn’t until Jugnu (1947), years after his debut that worked luck for the actor and gained him a successful tag. Successful films began to the follow in 1948 with Shaheed and Mela with Kumar as the main lead.
Until 1949, Dilip Kumar got the true taste of success with Andaz (1949) which featured his contemporary actor and current star Raj Kapoor with Nargis that went on to become the highest grossing Indian film until it was beaten by his co-actor’s film Barsaat (1949) in the same year. Andaz’s influence across the country was so huge that it established all three leads as the country’s leading superstars. From this point on, there was no looking back for Mr Yusuf….sorry, Dilip Kumar from this point on.
Established Tragedy King and Stardom Years
Along with Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, the 1950s were the years when Dilip Kumar got his tag of a mainstream Hindi cinema superstar but alongside being recognised from the industry as a ‘thespian’. Dilip Kumar began to bring realism to the Indian silver screen. He once mentioned “I didn’t understand the urge of my co-stars of shouting and being so dramatic in front of the camera. It’s the magic of the camera that did this to their behaviour and it always surprised me. So, I tried to make that camera my weapon in trying to act like the person I am not”.
It was until Daag (1952) when Dilip Kumar had won his first Filmfare Award for Best Actor. Collaborating with his first-time director, Amiya Chakravarty again, his role of the alcoholic Mud Toy Seller had brought out the brilliance in Kumar’s hidden talent. Chakravarty had mentioned that it was Dilip Kumar’s detail to the character which he paid attention to, his act of being drunk and acting like a drunk from a poor background seemed so real. His merging of poverty to the character – which the person inside the actor lived through during World War II had come out in the form of his character.
Dilip Kumar had a long string of hits including Daag and Amar (1954), Uran Khatola (1955), Insaniyat (1955) in which he co-starred with Dev Anand. Dilip began the urge of experimenting with his roles that pushed him further as an actor, he got that opportunity with Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1955) which he recognised as his character-building chance. At first, Kumar was slightly hesitant in playing the protagonist, that too one he wasn’t fond of. He had mentioned “Devdas was a man I saw that just drank, drank and drank himself to death. But I had to bring some belief to him, something that the audience can sympathise with and I had to go beyond that. I had divorce myself of what I had thought about this character and become him.” Devdas went on to win hearts across with the world with still its influence being present. Dilip Kumar’s performance was listed in Forbes with 25 Best Performances from India.
As well as the serious roles, in the midst Dilip Kumar did a lighter role in the extravagant big-budgeted Aan (1952) which belonged to the Heroic vs Kingdom genre and Kumar playing the larger-than-life mischievous hero breaking the pride of the Princess of the Kingdom he falls in love with. Mounted at a budget of 3.5 Crore (Roughly 320 Crores in today’s time), the first film to be in Technicolor in India and to be first Hindi film with such a huge release of almost 28 countries at that time. The film returned Director-Producer Mehboob Khan 35 Crores in worldwide returns (roughly 3,200 Crores in today’s time) which was the highest grossing film for years to come.
Dilip Kumar continued his successful run with films such as BR Chopra’s Naya Daur (1955) where he played a horse cart rider who challenges modernisation and the replacement of man-power in the country. Yahudi (1958), Kumar plays a Roman (yes, a Roman!) who falls for a Jewish girl and then disguises himself as a Jew in order to get her father’s approval. In Paigham (1959), he played a young mill worker who fights for the cruelty and low pay of the mill workers leading a change in the union. It was Bimal Roy’s Madhumati (1958), which Kumar’s faith in Roy’s vision in the supernatural genre made the film possible. Kumar got the film financed, sold and completed in time despite a glitch that occurred during the production.
The tag of ‘Tragedy King’ was given by the media at the time as most of Dilip Kumar’s films at the time – ended in a tragedy. Many compared the actor to the legends of the stage and how they pursued their career in nourishing the tragedy genre – it was Kumar’s draw towards such thespians to polish his act on-screen by choosing such a genre, even with his numerous on-screen deaths.
By the end of the 50s, Dilip Kumar was the first actor to charge 1 Lakh per film (Roughly around 85 Lakhs today).
The Genius Behind the Camera
Madhumati made Kumar realise the world behind the camera and made him want to explore his creativity. The industry was a lot larger than he estimated it had been. Giving moral and creative support to his director, K.Asif, for his film Mughal-E-Azam (1960), which had been in the making for almost 9 years finally hit the screens in 1960 opening to housefuls all over the country. Mughal-E-Azam was a pathbreaking film in all aspects. David Lean, had seen the film and was mesmerized on seeing the production of the mega opus. David Lean had even wrote letters to K.Asif and Dilip Kumar speaking about their work in the film. Lean had asked K.Asif in one of his letters “You have a room full of mirrors. Where have you placed the camera in this scene? If you have mirrors in every corner – how has your Director of Photography lit the scene? Where are the lights?”.
K.Asif responded to these letters with sarcasm. Stating “These are all my secrets, which I am taking to the grave”. Lean proposed on various occasions to work with Dilip Kumar and K.Asif, with Lean’s venture Lawrence of Arabia (1962) , but both director and actor showed disinterest. K.Asif saw a craftsman in Kumar, he saw his creative abilities when discussions happened on the sets of Mughal-E-Azam and suggested him to take on directing. Kumar had an idea for years which developed in his mind and he told the idea to K.Asif and he responded “Why are you not writing this?”. This is where Gunga Jumna (1961) was born. Taking K.Asif’s advice and rather than hiring a professional screenwriter or finding a financial producer – Dilip Kumar went on to take Gunga Jumna as his own project and decided to write and produce the film himself.
Gunga Jumna went into production before the release of Mughal-E-Azam, Kumar produced the film under his production house Citizen Films which was the only film produced under his banner. He cast his real-life brother Nasir Khan in the opposite title role and Vyjayanthimala in the female lead. It was said despite hiring Nitin Bose as the director, Kumar ghost-directed several portions of the film himself. Dilip Kumar had paid so much attention to every detail of the film, that every saree worn by Vyjayanthimala in each scene was hand selected by him as he knew in accordance which saree was suited for that particular scene. Kumar’s attention to detail paid off, as Gunga Jumna rang cash registers at the time of release and saw a silver jubilee in parts of the country. Gunga Jumna even went to several film festival around the world including Boston International Film Festival.
His next film Leader (1964), Kumar had wrote himself and the film was produced by the Filmalaya Mukherjees (Kajol’s Family). Although, getting all the acknowledgement, Leader went on to become an average grosser at the box office. Later, with Abdul Rashid Kardar’s Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966), Kardar was a filmmaker who was returning to filmmaking after some years and during the making Kumar had noticed that his skills were not up to date – his direction skills were fairly rusty. Kumar had decided to help with the direction and directed a major portion of the film himself. Kardar’s ill health too played a spoilsport at this point of time. Dilip Kumar despite his efforts of directing did not want to take the credit when offered by Kardar as a co-director. Kumar simply mentioned that it was Kardar’s project and he was only there to help.
Later with the tragedy genre became a little too much for Dilip Kumar and him suffering from a slight depression from intense roles, he was advised from a doctor that he should be doing lighter, relieving roles as the intensity was taking a toll on his mental health. His first attempt at the lighter genre was Ram Aur Shyam (1967), in which we saw him in a dual role with one being the shy, coward type and the other being a mischievous Casanova. It was said for the first time in Hindi cinema in a dual role that an actor had played both roles with such a contrast leaving the audience to question if the roles were played by two different individuals.
The 1970s and the Nadir
Dilip Kumar decided to do fewer films by the end of the 1960s and decided few but meaningful roles. Roles that challenged him to do better as an actor marking big gaps between each film. In 1970, Dilip had Gopi which marked his first collaboration with his later wife Saira Banu. Gopi again, with Kumar sticking to the lighter genre proved a runaway success.
Later followed his Bengali debut Sagina Mahota (1971) which was later remade in Hindi as Sagina (1974), based on a true story of the labour movement in Siliguri during 1942, told through fictional characters. Despite being appreciated, the Bengali version did some wonders around film festivals but the Hindi version didn’t find much of an audience other than some attraction through the music. BR Chopra’s Dastaan (1972), which was a remake the director’s earlier film Afsana (1951) about twin brothers on the opposite sides of the law, did not fetch an audience and was proved to be a commercial disaster on release.
Mushir – Riaz, both respected businessmen, had a strong link with Haji Mastaan at the time were introduced to Dilip Kumar and shared their interest in beginning a production with the actor. Dilip Kumar had told them about an idea about twins and their father all being played by the same actor and this was how Bairaag (1976) began. Bairaag, was said to be ghost-directed by Kumar as most of the scenes he had taken complete control from the director as Kumar had worked on the majority of the screenplay.
Bairaag eventually bombed at the box office. The media decided to take shots at Kumar calling him ‘too old’ for the role. The 44-year-old, saw that many tabloids took blows at him saying ‘his time is over’ and ‘time to pack your bags’. A journalist had even said “Dilip Kumar needs to get over this multiple role phase. Every film cannot be a working formula of Ram Aur Shyam.”
Dilip Kumar decided to take a career interval. Giving him time to re-evaluate and self-asses. He had rejected many roles and some roles he took a key interest in were eventually being offered to actors like Rajesh Khanna or Sanjeev Kumar because of his last few box office failures. He even had thoughts of taking writing and production full time.
Legend Not Out: Return to Success
It was Manoj Kumar’s dream to work with his screen idol Dilip Kumar. During Purab Aur Paschim (1970), as Manoj Kumar was working with Saira Banu he told Dilip Kumar often that one day he would come to him with a script that did justice to his calibre. When Salim-Javid had finished the final draft of Kranti (1981), it was then that Manoj Kumar decided to take Dilip Kumar out of his hiatus. Dilip Kumar first being hesitant but was convinced by Manoj Kumar that only he could do this role.
Kranti proved to be turning point in Dilip Kumar’s career as the film ran for weeks around the globe and proved to be a blockbuster. Tabloids had headlined ‘The Return of the Legend’ as it was established that the actor now had graduated to more mature, author backed roles. Despite playing the elder role, it was the power of the thespian that took sheer credit for the film in his bag. Many directors had waited to see the results of Kranti and see how Dilip Kumar’s work attitude to be in order to be approached. Soon, a long list of producers came knocking at his door.
The following year, Dilip Kumar had Vidhaata (1982) which marked his first collaboration with the Showman, Subhash Ghai. In Vidhaata, Kumar played a Don who kept his identity intact, eliminates his grandson’s guardian (played by Sanjeev Kumar) in which his Grandson (played by Sanjay Dutt) retaliates on this unknown enemy, which happens to be Dilip Kumar. Vidhaata went on to be the highest grosser of the year in 1982. In the same year, Dilip Kumar appeared in the cult, Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti (1982). Shakti wasn’t a ringer at the box office but was widely appreciated for Dilip Kumar’s performance and the scenes he had with Amitabh Bachchan. Bachchan at this point being one the biggest stars of the country, was pit against the thespian who had inspired him to become an actor. Walking away from Shakti’s impact, Kumar was awarded Best Actor at the Filmfare Awards the following year.
Yash Chopra, who in the past had offered several projects to Dilip Kumar (originally Yash Chopra was to direct Shakti) but not working out, finally got the chance to work with the legend in Mashaal (1984). Mashaal came as a turning point for the then new-on-the-block kid Anil Kapoor who played the character of the street goon who changes his ways when being influenced by an honest journalist played by Dilip Kumar. Mashaal gave the chance to Dilip Kumar to work with young talents like Anil Kapoor, Alok Nath, Amrish Puri which gave Dilip Kumar an update of the new current talent on the scene. Mashaal is always remembered for the scene of Dilip Kumar’s wife death on the middle of the streets of Bombay and him asking for help with people turning a deaf ear.
Successful and even unsuccessful ventures thereafter followed with Duniya (1984) and Dharam Adhikari (1986) where Dilip Kumar worked along with actors like Rishi Kapoor and Jeetendra. Subhash Ghai had signed him once again for his huge vision venture Karma (1986), a ‘Sholay-Inspired’ plot in a newer formula with Kumar in the driving seat as the vengeful Jailor hiring three outlaws to revenge the death of his sons. During the peak of the VHS period and the plague of video piracy, Karma marked the first film to bring in the audience to the cinemas with houseful boards all around auditoriums around the country.
Post Karma, Kumar went onto work with actors like Sanjay Dutt and Govinda in Kanoon Apna Apna (1989) and Izzatdaar (1990) in which again he was playing an the elder, father figure role in these films. While the former being the son of one of his best friends from the industry – Dilip Kumar took a liking to Govinda on the sets of Izzatdaar. In fact, to both Dutt and Govinda, Kumar was always present on the set for their scenes correcting their actions and polishing their performances. Later Kumar had advised Govinda “take a break from serious films. Why don’t you try comedies?”.
Donning the Director’s Cap
When Dilip Kumar had worked with Sudhakar Bokade, the producer of Izzatdaar, who was a leading producer at the time – Kumar had narrated him an idea and pleased with the subject and happy to go ahead, Dilip Kumar decided to direct the film himself. Launched in 1991, Kalinga was set to be the ‘official’ debut directorial of the legend – despite of having a hand in the direction department with several film in the past. Kalinga told the story of a Judge by the name of Justice Kalinga (played by Dilip Kumar) where both of his sons (played by Raj Babbar and Raj Kiran) conspire against him in taking down the honest Judge’s regime because of his righteous ways getting in-front his son’s ‘easy money schemes’. When been taken down, from the help of his stepson– Justice Kalinga bounces back to avenge his fall from his sons.
Kalinga at first had ran into many problems before filming. It was said that Sunny Deol was signed for role of the stepson but due to his back problem he had stepped down from the film, leading to Dilip Kumar auditioning many other actors for the role. Ajay Devgan, Jackie Shroff and even Akshay Kumar auditioned for the role. He eventually decided to cast a newcomer, the then-newcomer, Punjabi actor/director Amitoj Mann. Despite going into complete production in 1992, the film ran into problems with Dilip Kumar’s ill health, the Bombay blasts and riots that later occurred with the death of Amjad Khan and the sudden disappearance of Raj Kiran.
Trade people began to write off the film as ‘jinxed’ as by 1995 the film laid somewhat complete but still had issues in being finalised. Dilip Kumar decided to keep a trail preview for two people in particular, Subhash Ghai and Vijay Anand, two people’s opinion that mattered to him. Dilip Kumar kept the preview in a Bandra theatre but by the end of the film he realised Subhash Ghai had snuck out of the theatre much before the film had ended. Vijay Anand, being known for his brutal honesty told Kumar that he had made a bad film. Vijay Anand suggested to edit the film himself in order to correct the film but Dilip Kumar said he will make the changes himself and will keep another preview in the near future. That preview never happened.
The final blow came when Sudhakar Bokade came under the radar of the Crime Investigation Bureau with his links with the underworld and questioned where he got the finance for such major films when turning producer – as he worked in Air India as a cargo transmitter before turning to production. After the release of his film Sauda (1995), Bokade went missing from the scene. It was said due to the heat of the Crime Bureau he just had escaped, leaving Kalinga and his other film Sambandh to lie in cans.
Collecting dust in cans for years, it was only till recently Producer Sangeeta Ahir had mentioned that she wants to revive Dilip Kumar’s long-lost dream as she holds the negatives of the film. She is currently is taking it various people in order to present the film correctly.
The Final Years and the Legacy
When it came to the 1990s, Dilip Kumar spent most of the year working on his directorial venture and refused or placed many films on hold including BR Chopra’s Baghban and Subhash Ghai’s Home-Land. One of the final films that Dilip Kumar had did was Subhash Ghai’s Saudagar (1991) before venturing into direction. It was Kumar’s sense of comfortability and trust in Ghai’s vision that he knew he would never write him a bad role.
Pitted against his old friend and once co-star, Raaj Kumar, the film reunited both legends together in a film about two rival chief’s conflicts and their grandchildren falling for each other. The film was about the ego and pride of both characters resulting to war of both families. Saudagar won the hearts at the box office and even swept some of the major awards at Filmfare the following year. It was at this point when Dilip Kumar had moved onto his directorial project.
After the shelving of Kalinga, when he knew that this was possibility not going to see the light of day, he had opened himself to acting offers again. Many offers had come to him and he outright rejected them until he met F.C Mehra and his son Umesh Mehra who told him about script which was wrote by Humayun Mirza which he which he took to a liking to straight away.
Qila (1998), released April 1998 and bombed at the box office. Although with a huge supporting cast like Rekha, Mukul Dev, Mamta Kulkarni etc, Kumar was the face frontal of the film. It was said by the trade at the time that the newer generation had not been exposed to Dilip Kumar and were not willing see his main lead film, in fact, the trade mentioned that the moviegoers preferred Keemat (1998) that weekend.
When asked about Qila, Dilip Kumar had answered “It was a novel idea on paper. I took a liking to the idea of two brothers looking the same but on the line of good and evil. Where as one brother took advantage of the family’s honour – the other was out to save it in the eyes of the world. I didn’t like Umesh’s technique in filmmaking. Otherwise, we generally had a story to tell.” Qila marked the last film Dilip Kumar had acted in, despite other films in the pipeline – none of them took off.
Years later, thanks to the development in filmmaking, Sterling Investment Corp and the vision of Akbar Asif set out to fulfil the dream of K.Asif by colourising Mughal-E-Azam digitally. Colourised, re-recorded and re-released as a major Diwali/Eid release of 2004, Mughal-E-Azam was brought to a newer age of audience as well as bringing back the loyal fans of the film to the cinemas. The film worked wonders when re-released and became a profit grosser to distributors all around the world. After seeing the results of Mughal-E-Azam, BR Chopra decided to colourise his classic Naya Daur and re-released it in 2007. Naya Daur too got a major theatrical release all around the world.
Despite many films thereafter were colorised, till date only Mughal-E-Azam and Naya Daur are the only films that got a major theatrical re-release while many colorised films released straight to video. It was said because of the admiration of these films and legacy of Dilip Kumar that these films deserved that release. Still to date, both colorised films play regularly on television with decent rating numbers.
Untold, Unreleased and Incomplete
We are all aware of Kalinga’s unfortunate incompletion, but over the years there have been many Dilip Kumar films that either never saw the light of the day or failed to even take off. Some of these films have been said to get a release of the remainder footage shot and some film historians are still looking for the achieve footage for some of those films.
Shikwa (1951-58 – 70% Complete)
Shikwa sees Dilip Kumar playing an army officer under court-martial. In the film, he plays a soldier, Ram, who, disillusioned by war, appeals for peace on the battlefield even as he loses an arm and an eye and is disfigured in the face. However, he is court-martialled for rebellion and for refusal to fight on the battlefield and is subsequently tried. The film was advertised on launch in 1951 as ‘The man who challenged God!’ but due to some personal reason director Ramesh Saigal shelved the film. Thankfully, in 2013 some footage of the film was released online, showing mainly of what remains of the film now.
Footage can be seen here:
Zabardast (1979 –5 Days of Shoot)
Nasir Hussain after the success of Yaadon Ki Baarat (1973) had launched a big starrer venture including Dilip Kumar, Dharmendra, Amjad Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Asha Parekh, Tina Munim, Zeenat Aman etc. The film went into production and until 5 days of shoot, Dilip Kumar had pointed out to Nasir Hussain that there were similarities with this film and his previous, he felt something was not shaping out right. Nasir Hussian took his advice and decided to rework on the script and put the film on a backburner. The film was revived in 1985 with Sanjeev Kumar replacing Dilip Kumar.
Chanakaya Chandragupta (1980-81 – Announced after Looktests)
B.R Chopra was planning Chanakya Chandragupta and had cast Dilip Kumar as Chanakya and Dharmendra as Chandragupta. The industry was agog with excitement about Chopra’s announcement and his passion to make the film showed when he made the producer spend over a lakh of rupees in those days when he sent the Hollywood trained make-up man Sarosh Mody to London only to design the bald Cape in which Dilip Kumar would be seen in throughout the film. Everything was finalised and the film was about to go on the floor when the producer faced a sudden financial crisis and had to shelve what could have been a memorable film.
Aag Ka Dariya (1990 – Completed)
Production for the film began in 1990 including other cast members being Rekha, Rajiv Kapoor, Amrita Singh and Padmini Kolhapure. Dilip Kumar played the role of a Naval Officer stuck in a crisis. The film was continuously delayed due to issues with the producer and financiers and the finance was left on a hold. With the music release in 1995, it was re-announced to release as Dilip Kumar had directed some portions of the film in order for completion. The producer gave the credit as ‘Dilip Kumar Presents’ over the title as a gesture for his directional contribution towards the film. For years the film never saw a release until in 2014, the producers had found a print in Singapore that was in fine condition to be converted to digital for a release. Yet, the discussions are still going on as we hope it gets a release soon.
Trailer can be seen here:
Aakhri Mughal (1999 – 10% Complete)
The same film was actually done twice with Dilip Kumar and both times they were incomplete. First with Kamal Amrohi in the 1960s and it was said that Dharmendra was to play the role of the son. Amrohi had faced various issues financially at the time and shelved the film. J.P Dutta had gone through Kamal Amrohi’s script vault and found the final draft of his version of Aakhri Mughal. Dutta had decided to use the same script to gone into production with, this time again with Dilip Kumar reprising his role and Abhishek Bachchan to play the role of the son. Bachchan Junior was to be launched with this film as well as Bipasha Basu. Some issues were faced and the Bachchan family felt that a period drama to launch their son may not be a wise decision hence they moved onto a different subject with Refugee (2000). Dutta has expressed many times of reviving the project as he still holds Amrohi’s final draft.
Asar – The Impact (2001 – Announced)
This Kuku Kohli venture was announced with much fanfare in early 2001 and said to dynamic action-drama with the legend and Ajay Devgan. Priyanka Chopra was to be debut with this feature. There was some talk about Priyanka Chopra botched surgery in which was said she was thrown out of this film and the hunt for a new female lead was on. But sadly, over the stretch of time, the film was never resumed and never revived.
Homeland/Motherland (2003 – Announced)
Subhash Ghai had announced the film multiple times. Once in 1995, then in 1998 and finally in 2003. Dilip Kumar had given his nod to Ghai and got busy with Kalinga but made sure to Ghai that he was as much on board whenever the film was going to take off. Dilip Kumar told many people in the industry that this would be his final film. Ghai had launched this as ‘possibly the biggest and most expensive Hindi film ever’ with Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan in the main lead. Subhash Ghai had locked the script and got all actors on board. Even the music was locked with three songs recorded and he was in advanced talks with three actresses to play the female lead, Aishwarya Rai, Priety Zinta and Mahima Chaudhary. The film was set against the backdrop of War. It was said that Shahrukh had backed out of the project just two months before stating he didn’t want to do a multi-starrer at this point in his career. Rather than replacing him, Ghai decided to shelve the film.
Sanjay Gupta ambitious project had recently been released in cinemas just before the spike in cases resulting to a closure of cinemas again. Yet, half of the audience for the film has yet to see the film as the due to most cinemas around the world yet closed and the audience in India were still hesitate at the time to step out. Mumbai Saga will now see a release on Amazon Prime soon. Mumbai Saga will be Gupta’s 13th released film, marking his 27 years in the film industry as a Director. Gupta is one of the few directors from the 90s that is still on the Hindi cinema block now. He had maintained his relationships over the years in the industry, hasn’t lost his conviction in storytelling and sets himself to reinvention with every new venture.
Raised in the area of Khar, Gupta during his study age fell in love with cinema and decided to take up Assistant Director Jobs to earn cash but also fulfil his passion in order to learn the craft. Being an assistant to senior directors like Raj Sippy and Pankaj Parashar, Gupta at a mere at of 21 gained the confidence in being the captain behind the camera. Gupta worked with the wealthiest producers, finest technicians and bankable stars throughout his career.
Gupta carved a niche for himself, known as the ‘The Yash Chopra of Men’ brought a fat slice of masculinity and testosterone to the big screen and portraying men in a particular style. Gupta comes from the school of thought from the Stallones, Schwarzenegger combined with Sunil Dutt and Dharmendra where masculinity was inbuilt into his films. Opposing to the trade at the time of his beginning, Gupta had a fasciation of moulding his heroes as the on-screen ‘Bad Boy; the portrayal of the protagonist and the hard body was the style that brought to recreation of his method of filmmaking.
With the support of the biggest producers, actors and technicians of the industry, the blind trust in the young visionary artist led him to prove his stance. Before, which a majority of that have yet to see Mumbai Saga in the coming days,, let’s take a trip down ‘Gupta’ lane and revisit the films that made him grow as filmmaker over the years and how his journey as a filmmaker has been.
Gupta’s directional debut which was launched and mounted on a huge scale at the time. Gupta, a 21-year-old when launched and eventually a 23 year old when released was one the youngest directors in the Hindi film industry to get everything on his Wishlist for his debut venture. Aatish was backed by the Sippys, Gupta has earlier worked with the Sippys with producing the background score for their feature Patthar Ke Phool in his own studio in Khar. Sippys being happy with his work and forming a relationship.
A story that has been doing a round, yet unclear, about a so-called VHS and involving Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Pancholi and Gupta, which eventually got into the hands of Sippys – was the story of the formation of Aatish. The Sippy’s being so pleased with this mysterious film on the VHS, they decided to produce this venture and Dutt instantly agreeing to act in the film. This was basically the beginning of how Gupta’s first film had started.
Aatish was a plot about Baba, a soft-at-heart man and how is decisions from childhood lead to his rise in his illegal profession and later his decisions in his adult personal life lead to his fall. The relationships Baba has in his life as a son, brother, lover or friend result to his good and bad, right or wrong decisions while battling with his ill fate. Aatish is about Karma yet about being in the moment and how the fire within is the force of making one move forward to make a better tomorrow.
At the time of release, Aatish worked at the box office for various reasons. Sanjay Dutt, at the time was at a peak post his Blockbuster Khalnayak and his image as the ‘bad boy’ became a trend at the time. Despite Dutt’s stardom, Aatish completely worked on merit. The casting of course we could say was a plus; similarly was the music but Aatish was joyable fare and over the years has found a cult.
When it came to casting for Gupta, it was a no-brainer for him to cast his best friend at the time, Sanjay Dutt in the main lead. Gupta had assisted on films in the past which starred Dutt and not only did the star and director form a professional relationship but a very fond friendship too. Even Atul Agnihotri, who was his colleague to Gupta from his assisting days, at the time was struggling for acting roles. When things were turning a little sour for Agnihorti at the time and Gupta being a true friend requested Sunil Shetty to step down from the film so his friend can fill in his shoes.
Aatish for its time was seen as a stylish, new-on-block technique in filmmaking. Gupta, when being an assistant director was technically wise. Gupta came with a certain version and technique of filmmaking; this could be because Gupta was frequent watcher of International cinema and absorbed news ways in development with the camera. At the time of Gupta’s debut, various other filmmakers stuck to the style that had been consistent but because Gupta came with a certain freshness in his style that stood out.
Aatish released with much fanfare especially with the Sanjay Dutt case going on (If you have seen Sanju, this was the film he shooting in Mauritius before being arrested for the 1993 Bombay Blasts on the airport runway) being one the biggest openers of 1994. Gupta, grown up in the area of Khar and his cinema classroom being the famous Gaiety Galaxy had snuck in on the day of the release and broke down seeing the ‘Directed by Sanjay Gupta’ credit.
Not only Gupta, Aatish was the beginning of a few other careers too. Atul Agnihotri and even Daboo Ratnani. Daboo Ratnani began his career in photography with this film when Gupta had made an excuse to his boss that he would return from a trip from Mauritius, little did Ratnani know that this venture would launch his career too.
Aatish is an ode to the yesteryear gangster films – from India and around the world. The film will always be remembered for its performances, the action sequences, the emotional ‘Nawab Akele Akele’ scene, the Haji Ali attack moment, the ‘Dil Dil Dil’ in Mauritius and the gory climax.
RAM SHASTRA (1995)
Before Aatish was ready for release, Firoz Nadiadwala, one the most high-profile producers in the trade at the time signed Gupta after seeing rushes of Aatish for a big budget stylish action film. Anil Kapoor was called for a trial in Bandra for Aatish in which the makers were hoping to sign him for the film, but things didn’t work out. Jackie Shroff was then approached and was signed later.
Gupta’s best buddy, Sanjay Dutt was serving a sentence at the time hence he would not participate in the film but Gupta’s other buddy, Aditya Pancholi joined the cast as the supportive friend for Gupta and playing the role of the supportive cop to Jackie.
Jackie plays a flamboyant cop who has his own method of bringing criminals to the Law. Ram, the protagonist, has his life turned upside down when he crosses roads with Dongra – the city Don who is turning his black ways to white. Things turn soar, lives are lost and our Ram is behind bars, losing his family and reputation. Years later, Ram released from prison is now out to gain his reputation as well as settling scores with Dongra.
Irony lies in the film tackle of the bad turning white – a sneak hint of the powering forces at the time in Bombay, domestically and international that were taking their forces into the white limelight of a sense of camouflage of dignity. Many are aware of the international terror pressures in the film industry at the time that saw a dignified conversation in the glamour of cinema. Anupam Kher’s Dongra was a puppet-handler, seeking refuge yet not commencing his ways out of the dark.
Ram Shastra for its time was a heavy budgeted film and when seeing the scale and the technique, the money evidently shows on screen. Not only was Ram Shastra an expensive film but it was ready quicker than most films at that time – Firoz Nadiadwala was impressed by Gupta’s skill of finishing the film with such organisation that it didn’t seem there ever was an issue during the making. The film was mounted high on the action sequences – it’s Unique Selling Point was the making it to be scaled on International level in terms of action.
Many may not know but Ram Shastra was actually first Hindi film to be officially mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. Dolby Digital had just arrived to India, previously with 1942 A Love Story being the first Dolby Digital film, things in India in terms of technology were beginning to go from analogue to digital. Ram Shastra being that the first film to carry out the digital 5.1 sound mix for Hindi cinema, which lasted for years.
Ram Shastra on release, unfortunately, did not find many takers. Despite action films being big sellers at the time, it didn’t bring much luck to this one. Sanjeev Shridhar, trade analyst at the time said “Its an expensive film. Recovery for the film was going to be hard for a post Diwali release. Jackie Shroff seems to be going through a lean phase. Otherwise technically, Sanjay Gupta’s film – with the music and the action is not a bad fare – just suffered because of the timing.”
Gupta even had gone on record post the release of the film stating he personally hated the film. He mentioned that many things had gone wrong creatively and the end result was not what he had visioned. In fact, still to date, Gupta acknowledges he film as his worst film to date.
Gupta had many times spoke about how he does not connect with ‘the fluffy stuff’ on screen, he has been very direct of how his films are and who is audience is. After two actions films, Gupta took a chance and even gave a shot at changing lanes. Being confident in his craft and at the age of exploring, he wanted to make a saga of unfinished love. And going with the Gupta style, it wasn’t going to be a subtle one.
Gupta reunited with the Sippys and made it clear that he wanted it to be a love story with the touch of reincarnation. The set up was clear, he wanted a new-age boy and the girl who has the way with people’s hearts, that he found in both Saif and Kajol. Both actors at the time but had already established themselves in that genre making it a familiarity with the audience.
The subject of reincarnation became the ‘in-thing’ again at this point during the mid-90s after the gracious box office numbers of Karan-Arjun. Reincarnation films actually get reincarnated in the industry several times, there is only one shining soul and several that follow to imitate that suite.
What made Hameshaa stand away from the other reincarnation films was its ‘Hitchcockian’ yet gothic touch to the ambience of the structure of the film. The film is based in two different time zones, the 1970s and later in the 1990s. The blossoming romance between Saif and Kajol in the 70s with the Shammi Kapoor influence unfolds as a rather mystical brewing of unease tensions behind the couple.
Aditya Pancholi and his menacing act as a modern prince from a powerless kingdom, obsesses over the ‘already-taken’ Kajol and literally waits a ‘lifetime’ to gain her. There had to a small dose of male chauvinism and riding ego, which later unfolds in the second act of the film of the possessive-yet-silent character who tried to change the ways of the universe to gain which he isn’t destined for. One hand we have Pancholi’s character fighting with the impossible and the couple making their impossible to possible. The film’s basic premise of stating of love lasts over lifetimes – if it is incomplete.
Hameshaa did suffer at the box office, possibly for its theme playing its foe. Despite the theme, too many expectations were riding on the film – Riding on chartbuster music and Kajol’s stardom – maybe people were expecting something a little sweeter for their taste buds. Its hard to place a film like Hameshaa, as it almost covers everything yet doesn’t stay consistent on a mood – either call it innovative or lost.
Interestingly, Gupta and Saif had bonded very well during the course of the filming. The duo even shared time outside the work space. Once the film fared insufficiently, Saif went back his friendship stating it was only a ‘work relationship’. A heartbroken Gupta, who looks beyond the work ethics with Saif, had learned his lesson. Gupta, generally being fond of his friendships, knew from here onwards where to draw his line.
Gupta rejoiced when Dutt served his sentence and made it back to showbiz, Gupta had waited for his exit in order to start their next project together. Dutt had signed Khauff not too long after serving his sentence and continuing work. It was evident to many from the industry that when Gupta and Dutt were to join forces then we knew what to expect – Dutt’s masculinity and Gupta’s skill of styling.
Khauff revolves around Manisha Koirala’s character, who swears to give her statement to the honorary court after witnessing the slaying of a senior cop. Between her and murders stands fear in the form of Babu, played by Dutt, a spinless assassin on the verge to stop this witness – but his mind develops two ways when his long died human emotions resurrect as he begins to feel for the witness.
Khauff means fear – as Gupta had stated at the time mentioned it is about the common man’s fear to the on-goings in the city of Bombay. Power and Terror have begun to play a vital role in the city’s development leaving behind many bloody footprints. The fear of the on-going in city which are not spoke about, the fear of the jurisdiction system of the country and the powers of a certain anonymous lethal higher rule.
The film ran into various of problems from production right till the release; which caused several delays that many argued had damaged the potential of the film. In terms of production, it was evident on seeing the continuity in most scenes of Dutt’s appearance – changing from scene to scene resulting to comprising with the outlook of the film. Gupta, at the time, mentioned the delays were beyond his control. His duties as a director were prompt but certain issues during the production were left unresolved.
Dutt’s long hair and the delay of the film actually became a curse for the film as several delays and bitter talks between the director and producer led the film being delayed continuously. At a point, both director and producer were not seeing eye to eye. When delays occurred in production, Gupta felt some portions could have been reshot in order to correct the continuity problem which again caused more conflict from the producer’s side. A furious Vijay Tolani fearing to go into debt before the release had flinched; eventually deciding to release the film the way it was.
Though the film opened at centres because of the Sanjay Dutt pull – but of course the main problem which people had point out – was its weary continuity. A source close to the film said that a decent portion of the film had not even been filmed, the producer had made some compromises despite having the final script and at a later stage began to cut various corners and decided not to shoot certain portions which can be noticed in the film that built this sense of incompetence.
Gupta almost disassociated himself with the film by the time of release even stating he had felt of walking out of the project on many occasions. Surrendering to his discomfort, Gupta just let the film be what Tolani wanted it to be.
The film being infamous for its controversial fall out between Gupta, Dutt vs Satish Tandon and possibly being one of the most talked about films at its time – that too for the controversy that surrounded the film.
Ironically – Jung was about seeking desperate measures during the roughest times. An honest cop, played by Jackie Shroff, has to compromise with a psychotic criminal, who he had imprisoned, for his son’s bone marrow. Dutt playing a dreaded gangster begins to play a game with the cop by his rules after he settles score with his partners. Aditya Pancholi plays the rival cop to Shroff who joins the race to kill Dutt.
The film deals with the desperation of a father and a mother for their son’s life but at the expense of the ego of a criminal. The cop now burying everything he has learnt in the police department has to face the world with his decision of letting go of his morals for his eight-year-old son. Every character is Jung is grey, out for their own selfish way. Jung takes you into this dark world outside the sugar-coated family life which involves crime and the law. Bali, played by Dutt, a selfish-spinless criminal who first love is money; toys with the minds of the family into ensuring he is their saviour and later leading them to believe that there is a price and years yet to pay for his freedom.
The controversy surrounding the film began bitter that later went sour. Every coin has two sides, Gupta had his version and so did Satish Tandon. Many of the industry confused who to back and who to decide was right. Satish Tandon, a Punjabi distributor-turned-producer accused Gupta of going over-budget however Gupta had mentioned the film was incomplete and the producer wanted the release the film as it was. Not only that but Gupta had accused the producer for the late payment of remuneration for the crew members of the film and despite lowering his own price for the budget of the film, he still hadn’t been paid.
Gupta’s buddy, Dutt even stepped down to back his friend to say the film is incomplete and what had been narrated to him has not yet been filmed – completely taking a hit to the producer. Tandon sticking by his guns was happy with the product and decided to release it however it was – without Dutt dubbing for the film and filled his place with a dubbing artist.
Going by the film, it seemed something was not right. The producer apparently was ill-advised by a friend from industry after they had seen the film saying it was complete. The producer stating to Gupta, only the songs need to be complete – and he only could shoot from Film City to Link Road to film these songs. This caused the rift. The producer, at the time was producing another film, Ek Haadsaa, had got the main leads from that film to fill in the shoes of Dutt and Shilpa Shetty during a song sequence. The song ‘Bali Di Gali’ was to be filmed on Dutt, as goes by his character’s name – but the situation had escalated by this time, the song was later filmed on Bali Brahmbhatt, which had no relevance to the plot but just a similar ‘Bali’ instead.
Dutt, Gupta and the Kashyap brother (Anurag and Abhinav had wrote the film) did a press conference in which they ‘demoted’ it by telling people not to go the cinemas and see the film. Dutt went on to talk about the unprofessionalism of the producer and how he had ‘hijacked’ the film away from the director. When the stars are against the film – there is no way, it would survive at the box office. Satish Tandon was banking on the controversy that people would see the issue surrounding the film. But the audience felt it was safer to stay away. Jung is a fine example of how two distinct visions of one product can completely spoil the entire dish.
Gupta found a new lease of life when he turned producer. Possibly the two issues in the past with producers made him feel that he wanted to make films from his own conviction. The ‘Jung incident’ was enough for Gupta in wanting to have complete control over his own projects. His rules and his way. Kaante, earlier was pitched to several producers but it seemed none of them just didn’t get the premise of six men with the insolent talk and dark humour – most producers where looking where the sugar can be added in the herbal remedy.
This left Gupta and Dutt establishing White Feather Films. Gupta’s first hesitation was that the film being dark, the characters being grey and foul language used – no known star would even consider being apart of the project. But it was Dutt’s conviction in the script, he told Gupta he would manage to get the cast once he pitched it to them.
Gupta was clear that it was going to completely shot in the US, with none of the routine song and dance numbers. That changed one night after Anand Raj Anand had met them both for a few drinks and sang a few songs, they had decided then the film would have songs but not with the routine formula. Dutt alongside with Pritish Nandy and Sharad Kapoor (Hollywood producer, who took care of the production of the film in LA also happens to be Kumar Gaurav’s brother-in-law).
With Aankhen releasing earlier in the year, many were cynical of another heist film – that too with Amitabh Bachchan in the cast. Comparison between both films were made; it was clear from Gupta’s side that Kaante is no Aankhen in any way. Kaante, for its time had reinvented the action genre for the Indian audience in terms of scale. But many had mentioned that the film is not exactly an action film or even a thriller of such but stylish heist film with just a lot violence. Possibly one of the first Hindi films to show this level of gore and violence singly in one film
Gupta for a first, even stylised his actors with his personal supervision. All the characters in the film had a set look which Gupta had envisioned, from their hair, clothes, accessories etc – Gupta stylised his actors according to how he wanted his characters to look. Each character in Kaante, although all the six men were leads, brought a different presentation to the ‘on-screen’ protagonist. Usually in Hindi cinema, our ‘heroes’ are represented to good, moral men – here we have men who are foul mouthed, selfish, violent and shrewd. To this was Gupta’s vision of how men deep down actually are – there was no fake representation of themselves.
It was simple – six men behind closed doors just being themselves, below-the-belt and passive judgemental comments on each other’s character was a part of who they were. The beauty in Kaante was no one was exactly righteous, but yes, each character was not moulded representation for the screen, they were real.
Kaante rocked Gupta’s world. It rocked the box office despite his adult certification and the less frequent commercial aspects. There was no looking back for Gupta this point – it was a point of a new turn for him as now producer as well as filmmaker, it was like the filmmaker had been born again.
Celebrated for bringing the original Khalnayak and Nayak on screen for the first time – despite the rivalry over the years and the odd few controversies the two leads had, the association of the two actors in this film went to prove there was no issue between the two stars. In their prime days, both being the favourites of similar directors had their issues in the past for working together as they competed neck to neck with each other at the box office. The infamous controversy was the Trimurti episode, when Anil Kapoor had replaced Sanjay Dutt in Subhash Ghai’s mega budgeted festive release, which was an assumption of rivalry.
Sanjay Gupta had approached Anil on two projects before Musafir, both in which did not work out but this time he didn’t have any issues coming on board with Gupta and Dutt’s second production after Kaante. Anil was a little hesitant at first – but Dutt convinced him that Anil was the lead and Dutt had a passing role, meaning he would come go but the film revolved around Kapoor.
Gupta shot the entire film in Goa and sticking with a similar feel of Kaante, he presented this as very hip noir action thriller based on the drug mafia in Goa – showing that Goa is not all ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ but it has a dark underbelly filled with corrupted officers, gangsters and perverted men. Similarly to Kaante, Gupta here too designed his characters personally too. Dutt being the stylish drug lord with his fiddle blade, Anil who usually played safe with his roles – was styled as this drifting, blonded, down to death drug peddler who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
An interesting Aditya Pancholi, playing the role of Tiger, a ‘bold’ Goan cop that had a peculiar balance of honestly and corruption, was more curious in the affairs that did not concern him. His business or not – Tiger made everything his business. Later the film dips into the marriage problems between Mahesh Manjekhar and Sameera Reddy, in which Kapoor has to choose a side which he thinks is true.
The film leads Kapoor’s character going from point to point on the edge of his life. Aditya Pancholi’s character Tiger mentions earlier in the film that Goa is not what it seems, it’s a tourist spot but doesn’t always entertain its guests. Travellers come and go in Goa and some get lost in the under-belly. The feel of unease and insecurity is evident throughout the film – similarly how Kapoor’s character throughout his journey is feeling. To keep the basic idea in mind, that no one or nothing can be trusted.
Musafir opened well at the box office and did decent business. The music at the time was playing at every corner. The soundtrack was remembered for its uncommon release approach. The soundtrack was split into two – lounge and club. The composed tracks were done by Vishal-Shekhar and Anand Raj Anand but the remixes and the club vibes were done by lesser-known DJs at the time in which Gupta had provided a studio for to play around with the music. This tactic paid off as Musafir was the seventh most sold album of the year.
Before the Hollywood guys attempted it several years later, we in India got there first. Zinda was an adaption of Korean film Old Boy (2003) which told a story about a man locked in prison for 14 years – unlawfully, without the knowledge of his crime. When released, the man has 5 days to find his captor and know the reason of his crime. Dutt played the role of the rugged, lost, broken man out to find the man who ruined his life which was played by John Abraham, the film did keep the original feel intact with the ending changed (for obvious reasons why – for the Indian audience).
Zinda, was the first film to go with the black and white grim look which Gupta had opted for, similar with the colour palettes used in Kaante, Gupta purposely gave Zinda that similar ‘coloured’ flavour. Zinda was that grim, dark and gritty enterprise that made the audience feel the discomfort the protagonist was feeling.
Akshaye Khanna, Gupta’s friend in which they had a very brief opportunity working together in the mid-90s which never really worked out – had approached him for the role of Rohit Chopra, the rich ‘devil-in-a-suit’ entrepreneur. Things did not materialise and Khanna had his issues. Gupta then approached John Abraham who agreed straight away, forming a long-lasting relationship which is thick even today. The relationship between both director and actor stood thick even through the director’s lean phase, in which the actor stood in for Gupta.
Zinda didn’t work wonders at the box office but surely was praised. Many has mentioned it ‘being the first of its kind’ and ‘fresh turn to the thriller genre’ has nothing even similar had been attempted before. Regardless of the film’s fate, many still consider the performances till date. Dutt’s performance as the mean machine out to kill in the emotional scenes as well as the integral violence moments – one would think it’s a performance of the veteran that is overlooked.
Zinda arguably did more for John Abraham than Dhoom or a Water had done. Zinda moulded Abraham into a better performer letting go of the glamour that usually his role would carry with the performer stepping outside his comfort zone. Zinda at the time was seen as too gritty for then the audience, possibly because commercial cinema was at its peak and the comfort of the gloss cinema possibly made people look beyond Zinda.
DUS KAHANIYAAN (2007) segments “Matrimony, “Stranger in the Night, “Zahir”, “Gubbare” & “Rise & Fall”
Earlier Ram Gopal Varma had a made an anthology of stories with the Darna series, commercial actors acting in different segments adding to the final feature. But Gupta’s anthology varied over different genres unlike RGV, the genres varied from Drama, Thrillers, Horror, Noir and Action. Gupta’s anthology of short stories was made at a much larger scale with 30 actors, 6 different directors, 12 writers and 6 music directors – yes that all in one huge feature film. Each story served a purpose and each story came with an intention. Gupta had directed 5 out the 10 stories.
Three of the stories that Gupta had told in Dus Kahaniyaan were about marriage. The flaws, the dysfunctional aspects and the power of trust amongst the two individuals. Many had mentioned these stories were Gupta’s opinion and thoughts with his rocky marriage at the time. Matrimony, the first story projected in the feature, is told a story about a woman’s satisfaction but the real people toying with her satisfaction are the two men in her life who actually taking her for a ride.
Strangers in the Night is based on a night of anniversary for a couple where they decide to reveal their darkest secrets, with a somewhat distrust for one another – the story plays with the idea of cheating and lust but rather the story leads to how some secrets are not woven by guilt or sin.
Gubbare was about a young couple with the issues in their relationships come across an elder man during their journey, the man who has an obsession with his wife’s love for balloons. The story explored love and the lasting of the emotion in a relationship, the idea of presence of the opposite person being present or not but how the emotion is the fuel for the relationship.
Zahir was possibly the heaviest in the five stories told. Zahir dealt with the idea of consent and awareness of communication in a relationship. Between a male and female, despite the level of understanding – how important respect and consent is for one another. Zahir also dealt with issue of HIV and how responsible both the male and female should be with consensual sex, being aware of illness and being protected.
Finally, Gupta’s final short was his return to the gangster genre. Rise and Fall was the complete guilty pleasure of Dutt and Gupta’s space of the action genre. Rise and Fall shows two stories of the same characters with their rise as gangster as children and their fall as elder, mature men. Rise and Fall was a somewhat return for Gupta to the Aatish universe with his protagonist being called Baba and Nawab respectively; this too being Gupta’s last film to date with Dutt.
Dus Kahaniyaan, despite having some very well written short stories didn’t quite make its mark with the audience at the time. Many of the audience members appreciated each story individually but as a totality as a feature film, it may not have worked. It was an attempt for White Feathers as a production house to venture in a newer territory with the USP of the company being attempting different avenues.
SHOOTOUT AT WADALA (2013)
After a six-year hiatus, Gupta had returned to the director’s chair. Prior to the hiatus, Gupta was on the streak with his production house fulfilling his ambition in areas as a producer. When things were getting soar in his personal space which later affected his career – Gupta decided to take a break. He mentioned that he went on for years without work before coming back to the industry, which all began with a phone call to Ekta Kapoor.
Ekta Kapoor expressed to Gupta about her desire in moving the ‘Shootout’ series forward. Gupta unsure about how to find another shootout in the history of Mumbai, that was as shocking as the one at Lokhandwala in 1991. A team had dug out the first ever encounter that took place in Mumbai (then Bombay) in which the police played Judge, Jury and Executioner.
The story of Manya Surve, an educated boy passed out of Kirti College, later forming a gang that rubbed shoulders with some of the most dangerous gangsters in Mumbai at the time, in which formed the rival D Company after Surve had murdered the infamous Shabbir Kaskar, that had changed the city forever.
The premise of an encounter, which only exists in India, where the police encounter the criminal and take their lives into their own hands – is now a known practice by the police but Manya Surve’s shooting was the first recorded encounter by the Mumbai Police ever. Unlike Shootout at Lokhandwala, where the soul of the film was the shootout, here most of the film sees the rise of Manya Surve and his rivalry with others gangs, covering the underworld in Mumbai during the 1980s and later leading to what lead the shootout to happen.
The film was an exposure or even an exploration into what made what made the police force take out a criminal during broad day late in one of the busiest areas of the city. It tapped into what made the police in Mumbai cold blooded killers to take the law into their own practice, leaving the court jurisdiction out of the map and the police dealing with the matter solely.
Controversy did play a spoil sport for the film in which Gupta had to alternate some changes a lot later into the production but it didn’t curve away from the intention of the film. The film released and the success had placed Gupta back onto the map and the support from the industry was astonishing.
Despite being a Non-Fiction based film, the film was a large-scale Hindi film spectacle and even as the film used heroism and machoism as pivotal part of the plot of the film – it won hearts amongst the public. The dialogues and moments amongst characters brought back the drama and intensity the moviegoers had been missing for some time.
The only minus for some was that many argued the bad language and on-screen sex scenes had numbered the audience members, but it was a lesson that Gupta had taken away with him.
An actress and a director from two different film schools. Gupta, known as the ‘Yash Chopra for Men’ where is films were mainly male based, raised eyebrows when he announced he was making a female centric film with the comeback of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to the big screen. Gupta mentioned that had Aishwarya rejected the film he would scrap it. His friend, Abhishek and husband to Rai did a lot of convincing for her coming on board.
Jazbaa revolves around an attorney forced to defend an unpleasant criminal after her daughter is kidnapped. The story progresses with the trail of the criminal, our protagonist coming across criminals, gangsters, corrupt politicians etc throughout the route to get back her daughter with the help of her friend, suspended and shady Yohan played by Irrfan Khan.
For Gupta, Jazbaa is amongst of many firsts for the filmmaker. The most evident first is his two central characters in the film are female – Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Shabana Azmi are the two most important characters in the plot. Gupta central element to the plot, with going with the title, is the sentiment of a mother. Gupta explores this sentiment with a grey touch, two mothers in edgy circumstances, amongst evil minds yet going to lengths for their daughters. Even Jackie Shroff’s character’s draw towards his son – it dealt with parenthood and the lengths some go for their children – within or out of law boundaries.
Yet Jazbaa still lives in the Gupta world. The character of Yohan is still the quintessential, no-nonsense cop who works on his own rules – a character that can easy be identified as Gupta’s man to handle the dirty work in the plot behind closed doors. The dialogues too, by the character add the weight to the persona – the leather jacketed cop saying ‘aaj kal wohi sharif hai kiske phone pe password na ho’.
It’s interesting to see with every venture how Gupta toys with the city of Mumbai in a different tone each time. Each time Gupta’s portrayal of the city makes one wonder who is an alien to the city that how could the city be explored different. Jazbaa’s incorporation of the city shifts from the city comfortable family life to the shift of the grim, large unknown fearsome sin-city.
Anuradha and Yohan both see the city with unalike eyes. In the latter half, Yohan introduces Anuradha to the underbelly of the city – the city that has given her everything similar has snatched everything away from him. A city ran by the vicious and toyed by the powerful – no one but yourself can be trusted.
A lot had mentioned how Gupta had toned down the violence as he became little more friendly to a section of the audience.
Regardless how people felt about it – its highlight had to be the cast Gupta had put together and absorbing the right performance from each as well as giving them importance to the screen time. This move was appreciated by many as a reinnervation of the director.
A tale of talented blind man vows revenge on a political family who are responsible for the suicide of his wife in a manner unheard of. Kaabil is a tale of physically handicapped man in a dark world, seen as the weaker opponent – shows his rival how ‘Kaabil’ he is in this battle. The man without sight yet sharp at mind uses all of his other strong senses to take revenge at the same time leaving the law many lengths behind him.
It was interesting to see a collaboration of two established filmmakers joining hands, where on was on the producer’s chair and other on the director’s. Rakesh Roshan and Sanjay Gupta both came from different film markets and completely parallel from each other. But Gupta had one meeting with senior Roshan and convinced him, later Hrithik to act in the film and both father and son in that one meeting could see Gupta’s vision and the potential of the film and both completely came on board.
Revenge drama with the angle of disability had never been tackled before in Hindi cinema – that too in the action genre. To Hrithik, it came as completely new extension to the actor as it was the film was his quickest film completed yet a character he extensively researched. Hrithik had locked himself in a room, walked around blindfolded and even worked on his vocal cords for his character as a dubbing artist. The newer light we see in Hrithik wasn’t the typical him of either looking like the Greek on-screen god or flexing his muscles during the action sequences – it was a newer Hrithik we saw as a common man with an extraordinary mind.
With Gupta’s toying of the city of Mumbai comes into works in Kaabil too. The colour palettes were not extensively used to portray the city here but there was a tone of darkness in the film. The idea of blind man’s world become darker in the claustrophobic metropolitan city. Though the dark angle doesn’t come in till the Roy brothers play the villainous Maharashtrian political lead family – with one brother dominating a city and the other attempt to dominate Rohan Bhatnagar’s life – eventually leading darkness into the lives of both brothers. The plot and shift of darkness take place in the latter half of the film with Rohan Bhatnagar already living in darkness, his vow of vengeance is to bring his darkness to their lives with his figure being unseen to them – though without sight, he can be anywhere at any place for them.
Kaabil brought a new side to Gupta altogether. Gupta mentioned that Senior Roshan was very active on the film and he learned from the new and almost unlearned from everything from the past. Gupta not only got the reassurance but reinvented his style of storytelling while even being a friendly commercial filmmaker to the audience at the same time.
Kaabil was appreciated and very successful making it a win case for everyone involved. Kaabil has taken Gupta to new heights. The director who now has found his place in camp of the Roshans but Kaabil has even made Gupta the festive/holiday release director. Gupta’s streak with Kaabil has made him expose and shown his capability to a wider range of audience which will make him work alongside in the future.
Gupta had mentioned somewhere that he never intended to become a producer, but due to some bad experiences with producers in the past and his issue with producer’s not seeing his vision in Kaante, it was Sanjay Dutt the one who backed his vision which eventually led to the formation of White Feather films. The intention behind the company was to make films both Dutt and Gupta believed in. They intended to make diverse genres, bring forward newer talent but being out of the box. The idea was to do something that has never been done before in Hindi cinema. Gupta had mentioned he was never one who simply had financed the films under the White Feather films banner, but he had immense input into the projects as well being a Creative Producer and being involved till the final stages of the venture. Gupta was even the mind behind some of the projects from White Feather Films, where he either wrote or simply had given the idea to another writer or director to helm. Gupta’s intention was to branch out and grow as a company. The various different projects with different directors seemed to have halted after Dutt’s exit from the company in 2008 after fulfilling his final pending work. Now Gupta and White Feather Films are only apart of the films that Gupta helms as director and Gupta doesn’t wish to branch out with different directors but solely for his path.
Although Kaante was foundation stone for White Feathers, Plan was the first film where Gupta had donned the producer cap and backed the project helmed by his then assistant Hriday Shetty. For those who aren’t aware, Hriday Shetty is Rohit Shetty’s half-brother, who had debuted as director with this film. Plan was a medium budgeted but high on style mounted film which came in a similar zone as Kaante. Plan was about a gang of young boys who accidently kidnap a gangster (played by Dutt) later to realise that the accidently kidnap was beneficial for all. Many at the time had touted Plan as ‘Kaante based in India’. Plan was little toned down in terms of the violence and bad language in comparison to Kaante, Plan was more market and commercially friendly. It was Dutt’s role as Musa and the chemistry of the four boys that made the film worthwhile.
SHOOTOUT AT LOKHANDWALA (2007)
The beginning of the Shootout series was never intended to be a series and neither was the film to be simply just produced by Gupta. In fact, around 2005, Gupta had researched and wrote Shootout which was then tentatively titled Zinda with the intention of directing the venture himself. After Dutt had seen OldBoy, he persuaded Gupta to do that project instead and the OldBoy remake was then titled Zinda. When Gupta began to venture more into production, he gave the job to Apoorva Lakhia to direct the film after taking a fancy to his liking. Shootout at Lokhandwala had worked at the box office as well as gaining a fair amount of response from the press but Gupta himself wasn’t impressed with the shot footage from Lakhia. In fact, Gupta had revealed that he had to take over creatively in post-production to accommodate his vision, which got lost in translation with Lakhia. Nevertheless, despite Gupta’s feeling about the end product – the general public didn’t really mind the first film to start the franchise.
THE GREAT INDIAN BUTTERFLY (2007)
Gupta attempt to tap into the art house scenario which is intend to be made for the International Film Festival circuit, hence the film was made in English for the global appeal. While making films for India with the commercial aspect, Gupta also wanted to explore the global market with smaller yet large with content films. The Great Indian Butterfly is the story of a typical bickering modern Indian couple and their journey to Goa in quest of a magical insect. During their journey they explore peace, love and happiness in life which they are trying find with it already been intact. Made in 2007, the film was screened at the Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival and later at the Asian Festival of First Films in Singapore where film found its acceptance and a decent response before being commercially released in India in 2010.
WOODSTOCK VILLA (2008)
Just when we thought White Feather Films have done it all, they literally have when you realise the company had even did a ‘quintessential star kid’ launch too. Sikander Kher, son of Anupam and Kirron Kher made his debut with this Dutt and Gupta backed production. Neha Uberoi, was back after her debut in Dus Kahaniyaan, the daughter of Dutt’s manager at the time Dharam Oberoi, who was also handling activities in White Feathers at the time – also got the platform for her second time around. The film was of course in the limelight for Kher’s son but also the rehash of Mika Singh’s ‘Sawan Mein Lag Gaye’ gained popularity and became a somewhat re-hit. Unfortunately, the recession had hit India terribly by this point of the time and no film at the box office was making any mark due to the low cash in the pockets of moviegoers at the time. Times changed and the economy recovered but sadly the film suffered due to the global climate.
ACID FACTORY (2009)
Gupta returns with the Noir Multi-starrer thriller bringing back the zone of Kaante for the audience. Acid Factory did bring back memories of Kaante with firstly with its style – Gupta brought back the green/grey colour palates used in Kaante. Secondly, of course the multicast but also setting of the warehouse in Kaante – with a base in a similar-like factory. Gupta, not exactly pleased with his last multi-starrer production, this time was very much involved with the creative and production process. The end product of the film did look and feel like it had the ‘White Feather films’ stamp. Despite being in the producer’s chair, Gupta had a big hand in the casting of the film. Originally Dutt was to be apart of the project but due to the fallout between the duo, Dutt was replaced by Irrfan Khan. Aditya Pancholi was said to have also bowed out of the project for some reason which many had mentioned it was due to his relationship with Dutt at the time. The biggest problem with Acid Factory was its eventual release date – one week before the major three Diwali releases that year. Prior Diwali, especially with big release on the festive weekend was a no-no for most filmmakers and this is where Acid Factory had got lost in the crowd.
In a sense this was final film from White Feather Films with an outside director and was Gupta’s final film for the White Feather to venture into production – since Pankh, Gupta has only ventured into his own directorial projects. Pankh was another art house feature for the production house which they constantly had focused on its festival route for the film. The film was based on the real-life actress Ahsaas Channa who had passed off as a young boy in two major films in her early career and how she grew up with the trauma of confusion amongst people while dealing with her own battle. Director Sudipto Chattopadhyaya, had originally stated he based the film on the trauma child artists suffered when they eventually became adults and spoke how unfortunately the graph of their lives have been – from the short-term success, to the issues with their parents to their later drug addiction in their teenage years. It’s sad but Pankh went unnoticed at its time of release; possibly due to being such a sensible off-beat topic maybe out audience didn’t have the stomach for it at the time.
Unfulfilled Dreams of Sanjay Gupta
Each Director has their share of projects that never materialised, either on paper or it being stalled during the production stage – unfortunately some projects just stay as dreams. At times, when a particular film doesn’t have its fate, the people involved too lose their interest which dampens the enthusiasm to complete the project. Gupta, has a section of films that didn’t take off, many of you maybe aware of and many may not but his ambitious projects someday may even see the day of light in a different form. Who knows!
The Bodyguard (1994)
Near the completion of Aatish, Gupta had set of this project to make with his buddy Sunil Shetty – who was originally was supposed to be part of Aatish and Gupta in his mind wanted to collaborate with star considering they shared a good rapport. This was rumoured to be the remake of the Kevin Costner starrer The Bodyguard (1992) – Sridevi came on board reprising the role earlier played by Whitney Houston. In 1994, the film was to take off and a look test was done with the lead pair, which also became a story in the December 1994 issue of Cineblitz. The discussions and pre-production were taking place but due to the Sridevi’s other commitments, the delay continued. In 1995, Ravi Raja’s Angrakshak was released which was too was inspired from The Bodyguard. It was said because of Angrakshak’s release and debacle, many in the team had lost interest in the film and moved onto other projects.
Another project planned near the time of completion of Aatish, this was to star Dutt, Sridevi and Kumar Gaurav. The film was to be a remake of John Woo’s The Killer (1989), with Dutt playing the role of the hitman, Sridevi playing the role of a woman who is accidently blinded in a shootout from the hitman and Kumar Gaurav was to play the cop on the chase for the hitman. Dutt’s jail sentence played spoilsport here as this was to be the next venture for Gupta-Dutt collaboration after Aatish, eventually it was later shelved. The Killer was eventually remade in the same year with Hum Hain Bemisal (1994) with Sunil Shetty and Akshay Kumar.
Launched in 1995 with a three-day schedule, the film was supposed to star a then ‘yet-to-be-launched’ Akshaye Khanna and then newbie Twinkle Khanna. The premise of the film was to be about a street fighter played by Akshaye. Due to scheduling and Akshaye’s supposed launch Himalay Putra (1997) was delayed hence the other projects too got delayed and the commencing shoot for this film happened after Himalay Putra. Recently, Gupta mentioned on Twitter that an action sequence was shot in 1997, after the action sequence was canned there was no sight on a second schedule. Gupta himself mentioned he doesn’t know why the film never continued.
Around 1997, this pre-shoot was published in Cineblitz as Gupta’s next venture. Very much has been speculated about this film on the film’s premise. Firstly, Jung’s original title was Khaleefe and that this film was that but Gupta had changed Jung completely down the line. There was talk that this film was originally what Khauff had supposed to be but slightly on the lighter edge with a triangle love story involved – eventually in the final version of Khauff, it didn’t have a second male lead if going by this speculation. There was also a speculation that this was supposed to be Cop-Criminal chase film on the lines of Demolition Man (1993) but an Indianised version. So much speculated but either way, it never really materialised as Gupta eventually moved on with Hameshaa and Khauff.
Post Jung and Khauff, Gupta was planning Dostana with Dutt, Fardeen Khan and Shilpa Shetty in the lead roles. Nothing was much speculated about the film and the film didn’t materialise for some reason known best known to Gupta. But it was speculated that unlike Gupta’s last ventures, this was film was more on the brighter side.
Eventually the title was used for his venture with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, but with this venture was being planned to be shot in Chicago/LA entirely. With an ensemble cast of Sanjay Dutt, Arjun Rampal, Fardeen Khan, Aftab Shivdasani and Suniel Shetty, was said to be a remake of Four Brothers (2005) which was about a group of foster brothers avenging the death of the woman who raised them, suspecting she was killed by a dreaded gangster. The film was to be go onto schedule August 2007 but it said the reason behind the film not materialising was the fallout between Dutt and Gupta.
Gupta’s infamous stalled film that was the final blow to his relationship with Dutt. Gupta had planned the project way back in 2007, said to be Gupta’s closest film to his heart as it was based on a life experience of his own and planned it to be a moderate simple budgeted film. Taking a break from action and attempted to experiment with the slice-of-life genre, Gupta had worked on every detail on the film and even had the art director reconstruct the set on the prime location various of times. The film boasted a huge cast of Sanjay Suri, Rohit Roy, Manasi Joshi Roy, Mandira Bedi, Gul Panag, Sameer Soni, Sudhanshu Pandey, Dia Mirza, Tisca Chopra, Parvin Dabbas and Masumeh Makhija. It was said the performances by Suri and Roy really stood out and presented them like never before.
Some personal and finance issue got between both Dutt and Gupta eventually leading the film to be incomplete with Dutt’s exit from the film. Years later, Gupta mentioned it was his ‘responsibility’ as a director to revive the film. He had replaced Dutt with Irrfan Khan and the shoot had resumed. Due to some issue with Eros International, the producers of the film, it was stalled again. As of 2013, no news has been mentioned of the film and we hope Gupta does get back to reviving the film.
Training Day Remake (2007-8)
In 2007, news had come out that Gupta has taken Aftab Shivdasani under his wings by signing him in 3-contract film deal. Aftab at this point had already signed Jazbaa by this point which was looking ahead to shoot for the summer – here Gupta had signed him for the role originally enacted by Denzel Washington in the official Hindi remake of Training Day (2001) to be helmed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and produced by Gupta. Aftab was going through a complete character makeover to suit the role while working on his body as well as tattooing his forearm to get into the character. The last heard about the film was due to some issue with the remake rights, the film didn’t exactly take off from that point onwards.
Khote Sikkey (2007/2014)
Originally was planned and conceived by both Dutt and Gupta in 2006 and was to go on floors. The cast then being Sanjay Dutt, Nana Patekar, Fardeen Khan and Arjun Rampal. It was said to be a film in the similar zone as Kaante, about four Indians pulling off a heist in America. Neither it was to be sequel or a spin-off from Kaante but it was said it was a heist of a different sort from Kaante. Due to the fallout between Dutt and Gupta, it didn’t take off and it was said Dutt was to make the film independently with Sohum Shah. Years after no news on the project, after Shootout at Wadala, Gupta had planned the project with Anil Kapoor, John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan with another few additions in the casting. Since 2014, there has been no news. Gupta has recently mentioned that he hasn’t forgot about the project and plans to revive it soon as he has revisited the script and worked on it for the betterment.
So What’s Next?
Shootout 3: The Gang Wars of Bombay (Expected 2022)
Gupta returns to the Shootout franchise one more time, again, this is based on a true incident that took place in the city of Mumbai just like the other two films of the franchise. The third film is apprenlty based on the Shootout that took place at JJ Hospital in 1992, the shootout marked was the fallout of the murder of Dawood Ibrahim’s brother-in-law Ibrahim Parkar who was gunned down by four Arun Gawli gang members. In a bid to avenge Parkar’s murder, Dawood’s gang attacked the two assailants — Shailesh Haldankar and Bipin Shere when they were admitted to JJ Hospital for treatment. Rajat Arora has been signed to write the film and Ekta Kapoor is on board producing. Currently, Gupta is looking for a younger actor for the main lead and many names have been flying around but no names have been confirmed as of now. Gupta is to start work on the film later this year.
Rakshak – A Hero Amongst Us (Expected 2023)
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Gupta has required the rights to adapt the graphic novel to the big screen. Rakshak is about an ex-Army Marine Commando, Aditya Shergill, on the return to his home being traumatised about his past becomes a vigilante with superpowers. The graphic novel is a superhero based in the grim side of India. This would be Gupta’s first superhero film and already he has signed John Abraham for the leading role. Gupta with Shamik Dasgupta, the original writer of the graphic novel, have already completed the first draft of the film. It seems that the film will take off soon and Gupta has said it will be made on a huge scale as its based in a world never seen.
Krrish 4 (Expected 2024-25)
Rakesh Roshan has apparently given the responsibility to Gupta for the fourth instalment of the Krrish franchise. Gupta was asked about this and he never denied directing the project but sure has agreed to be apart of the writing team. The talk of the town is, due to Rakesh Roshan’s recent battle with cancer he may not be fit enough to carry out a big project so the responsibility has gone to Gupta. Gupta and the Roshans have shared a great rapport in Kaabil; being impressed with his work they feel he the best for the job. The film is said to be mounted on a higher scale than the last three film and will be high on VFX and will be budgeted on a 250 Crore budget. As of now, its too early to talk about as the film is still in scripting stages.
Firstly, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who has been reading, supporting and sharing our articles this year. This year has been a complete platform change-over for Kismat Talkies and we do thank everyone who had made it possible. As for this article, it would have not been possible without two individuals – Mr Rav Kumar who helped in a big way in conceiving, viewing and reviewing the content of this article. Secondly, thanks to Mr Shantanu Prasher for the tremendous help– who again was a big hand with his inputs.
The phenomenal rollercoaster of the year 2020 has undoubtedly been year which for a generation will remember, either for the right or wrong reasons. From a virus outbreak, to a lockdown in most parts of the world, to various controversies and outbreaks etc, you know all what we have seen this year. Our Hindi film industry, right from the beginning of the year has found a complete balance of the graph. No-one in their wildest dreams would have predicted that a virus outbreak will take such a toll on the industry. The entire year has been a huge shift in changes with various notions and movement of change of trade and basic industry practices.
As for the respect of the deceased, some of the last few films of the ones we lost this year will not be discussed in this article. The year we lost such great film personalities like Jagdeep, Rishi Kapoor, Saroj Khan, Irrfan Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Basu Chatterjee, S P Balasubrahmanyam, Wajid Khan, Nishikant Kamat, Asif Basra and our thoughts are with them all.
The article will speak about the earlier quarter of the year, Jan till March we had a decent number of films hitting the cinemas later which due to the pandemic, many announced and many released straight to digital streaming platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime etc . Our take in this article will be on every film released this entire year – speaking financial as well as the content of the failures and success stories of the year 2020.
So strap our seatbelts and take a complete look what we have seen in the year 2020, step by step.
What worked in 2020 & The Box Office Earners
Starting on positive note, we begin with the financial grossers of the year. We all are aware, the closure of cinemas was announced on 13th March 2020 till the reopening of many cinemas on Diwali, so in terms of financially, these are top five grossing films of the year:
Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior (Verdict – Blockbuster)
Other than these five films – no other film made any mark at the box office this year. Tanhaji is the most profitable film this year at the box office by making almost a 100 Crore in profit alone. Baaghi 3 just scratched a profit before going into the closure of cinemas. Except for Tanhaji, Baaghi 3 and Street Dance 3D, the two other films had just broken even. Street Dancer 3D pulled in high numbers but due to the high production cost – it’s still classed as a loss.
It won’t be wrong in saying that the entire year belongs to Ajay Devgan. Devgan had one release in the year and the only film in the year 2020 that actually minted cash for the producers. Despite being a high budgeted film (almost 170 Crore in production) and releasing early January which is usually a lull phase – it racked in numbers from being well promoted, high in content and became a cinema-attraction for Pan India.
Tanhaji was a complete cinema attraction – the large canvas, commercially friendly and the 3D format adding to the spectatorship of the film – and let’s not forget the leads in the film that held the film together. Devgan’s other film, Bhuj: The Pride of India was announced to be released straight on an OTT platform but if what we hear is to be true, Devgan may take the call of giving it a theatrical release as well but only time can tell.
Malang was certainly a success story for this year. At the box office and even benefitted when released on Netflix with the high number in terms of viewership. Malang didn’t have saleability in its initial marketing promotion, going by the cast and Mohit Suri’s last two outings. Prior to its release, trade pundits didn’t expect a lot from this Mohit Suri venture but it impressed as it sold to the weekly moviegoers. The public and members of the media spoke highly of its value of entertainment – which was its point of sale. It even somewhat brought back some saleability to Aditya Roy Kapoor’s name again which the trade had wrote him off around a year ago – hence its verdict, it’s a remains a success story.
On the contrary, despite Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’s verdict at the box office – it is seen as an underachiever. Many expectations were riding on the film – Ayushmann Khurrana’s last few films had done exceptionally well, so the trade had expected a lot more from the film. The film took a decent opening but numbers began to decrease as days followed. The decrease was because of two strong reasons – firstly, the subject of homosexuality did not go well with the family audience, it being blown into a commercial film which is something the public are still finding hard to digest – something which similarly happened last year to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Secondly, the lacklustre screenplay. The second half of the film is where many of the audience members waved goodbye to the cinema hall, not at all holding the attention of the public. The other problem with Shubh Mangal here as well was the increase in scale too – Ayushmann’s last few films being medium budget films, this however was slightly costlier (around 60-65 Crore budget) hence the recovery was harder. It still had broken even for some distributors in certain circuits, but is a forgettable fare.
Baaghi 3 did the numbers and the took the opening but due to the closure of cinemas, its run was minimalised. But the film itself was bashed – by the public and the press. Tiger, we could say was lucky this time around; as the film just about cashed in a profit just before facing the bullet but other than that – the film isn’t anything to be spoken about.
Street Dancer 3D was big on numbers but a dud. The film will be spoke on more in the second section.
What didn’t work in 2020 & The Duds
This section in a smaller context that can define the year 2020 as a wholesome. A huge blow to the industry of course was the closure of cinemas in March, where we saw a huge flow of films being sold to digital streaming platforms, the viewership over the entire year changed from the bigger to the smaller domestic screen. But this year, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the content of films has mostly been meagre. There wasn’t any shortage of bad, terrible and lacklustre films this year. For the betterment of most of these films were placed on digital platforms but that doesn’t mean all on the digital platforms were bad, and neither all that released in cinemas were at all better.
To start with, here are the worst films of the year 2020:
To begin with the year, we had Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak, which was shocking to see such an established director making a lazy attempt of a film especially when the same director was responsible for one of the best films of last decade. Madam Gulzar made a film out of a plot which could have easily been wrapped up in 30 minutes. For the icing on the cake, Deepika’s ways of promoting the film ended up actually going against it all – her involvement with anti-CAA protest led to a political mess and her exploitation of the real-life acid survivor for her PR means went down in bad taste. The promotions activities lead the film to minimal viewership. Many of the media felt Deepika trying to play this ‘character of a fighter’ put her in the wrong direction and fell straight on her face. Her ideal move should have been keeping away from the political agenda to favour the promotion of her film. Her best interest ideally lies in healthier PR and her mind to making better films than Chhapaak.
Possibly not only the one of the worst but even the most unintentional comics of the year – with a script and direction almost non-existent, that award has to go to Remo D’souza’s Street Dancer 3D. A film which isn’t something anyone would take serious as the franchise is of such; but the events in this film are absolutely bizarre. From being a simple dance film, it goes into the strange political agenda of nations, exposes the lives of homeless immigrants in London and just to hurt your eyes even more – we get a sighting of a floor-humping dancer. It had one job to do – and it couldn’t do that properly.
Where we had thought that Imitaz Ali would have learned from his past mistake of completely screwing up a 100 plus crore film with one of the biggest stars in the country – he came to torture us even more. He remakes his 2009 hit film with everything pretty much the same but Mr Ali must have thought, why don’t we just ruin it? The hammy performers, the disengaging screenplay and the ruining of the soundtrack of the original 2009 film – just to make it worse, the main leads deliver possibly their worst performances of their career with an over-the-top Kartik Aaryan and a melodramatic Sara Ali Khan. Imitaz Ali, take the public advice – you may need a self-assessment.
Mahesh Bhatt returned back to direction only to ruin his legacy. A film-less and more of a time machine back to the 90s where birds play saviours and one-handed men were frightening came back to haunt us. Depression-surviving or god-men-fighting, no one had a clue what Sadak 2 was actually about – all one remembers is Dutt breaking his ceiling fan which still could have been a fault of the art director.
But we have to give to Mr Kumar for making us all sit through the experience of Laxmii – this section is incomplete without discussing the torturing experience we had this Diwali. A film that almost ruined Diwali in most households this year. The remake which was supposed to happen several years ago came too late in the day and what we are left with an aged Mr Kumar with Kiara Advani looking like his daughter, becomes possessed by a transgender – with gags not even remotely funny and an unpleasant and total 80s backstory to convince us of the injustice of the spirit. Not only are we unconvinced, we are sat bored and hating ourselves with the idea of why we even bothered to finish the film. The audience is pretty done with this formula of a commercial film, which could have worked in 2011. Outdated yet mundane. Let’s just say – the Burj Khalifa is currently safe.
Just when we thought the year could not get any worse – David Dhawan felt some stones were unturned. The Dhawan family returned to remake the 1995 film Coolie No.1 in 2020 with barely any changes being made – only to make it offensive, sexist, racist and play on sadistic stereotypes. Hammy performances by Varun Dhawan, who earlier mimicked Salman and Govinda, now mimics Mithun, just shows how unfunny and annoying his potentials can be. Coolie No.1 is actually how not to make a 90s film in totality.
Here are a few more honourable mentions of films which we didn’t bother to write about and you shouldn’t bother to watch – because we took the torture in seeing them to warn you!
It’s not all doom and gloom but there have been a handful films this year that have made a certain impact. Despite the big share of bad times, a limited number of them stuck out as being decent fares. Many of these films did not come along with a lot of baggage, which is the best part, but the job of what they came to set out to be.
Two films which did stick out for immensely was Bejoy Nambiar’s Taish and Anurag Basu’s Ludo.
Nambiar’s Taish at first came with this confusion – which should be cleared – is its format of release. Taish was released as a six-part webseries and a feature film, where many asked which format should be seen, well – go for the film. The story is that that studio had cut the film into make into a six-part webseries in which it was never set out to be. Nambiar, the director, fighting for it to be released as a film – somewhere got lost in transition. Many, including myself, confused of which to watch – saw and understood that this was Nambiar’s vision as a full-fledged film going by the flow of the feature and its essence in storytelling. Both formats have different timelines and narratives, so would recommend watching the film to understand the director’s narrative and not the studios. Onto the film, we would have to say is kudos to the director, for making a slick enjoyable thriller and kudos the shining performances of Harshvardhan Rane and Pulkit Samrat. Well casted, well presented and well made.
Similarly, to Taish, another film with this year that was told in a multi narrative is Anurag Basu’s Ludo. The multi narrative territory, in the Hindi film sense, usually doesn’t work and not many directors can get it right. Taish we can say comes more of semi-multi narrative which adds the proportional later – Ludo is a complete multi narrative.
Ludo, this year’s possibly only Diwali release that made some impact in being an enjoyable fare. Anurag Basu designs and packages this venture out so well that it overshines on the factors we have issues with – for example the length and its stretch. Basu is forgiven is many departments thanks to the smooth direction – not only does the film work but so do the performances. Abhishek, Aditya Roy, Fatima Sana all leading in that department. Basu handles the storytelling here in the film correctly – giving each characterisation and story the heaviness it requires to move a film like this forward in totality.
Another underdog this year which did give us a smile this year is Kunal Khemu – after the praise from Malang in the earlier fraction of the year – Khemu won hearts with Lootcase. The fun, down-to-earth and witty comedy about a man’s companion becoming a suitcase of cash becomes this joyful ride. The beauty in Lootcase lies in its subtly – being as basic as it can yet being larger than life in the detail. Lootcase, proves that being on the backbench doesn’t mean it won’t be noticed – the less noise yet strong content is way it won its merits.
The last two films are films that we generally enjoyed watching and felt those films served its purpose – neither being preachy but true in its value of entertaining. Earlier in the year, on seeing Jawani Jaaneman, it came across a decent, entertaining fair which wasn’t nothing to rant on about but for the time of viewing and over the months it had something that expanded in our minds. This breezy, wacky yet mature comedy is one recommended.
Class of 83 will be remembered for Bobby Deol’s actual comeback. His second innings as an actor and made us realise that he suits a certain calibre of roles. The film itself isn’t a bad fare but not a great one but yes, an entertaining one. Lead by a decent cast, this Netflix original is worth a shot.
The ones who shined
The ones who shined this year from the actors are Ajay Devgan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Harshvardhan Rane and Kunal Khemu. Devgan, without doubt as well know carried out the biggest film on his shoulders and a special credit to him for backing a film like Tanhaji as a producer – to envision a project with a director who is one film old, that too on such a lavish scale. The film got of course what is deserved.
Aditya Roy Kapoor, excluding Sadak 2, has impressed with first Malang and then Ludo. Not so long ago, many had written off Aditya Roy an ‘unsaleable and wooden actor’ – his two films this year proved that not only is saleable but moulded himself into a commendable performer too. He has potential, just needs to brush on his script choosing skills and to work with the right makers. Otherwise, we can see him shining better in the near future.
Sad cases when actors do not get the right projects to shine. A small number of people saw Sanam Teri Kasam and Paltan and Harshvardhan Rane’s work in both films was commendable despite being surrounded with seasoned actors. In Taish, Harsh has worked on everything. A new language to him, his body language, the look of Pali etc. A big misconception of the actor this year has been thrown out of the window. The perception of him has now become right – he is star material but shouldn’t fall into the trap of falling prey to his image, just hope he continuously gives us more Palis.
Kunal Khemu, as mentioned earlier has shined with his two performances. Khemu is an actor that possibly we haven’t taken seriously in the past due to a line of duds we have seen from the actor, but as a performer not necessary as a male lead – he is finding his slot of belonging.
Out of the actresses, Fatima Sana Sheikh with both Ludo and Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari has made her presence felt in two roles which were vast apart and different shades. Disha Patani even proved that she can perform and isn’t there on-screen for her image of eye-candy. Her role in Malang, was a statement of saying she is capable of doing for more and better.
Nushrat Bharucha indeed now getting the recognition as an actress, gave a very likeable and devoted performance in Chhalaang, although the film wasn’t highly spoke about but performance did win praise it deserved. Sanya Malhotra, in both Ludo and Shakuntala Devi proved that she is here to stay. Goes to prove that her Dangal co-star isn’t also the talent running the block but, this one too is going to give her the run for her money.
The ones who didn’t shine
The year hasn’t been pleasant for Akshay Kumar – the flak that Laxmii had received was unanimous but it would be wrong to say it has affected Mr Kumar’s creditability. Akshay hasn’t had a dud since 2015 and neither can we say that Laxmii a financial failure of any sort, since it was sold and we wouldn’t possible to see the viewership numbers. Laxmii was blessed in the sense it released straight to a streaming platform. Akshay has bigger projects in the line and a one Laxmii doesn’t make any difference to him.
Varun Dhawan doesn’t exactly have the best choice in choosing films and this year we saw it evidently with Street Dancer 3D and Coolie No.1. Street Dancer 3D is a blow to him and apparently, Varun hasn’t been taking it well. Since the bombing of Street Dancer 3D – Varun had publicly announced he wasn’t exactly impressed of the outcome and he will be careful in the future. Varun had dropped out of Dharma’s Mr Lele over scripting issues; even rejected a script from Yashraj over the same. Seems Varun is now taking his steps a little more carefully. Varun may need to step away from his father’s remakes of his own films as he can do better. In these films he coming out as looking extremely hammy and annoying.
Ayushmann Khurana’s Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan was a complete disappointment. Possible playing his cards safe with the similar comfortable successful formula that Khurana is taking, maybe this time around he felt it would be the same. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan actual failure lies in its screenplay – the second half of the film seemed that neither the writer or director knew where the film was going. Khurana has a number of projects on his hand and has established his brand, he just needs to be more diverse. He needs to mix up his game with doing a Andhadhun or an Article 15 at times too.
Alia Bhatt this year fell prey to her father’s poor directorial comeback – which actually made her stick out like a sore thumb. In all fairness, Sadak 2 was a film where everyone seemed bad and out of place. But the flak Alia had got over the nepotism debate too had left her cornered, which isn’t exactly reasonable. She will bounce back.
Deepika Padukone, as spoke about earlier, needs to be doing better films if she is going solo. If her contemporaries Kangana, Priyanka or even Taapsee are doing solo and doing better films – both solo and in leads, that too quicker and more of them in numbers – she may need to go to the drawing board and analyse what is going wrong.
What to expect for the future?
We can say that the big feature film heading to the cinema will take some time and for cinemas to head back to normality is uncertain as of yet. Firstly, the on-going pandemic has the fear of the audience to head to the cinema and the financial situation of most people in parts of the country is bad, where some are even struggling for food – cinema will be their last option.
Producers and distributors are in fear of a second lockdown, hence many of the so-called big budget films have been placed on hold. If reports are true, then roughly 50-55 films are ready completed to be released, many of them wanting theatrical releases but sadly, most are scared that cinemas will head for a closure again. Secondly, many producers are in negotiations with cinema chains and distributors around the country to find a favourable deal for both sides.
Since the opening of cinemas this Diwali just gone, with the occupancy being capped at either 30% or 50%, some cinema owners and distributors are finding it hard to break even. With the recent Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari and Indoo Ki Jawani haven’t exactly scrapped any profits in cinemas, but because the producers had secured their films by selling the digital rights prior to the theatrical release, they were in a safe zone.
Its beyond our understanding how many colleagues from the trade had taken a predictivity test for some of the films that had released on digital platforms. How could one predict that a Laxmii or a Dil Bechara would have worked or not worked in cinemas during this pandemic? Predicting it would have grossed 80 Crore etc is beyond means. For starters, we wouldn’t even know the number of screens these films would have reached and in which specific area would have been accessible for the audience to reach the cinemas? The truth is there are many aspects apart from the stardom or content of these films.
So where does this leave the films being released in the new year? We can see films being released on digital platforms and cinemas or even a simultaneous release. The simultaneous release will give people the option of paying for the film online or go the cinemas. Similarly, in Hollywood for their Christmas release had something similar with Wonder Woman 1984, where it was released on HBO Max and had a selected theatrical release. Our studios in India are already in talks with doing this similar strategy with some of the big releases in the coming year.
In trade talks, barring YRF’s Pathan which has been announced for Diwali 2021, most of the bigger league actors have not announced any major film so far. Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan have announced Ram Setu, Atrangi Re etc and Devgan announcing MayDay. From the trade its heard that these films are medium budget films and possibly the stars would want to concentrate on them before even considering the bigger budget event films for this coming year, as the smaller scale films may be a safer option for now.
Salman Khan’s Radhe which was supposed to release May 2020, has now shifted to Eid 2021. Sooryavanshi and ’83 and a few more of these competed films were at some point in talks about a straight to digital release but there hasn’t been any talk of it since. The fate of some of these films are unknown.
As of now, nothing can said about what the coming year holds but we can say there were some smaller films which were waiting for a theatrical have decided to go on the digital side. There are some filmmakers like Bhansali, Ali Abbas Zafar, Raj & DK, Shoojit Sircar have decided to either produce or direct films for Netflix or Amazon Prime in the coming year. So till then we can only wait and see.
On this auspicious occasion of Halloween, wishing everyone a very happy, safe, cheerful Halloween and keeping your horrors specifically at home. The genre of horror in Hindi cinema on most occasions has frequently been risen from the ‘dead’, it’s a genre that almost has almost has or hasn’t been existent over the years. Defining the idea of horror – going back to our dictionary definition is the ‘an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust’ but similarly the idea of ‘the happening of an unnatural cause or the paranormal’.
The idea of ‘horror’ in itself has a vast definition, in the world of cinema, binds over from a feel to a gaze. In Hindi Cinema, usually we get drawn to a certain emotion, the idea of ‘scare’ comes with the notion moving people in their seats – but also the horror also implies the unnatural – something that is at an uneased point for the spectator. For example, Raj Khosla’s Mera Saaya is a film that toys with the idea of the unnatural in its narrative, death and the unknown later being explained in the latter as a point of turning. The level of spectatorship is visible when the deed is done in which makes the totality of the film.
Visibility and shock, a spectator’s therapy in which Hitchcock once said “I just bring a complication of happenings to the viewers, once edited, in a way that only they would jump, because they won’t see it coming, and the value of entertainment simply lies there”
Its hard to place the genre, the idea of a ghost come into play with the genre or does a shock therapy have to contemplate with the viewer? The Hindi film Horror genre is built on certain on certain aspects right from its inception, how it worked or how it didn’t as a genre but certainly what it spoke about.
The Haveli, The Rich and the Mysterious Girl
Post-independent India, now gathering its clutch of its content for filmmakers in Bombay – it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the makers at the time who were already in such guidance of certainty, now were not under-influence of filmmaking but at the same time a sense of independence became a school of thought.
The genre of horror established with Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal, the first to bring genre and of the rich ‘zameedar’ or proprietor and the Mysterious girl. Ashok Kumar’s character, an outsider with disbelief – purchases a huge bungalow later knowing it is possessed by a restless spirit. Mahal had very many of firsts. Ashok Kumar’s first film as producer, Madhubala’s first film an actress, Kamal Amrohi’s first film as director, Lata Mangeshkar’s first playback and first Hindi Horror film. The film worked for every making Madhubala an overnight star and Ashok Kumar career gaining a new lease of life. Mahal had influenced many filmmakers over the years, including Amrohi’s fellow colleagues like Bimal Roy and Raj Khosla who later took acid tests into the genre.
Amrohi’s approach to the genre was less consistent on scares but had a strong essence of romance, reincarnation and the longing of history of separated lovers. Without giving too much away, Amrohi didn’t concentrate on the idea of ghosts and ghouls or any of the western horrors had placed in their films – his idea was more of the scare of loss. Ashok Kumar and Madhubala’s grieve over what has been lost while one of them is on the verge of losing everything. Amrohi’s film still so many years later holds the audience member still today in knowing how the film unfolds.
As one could see a sense repeat in the genre which later continued – and the similar stance appeared also in Madhumati (1958) and Woh Kaun Thi (1964).
Many are unaware but this Bimal Roy gem was almost on the verge of never being released. It happened that Bimal Roy had shot most of the film outdoors, most films due to technicality and budgeting purposes were shot in studios with sets created. Roy had shot most of the film on real locations only later to notice the ‘fog’ included in most shots made most of the actors unrecognisable meaning he had to take the entire film to a studio in order to reshoot the entire portion. Dilip Kumar and his influence with distributors at the time helped Bimal Roy with his financial difficulty in completing the film.
Madhumati was a film that was always known for its ‘scare factor’ and it was remembered as being the earliest film for the generation to scare people in the audience which wasn’t common for the Indian audience. Dealing with similar scenarios as the other horror films at the time, Madhumati worked more as film in the totality. Great writing, melodious music, the smooth screenplay and of course the towering performances by Dilip Kumar, Vyjantimala and Pran. Madhumati became a benchmark film where in the future had influenced several other filmmakers as it stood as a towering example when it came to the topic of reincarnation.
Bees Saal Baad (1962)
During the period when colour films were becoming common, Biren Nag, even though had the choice of making his film in colour with the support of his producer Hemant Kumar – Nag felt he wanted to go with idea of Black/White as he felt the essence and the gothic feel to the film will be enhanced better. Bees Saal Baad is loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle ‘s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and some even have touted to be another Mahal, as the film deals with a similar premise of the Haveli and the mysterious girl. Bees Saal Baad deals with an ancestral curse and how members in the family were murdered by a demeaning spirit, now the newer generation member (played by Biswajeet) is out to defeat the curse and get to the bottom of the mystery.
Many film historians over the years have also argued that the film deals with the politics of the thakurs and the village peasants at a ‘reversal’ take on oppression. Again, the haveli and its symbolic meaning of how its draw is towards the rich, how Biswajeet’s character is attracted to the haveli because of its stance but the blood history of his forefathers now will have to be paid by generation next. Bees Saal Baad worked wonders at the box office at the time and still remembered for its music and performances by the lead pair.
Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
Raj Khosla had given an entire trilogy with the theme of the mysterious girl and Sadhana being the central character. After the heats won with Woh Kaun Thi, later moved to Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967). The high-octane value in Khosla’s thrillers was the audience believing the existence of the central character being non-existent, or possible living in the supernatural world. Many argue, that neither these films do come under the horror genre but Woh Kaun Thi, personally I would feel does.
During the film once the things have begun to be explained during the build-up, there are some unexplained moments in the film. Khosla had purposely let this be in order for the audience members to have their own interpretation on the on-goings in the film, several people over the years have had their own interpretation of the film’s as a whole but Manoj Kumar was also the writer, had a contrasting opinion to Khosla’s vision – hence how many see the film can be seen from either Khosla’s or Kumar’s direction.
The repeated themes of the similar bungalow/haveli, the Mysterious girl and the tense of occasionally the protagonist to be rich – or even the city living educated man who came with disbelief in such happening often wondered why such characters and themes were repeated – or was a certain mould set by Amrohi that many didn’t want to risk outside? Maybe. But scholar Aditi Sen, of Queen’s University mentioned “Key elements in the films such as oppression was the fear that lived in the mind of post-colonial Indian, first the British had conquered society and oppressed women for years – now the rich were the British Raj supporters. The British leaving behind assets and the school of thought to these high-held stature men”
Sen’s argument was the idea of fear and why ‘a bungalow and the rich’ became crucial plot points for these films as they played represented what fear meant to the general public at the time – Sen later goes to argue that the ‘ghosts’ of the pasts in films someway spoke of the filmmakers, their past trauma and observance of the future.
The Ramsay Tantrik
In later years the genre had shifted, very few makers had become interested in the genre till along came the Ramsay brothers. The Ramsay’s horror so-called genre where we often began to refer to them as ‘Ramsay ka horror’ or ‘Ramsay ki film’ became an established ‘McDonalds-like’ factory of producing horror films in a certain format. The Ramsay production house was established by seven brothers. Tulsi Ramsay (eldest), Shyam Ramsay, Gangu Ramsay, Kumar Ramsay, Keshu Ramsay, Kiran Ramsay and Arjun Ramsay. The brothers worked together for most of their careers and divided the various departments of filmmaking amongst them to produce movies, each Ramsay majored in a particular department either it being scripting, directing, edited etc. The Ramsey’s took their first toll with Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neech (1971), despite having little experience in production – the Ramsay’s had worked on their films with two strategies – shoe-string budgets and smart efficient promotion.
Their films were shot with a production crew of 15-20 people (most of which were the Ramsay brothers or their associates) which kept the budgets low and schedules on time. On release, The Ramsays would come up with promotion innovations together as a team, innovations such as promoting their film on midnight Radio shows to create curiosity for their new release.
Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche (1972)
The seven Ramsay brothers had come together, casted not-so-known actors and restricted themselves on the budget in order for this film to happen. In order for the film to happen, they had a small crew, everyone stayed in a government guesthouse and didn’t create any sets. The budget was close to a 3.5 lakhs, which at the time wasn’t close to the standard film production budget.
All seven brothers worked hard at the film’s promotion and on release the film made a whopping 45 lakhs at the box office. This formula after taking the gamble, worked for years as it became the ‘Ramsay Formula’, tight budgets, real locations and less-known stars made the formula work. Do Gaz.. during the time of release had scared many actors and filmmakers who were then children, later it becoming a cult. Do Gaz… was also the first Hindi film to use the creature format in the horror genre, similarly gore and violence, becoming the graphic-kind of horror film.
Right till the 80s when the cinema market had crashed due to VHS piracy, most of the bigger producers were struggling with their productions with no distributors paying money for their films. The industry struggled and most of the producers attempted at cheaper resorts to complete their productions by shifting their locations to Madras and Hyderabad. Already mastering in this formula, The Ramsay’s took their films to Khandala, Alibaug and Mahabaleshwar (all which come under the Maharashtra state- so the travelling was limited) were they found their ‘havelis’ and ‘veeranas’ and to shoot these locations was cost effective.
Purana Mandir (1984)
Purana Mandir had brought some charm back to the cinemas during the lull phase – in fact, it got the audience coming back to the cinemas. Despite their earlier releases, Purana Mandir was a trend setter not only for the Ramsay brothers but even for an industry entirely. Purana Mandir made makers realise that stars, huge productions and lavish promotions are not required in order for a success, but by making even smaller niche products can bring cheer too.
The film made with lesser-known stars at the time, with then relatively new Mohnish Bahl and Puneet Issar – the Ramsay had found their star in Anirudh Agarwal. The tall, deep voice actor known for his intimidating looks had scared an entire nation, where many believed he was their ‘man-in-a-costume’ bur actually a man who looked this way naturally. The Ramsays had again used the same Haveli, Anirudh Agarwal and several other repeated factors in their other films such as Saamri (1985) , Tahkhana (1986), Veerana (1988), Purani Haveli (1989) etc, it was successful formula that worked for years coming.
The basic premise behind these Ramsay films was generally basing the film around a bunch of teenagers, skin-show and the antagonist being a creature or an unstoppable force – leading from the central character’s disbelief in the supernatural to belief with a touch of Hindu mythology as the source of salvation. As years went by, The Ramsay factory began to fall in content and the films no longer found a major crowd in cinemas – so they Ramsay took their format to Television.
The rise of satellite in the early 90s, where most homes were beginning to get multiple channels (after Doordarshan being the prime channel) around the country. Television Networks began to grow and started to invest more into content, more content in channels meant the bigger platform for already-established mainstream filmmakers. Zee TV and Sony TV battling at long heads, where Zee had invested to their first major TV production independently with Zee Horror Show (1993). The Ramsay’s format benefited for the network, low productions costs and high footfalls became the new rage for the television scene – which meant now Horror in India had found its new home.
The Influenced Scare Remake
Remaking foreign films in Hindi cinema had been going around for years and eventually became exposed to the Indian viewer when Hollywood films were getting minimal releases in India in the 1970s. But horror films barely were remade until Ravikant Nagaich’s Jadu Tona (1977) and Desai-Raje’s Gehrayee (1980)
This film isn’t often spoken about, or usually mentioned when the greater horror films are concerned but there is a reason why it makes it to this section. Gehrayee was a film that someway broke away from the commercial format of a horror film, it belonged to a section of then called ‘Parallel/new wave cinema’. Gehrayee was made in the ‘art cinema formula’ and even broke away from many stereotypes that often Hindi filmmakers tend to have repeated in the horror genre.
Gehrayee was also the first film that brought forward the horror format that was based on the nuclear family in modernised India. The developing country and the effects of globalisation was evidently present in this Desai-Raje presentation. Despite Jadu Tona (1977) being released a few years ago, Gehrayee was in a sense the ‘beginning of Hindi cinema’s fascination towards William Friedkin’s The Exorcist’. The Exorcist in various different ways and forms has been remade in India, Gehrayee marked the remake that was new to a looming audience, the theme of unawareness in the new global age was established here which was replicated from many other filmmakers later.
As the exposure of the VHS market became more common for the average-ticket buying Joe, the commoner became more exposed to the cinema abroad. As Lalitha Gopalan mentioned, “India now at an ease of technology they drew towards the pioneering VHS. The male gaze on first becoming drawn to uncensorship, later becoming exposed on an entirely different world of cinema – techniques, genres and a newer gaze”.
The VHS even exposed a new wave of filmmakers being influenced by Hollywood’s way of filmmaking – the horror genre was such that drew a few hand-picked directors who perused their influence in horror. Some makers like the Bhatts, Ramsays (of course – still in pursuit), Sippy, D’souza and a few more. Ramsay’s few films began to sank, their pending projects were placed on hold, till Zee had financed their vision through television – to fill in the void were directors remaking Hollywood horror flicks in Hindi. This trend began with Junoon (1992), then followed by Mahakaal (1994) and Papi Gudia (1996), taking basic plot and the scare factor and giving it a ‘Indianised’ makeover.
The desi-versions of these films were formatted to make them digestible for the Indian public, for example Junoon had been adapted to tell the tale of an ‘Ichadari Sher’ rather than a cursed Werewolf from the original An American Werewolf in London (1981). As in Papi Gudia, in the original Child’s Play (1988) the protagonist is a mother of the child, in our Indian remake the character is changed to the sister of the child – this change of course was done for maintaining the commercial viability of the film.
Sen, even argued on gender roles “The mainstream hero always saves the day. The female protagonist no matter how strong morally will always need the strength support of the hero when commercial action is applied. The female character is always naïve, vulnerable in such situations”, Sen’s argument applies with how Karisma Kapoor’s character in Papi Gudia in contrast to Catherine Hicks’ character had to be changed – in which placed forward the character of Avinash Wadhawan instead. On adapting these films had to be commercially viable, where Indian films tend to focus on the male protagonist has to be the definitive ‘hero’ in order to gain acceptance from the Indian public. Either way – Junoon and Papi Gudia failed to make any impact with the audience.
The RGV Reinvention
Ram Gopal Varma, debuted into the Hindi film industry with his film Shiva (1990), after it becoming a game-changer down in the south, RGV remade his film and won the applause of the movie-goers in the Hindi cinema region. RGV was a director with no filmmaking experience, in fact he learnt filmmaking simply from watching films from the VHS library he owned in Hyderabad (again, applying to the idea the influence of the VHS). After making Shiva, RGV decided to make his first-complete Hindi film with Raat (1992).
The year 1992 was a complete turn-around for the genre, with both Raat and Junoon releasing in the same year, both had brought back the genre in contrast to the prior films and new in style. Raat followed a basic narrative, in totality, but it was what RGV had explored with that made Raat work. Raat about was the nuclear family battling with the unknown – it still had the young, pop-culture following characters, it still had a tantric, in fact it won’t be wrong to say Raat bared resemblances to Desai-Raje’s Gehrayee (1980) so what made Raat work as film? It was RGV’s way playing with technique, the sound – the silence to the background score and his use of scares – just like in the Cinema scene. RGV brought a new dimension to the genre of Horror, he didn’t use anything muddled and that seemed cheap. His budgets were not far off to the Ramsay productions, it was his sense using the smallest moments in the right value.
In technical aspects, many comparisons can be made to RGV’s last outing Shiva (1989), in terms of the use of the camera, sound, visual and the frequent use of dark colours made Raat a rage for the viewers at the time making it’s a new horror experience visually. After Shiva was termed a success, RGV demanded some fellow producers that his next film would first be a cinema release worldwide – the VHS held to a release at a later date – these conditions were kept before production and many producers had dodged the question, but it was Boney Kapoor, who at the point had signed RGV for two films to make simultaneously (Drohi had released at the end of the year) and the results had impressed.
After changing his genres at every next venture, RGV returned to horror with Kaun? (1999)
Its been debated over the years that Kaun is touted as a physiological thriller – but you cannot ignore the supernatural elements in the film – especially the ending. Only RGV could pull off and make something as convincing as Kaun?, where the entire film is based in one house with only three characters apart of the narrative – that too songless in 90 minutes. Kaun?, like many, even myself, have seen the film as very peculiar. Film Historians over the years since its release have argued, and for those who have seen it many times, that many mysterious elements that take place which are still unanswered – who in the end was Malhotra, who was Urmila’s character?
Anurag Kashyap in the original screenplay wanted to expand on certain elements – for example, in the original after climax before the end credits roll, there was a brief explanation about the on-going events of the film and even threw some light onto Urmila’s character. These were edited just a little before the release. Also, as the credits roll, a voice over of a newscaster was placed explaining the fold of the events in the climax and the police have found etc (without giving too much information). RGV removed both of these touches feeling he wanted the audience to leave the cinemas with tons of questions and live with the mystery – till they could. Hence, why many have argued that RGV and Kashyap’s versions were both different in some way – Kaun? still for many is left as an open book.
Later RGV had made Bhoot (2003), which followed the opening of his ‘then’ production house ‘RGV Factory’ which he produced several horror films with newer or less known directors including Darna Mana Hai (2003) – which started a franchise of telling short horror stories in 2-hour narrative with an ensemble cast, the franchise continued with Darna Zaroori Hai (2006).
Journalist Kush Varia once mentioned in their journals “RGV is a director who introduced the idea of ‘jumping out your seat and hiding behind your sofa’ to Indian cinema. A filmmaker who moves in the shock value department of in-expectancy and films like Kaun? – will move you physiologically. His notion of understanding how to move the audience member is sheer brilliance and its sad to see such a filmmaker losing his grasp”. RGV’s Factory took a hit with many his films not working as a producer making him closing and returning back to the director’s seat.
How Raaz Revived the Dying Genre
In the 90s, the flag-barrier for the horror genre, by far means was RGV, in terms of acceptance and woos at the box office. From Raat till Kaun?, horror had become almost non-existent in the Indian market – most of the market had been ruled by the NRI entertaining genres and horror found its life on television.
It was till the genre was revived by the Bhatts with – arguably the most surprising package in terms of success ever came in the form of Raaz (2002).
Before Raaz was materialised, the Bhatts didn’t really have any strong intentions of stepping into the horror genre. Mahesh Bhatt’s last horror film, Junoon, despite getting mixed feedback and had a draw for the audience in the cinemas, Mahesh Bhatt saw the film as a ‘technical mess’. He mentioned that without the right technique their company (Vishesh Films) wouldn’t be any different to the Ramsay horror films – when they trying to create a niche for themselves. Raaz actually had happened when Kasoor (2001) had worked. A young Vikram Bhatt then, prior a year before Raaz had given the Bhatt camp a success with Kasoor, in which the Bhatts having strong faith in Vikram backed his second venture.
Like Kasoor, Raaz was similarly mounted. Lesser-known actors with the melodious music of Nadeem-Shravan but this time production wise they decided to keep the scale a little lower and not commit the unnecessary over-budgeting in Switzerland for the song locations – but to take the entire production to a closer nearby location – Ooty. Many were still under the impression before release that Raaz was another Vishesh films thriller. Bhatt’s feared that if the film has been promoted as a horror – it wouldn’t find takers as already some particular stars had rejected the film feeling ‘horror films don’t work’. But the success of Raaz had changed all of that. Raaz changed many myths and perspectives in the industry overnight.
Raaz on release, set the box office on fire roaring for weeks at a non-stop pace, the February release remained in cinemas till the summer in the year 2002. Raaz’s numbers in the year 2002 were shocking for the industry, leaving behind the some of the most anticipated films of the year, including Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002). Raaz went on to become, what the trade analysts at the time called ‘the most profitable and highest grosser of the year’ making almost 400% in profits alone at the box office, it got the tag of the ‘the new-age blockbuster’. But what made Raaz really work? The content, the subtly, the vibe or the appeal? Well it did all that. It was a point of turn for Hindi cinema when the audience were opening their arms, especially the younger crowd, to the newer content.
At the time, trade analyst Taran Adarsh mentioned “Its technique but not technical. Its fresh but not new. Its entertaining but not pathbreaking.” and Komal Nahta mentioned “Raaz’s true win was winning when the race track was clear – no competition, no opposition. While the others are making the same old mediocre stuff, Raaz is winning at the box office for its freshness”. Many in the press had argued that Raaz actually did well because of its melodious music, as Vilas Roy mentioned “The music was the main draw for the public, the music sales were high, Tips were backing the film and the songs were everywhere at the time. As it was early during the year, there wasn’t any major releases so Raaz took the benefit. Winning music and the genre horror just worked hand-in-hand together”
Regardless of the reason, Raaz resurrected the genre back to Hindi cinema making everyone realise that it has a market and people would especially go to the cinema to see it – it marked that horror if made right would ring the cash registers. RGV’s Bhoot which followed the year later also benefited from the trend of horror.
RGV had spoken at the time expressing his surprise how one film – like Raaz – would become such a rage that an industry would throw themselves at a genre. At the time of making Raat, he said he found it difficult in convincing producers about what his film was about – as many producers wanted a bigger star than Revathy – or to simply picturise songs of Revathy, but he didn’t compromise. RGV got a big producer when it came to Bhoot (Nitin Manmohan was a well-established producer at the time) and got the cast members he had on his wish list. RGV mentioned “I am just surprised that how stars all of a sudden have changed their perception towards the genre so quickly. Not only are my leads stars but even my supporting cast are stars and are willing to share the screen-space regardless of their role length.”
Bhoot became a commercial success and ran in the cinema for weeks, it was the first time an ensemble cast had got together for a horror film. RGV after the success had mentioned that actually Bhoot is ‘Raat with the modern-day married couple’, he explained how basically took Raat and remade or even reworked it into a modernised tale in metropolitan Mumbai. He said “In Raat, it was a family living in a bungalow. I felt, I had to scare people by connecting to them on a ground level in today’s age. The common person in Mumbai lives in a flat or an apartment, in which their fears are everything in that small space – the height, Claustrophobia or the fear of anybody trespassing into your building. These are the today’s fears we have in our homes in this city.”
What followed was a streak of Horror films down the line with Darna Mana Hai (2003), Hawa (2003), Vaastu Shastra (2004), Hum Kaun Hai? (2004), Krishna Cottage (2004), Rakht (2004), Kaal (2005), Naina (2005) and the list goes on.
What Raaz did was that it established a market and formed an audience which is still present today – the cinema going experience of a horror film. Filmmakers now like Vikram Bhatt, Bhushan Patel etc are still playing the genre according to how the audience evolves. In 2012, the third instalment to the Raaz series went 3D – third dimension and it worked big. The incorporation of technology now is important for the storyteller for their horror venture in order for it to be a seller. Horror for now, is a genre here to stay – being new premise or franchise it does have a hold of an audience who pay to see it.
The Post-New Age Horror Film
Over years of repetition, the format which had been set by Raaz many years ago – was still consistent. Vikram Bhatt and RGV had carried out many horrors films like a Raaz, with lesser-known actors younger and battling an evil or a Bhoot, based on the nuclear family who had been possessed by supernatural force. Every film began to look like another Raaz or a Bhoot, it was either based on a couple or a family – and this continued for years to come. The only thing that may had changed was technology – with better VFX or changing the dimension and then lead to sequels, franchise etc of the same premise.
But the audience were looking for horror – just for the form to change.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007)
Thought despite the flow of horror films being regular every year –Bhool Bhulaiya became prominent for being the first wholesome comedy-horror film. Comedy has been an element in horror films previously which would have segment off-track from the narrative – but that comedy was done for the relief and was a commercial purpose strategy that was used in most mainstream films. Comedy in horrors films earlier were an ingredient to the potboiler – similarly how songs were apart of it. This was formula usually used in the so-called ‘masala’ films as a sense jumping from highlight to another to keep the entertainment value high.
Priyadarshan, already accepted for his versatility in the Hindi circuit, got the idea of remaking Manichitrathazhu (1993), the Malayalam cult in where Priyadarshan was the second unit director – where he knew the film already in and out. The teaming of Priyadarshan – Akshay Kumar had already given a couple of hits in the comedy genre – so generally people would come thinking Bhool Bhulaiya was an out-and-out comedy. Its surprised many of how balanced Priyadarshan had kept the comic elements and the jumps and scares, which many ways could have gone wrong. The audience accepted Bhool Bhulaiyaa with open arms, the critics praised the film – especially the final 30 minutes in which the mystery unravels where we Vidya Balan’s character take form. – Bhool Bhulaiyaa opened a new gate for a market, where over the years it was toyed with commercially and some of even become event release blockbusters.
Tumbbad was a film that released with no anticipation. The film had been in the making for almost 6 years prior to its release as director, Rahi Anil Barve, who had been working on the script since 1997 was never satisfied hence he continuously kept on returning to the board. Several issues such as over-budgeting got in the way of the release until the film met the eyes of Anand L Rai, who decided to back the already completed project.
On release, Tumbbad was a film that picked up over weeks in the cinema because of the word-of-mouth- gaining it attention and appreciation. The reason why Tumbbad had completely changed the game of the genre was the intelligent, artistic form behind it. A film that spoke about religion, mythology – presenting fact with fiction in an imitational world making the audience question if the myth, characters are real. Tumbbad dealt with the lengths of greed in an original style – how greed became the point of destruction of a legacy.
It won’t be wrong to say that Tumbbad has set a new benchmark for the genre – originality, imagination and a ‘new world creation’ have become a new precative to an entire new zone of horror. Tumbbad is a set example of being a cinematic experience but lasting on the idea of novelty – the carry-out on the forthcoming with be an interest to see how they live on the triumph.
First, as this article marks the 2nd Birthday of Kismat Talkies, I would like to thank everyone individually for the support, encouragement and love given to this portal. To everyone who had made this portal a success, a huge big thank you from Kismat Talkies!
I particularly had chosen this topic as it’s a rarely conversed topic and usually seen as a grey area on the discussion of remakes. Filmmakers of Hindi cinema for years have either lifted, borrowed or been inspired from various foreign language films especially from Hollywood, the complete ‘lift-ment’ of Hindi films from Hollywood cinema in conversed is usually in a embarrassed tenor. Remakes are super-verse when pitched to originality – it’s the idea of plagiarism that implements a sense of stigma on certain films. Plagiarism is the devil’s source of success – neither hard work or creativity contributed into implementing the product as your ‘own’.
This isn’t the case with some particular handful-few films. There have been exceptional cases in which the creators of the remake have completely foreseen a different product from the base root, some which have done well and some may even still be seen in the light of a plagiarist manner.
Every Film Industry in the world has its fair share of bad films – like so, Hollywood been the running giant, the audience tend to look over its fair share. There have been many films made in Hollywood that did not find an audience or possibly the filmmakers have made the film in the wrong industry. For example, in 2014 Lionsgate had approached Dharma Productions giving them the remake rights of their film Warrior (2011). Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate said “We felt the film had a life but not an audience. Despite the appreciation , no one showed up at the theatres. When toying with the idea on make the film again our eyes went straight to Bollywood – that’s when we got the ball rolling”. Brothers (2015) released and didn’t exactly become a profitable venture but according to Lionsgate it had triple the amount of sets of eyes in theatres than Warrior (2011).
The idea that we barely speak about remakes especially the ones that were remade from Hollywood – as many easily judge the Indian filmmaker as an effortless and bad plagiarist – it would be wrong to place all of them in the same frame and to say that there is definitely is a whole window of creators who knew the craft of remaking. Remaking too an art which requires a skilful set of strokes.
Hollywood in the 80s and 90s, had made many easy cash-ins for the VHS period which did not do well which were ridiculed by the audience and critics. Some of these films were picked up by India and some in a sense were corrected and suited the taste of the Indian spectator – most from that era are spoke on in this article. This article explores such films that were either better than the original or somewhat special in its own blossom, either way, these films were remakes that were definitely done right.
For this article, I have to give a big thanks to two people in particular. First, Miss Saxena, the mind behind the final section of this article – indeed was a great way of articulating the opposing of the main body. Thank you! Also, Panks Badal for the new logo of Kismat Talkies launched with this article. Thank you for the time and effort in making it happen.
Aitbaar (1985) – Remake of Dial M For Murder (1954)
Firstly, would want to start the article with this film in particular. With all fairness and respect to Hitchcock as a filmmaker – no denying his film Dial M is decent fare but isn’t as remembered as his other greater films. My issue with Dial M has always been that it never had the potential impact as a Vertigo or a Rare Window. The subtle yet high on substance thrillers that entertained and didn’t let one fiddle in their seat – somehow Dial M lacked that for me personally. Dial M for me has its issues, firstly I could not never place its genre, it was neither a thriller, drama or a whodunnit but it felt more-like a daytime MGM watch. The characters in Dial M too did feel little off edge – was it because Hitchcock had not used any of his seasoned actors like James Stewart or Sean Connery? Maybe. But a director like Mukul Anand must have one day felt that maybe Hitchcock may have missed the bus on this one? No doubt Dial M had won hearts at the time and even influenced many directors down the years, but was Anand’s vision a betterment of the Hitchcock’s thriller?
Aitbaar not only had implemented the mood right but almost corrected what should have been made to the original. Dial M ‘s plot was about a man trying to murder his wife – in the original, neither any character seems negative, neither is it edgy and there isn’t really a murder that takes place. Mukul Anand’s version made a gritty atmospheric thriller, with his central character Jaideep, the evil protagonist in which the spectator convincingly supports his vision throughout – the first sign of Anand’s direction and characterisation. The character of Tony Wendice was no Jaideep, the conniving husband that Hitchcock seemed to wanted to portray but Babbar’s portrayal of Jaideep was absolutely substantial. Everything was evil about Jaideep’s character and even the end (not giving out spoilers) is a betterment of the original ending in which gave the underline message which Hitchcock somehow failed to highlight – the ending in Dial M is somewhat laughable. Mukul Anand took the blueprint of Hitchcock’s original and painted, polished and finishing it with a new frame.
Agni Sakshi (1996) Remake of Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)
To start with, straight after the release of Sleeping with.. three filmmakers from the Hindi film industry got into production in unofficially remaking the film. Yaarana (1995) and Daraar (1996) were released around the same time as Agni Sakshi and other than Agni Sakshi both of the other two films had bombed at the box office. Sleeping with… itself had bombed at the American box office at the time of release and was labelled by the critics as ‘the worse film of the year’ even entering the raspberry awards.
Agni Sakshi spins the original screenplay to an aspect of 180 degrees in the narrative. The film opens with protagonist who marries a rich established man – then being stalked by peculiar person on their honeymoon who claims that she is his wife. The narrative pushes the audience into a suspense on wondering if the antagonist is the righteous or a victim of mistaken identity making their audience feel uneased. Partho Ghosh’s (rumoured that Nana Patekar had ghost-directed some portions) direction was the strongest force behind Agni Sakshi working as a film – Ghosh arguably made his best film with Agni Sakshi. The force behind the narrative and the characterisation in moving the film forward made it a winner, it was true example of replanting a bad seed.
Darr (1993) Remake of Dead Calm (1989)
Okay, we cannot say Darr is an entire remake of Dead Calm but you certainly know the makers had taken the germ of Darr from Dead Calm. A piece of trivia, Darr was conceived by Hrithik Roshan and Uday Chopra when they were children after seeing Dead Calm one night on a VHS and wrote this entire kiddy script about an obsessed lover which leads to the climax on a boat. Yash Chopra, for some reason drew towards this script and discussed the idea with his then assistant Naresh Malhotra (Yash Raj at the time were venturing more into production with newer directors) but as Darr grew as a script, Yash Chopra became inclined to direct it himself.
There is no doubt when watching the finale of Darr one is reminded of Dead Calm, and one cannot run away from the idea of Darr when watching Dead Calm. In-fact, the entire film of Dead Calm is actually squeezed into the last 30 minutes or less of Darr which somewhat make you feel how empty of a film Dead Calm is. Dead Calm is a film that isn’t at all remembered, not even by Nicole Kidman – but Yash Chopra took the source and inspiration of Dead Calm and made a memorial film and a character out of Rahul Malhotra – neither one needs to say more.
Mohra (1994) Remake of Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
We all Hindi film watchers are aware that Mohra is a film that has gone done in recent years when action films are mentioned. But hardly anyone remembers, and that too for the right reasons, that the film was remake of very bad C-Grade action packed Death Wish 4. The Death Wish series which starred an aging Charles Bronson was a successful franchise when began in 1974, where the first film won hearts at the box office. In fact, the original Death Wish was remade in Hindi as Aaj Ki Awaaz (1984).
The franchise became a quick and easy VHS cash in by the mid-80s where the production got cheaper and the direction of these films got weaker. Shabbir Boxwala, an associate of Rajiv Rai, had suggested to Rajiv about remaking the film after he had seen Sunil Shetty working out in a gym the morning after he had seen Death Wish 4. Rajiv Rai made Mohra such a memorable affair for everyone, even till now we still associate the film with the music and the ‘cheez badi mast mast’ still fresh in our minds – Mohra became a benchmark for action directors for years to come establishing the action genre to be a huge money-spinner.
Avvai Shanmugi (1996)/Chachi 420 (1998) Remake of Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
Kamal Hassan had made his debut into direction with the Hindi version of his Tamil Hit Avvai Shanmugi (directed by K.S Ravikumar) which itself was a remake of the Hollywood hit Mrs Doubtfire with Robin Williams. Comparing the Hindi to the Tamil isn’t the question, as the similarities were evident, but how the Hindi remake compares to the Hollywood original. In all fairness, Chachi 420 is actually a complete rewrite of the Hollywood original – that too a better one. So how did Kamal Hassan victoriously do outright a Hollywood blockbuster?
Simple, the writing. Crazy Mohan (story and the writer of the Tamil version), Kamal Hassan (Screenplay) and Gulzar (Dialogues) the team in which made and completed an entertaining comedic yet emotional take on the original film. The small details and the addition of the subplots that were implemented into the screenplay of the Hindi remake – for example the confusion with Chachi’s numerous husbands around the city or the dumb Muslim chef in Amrish Puri’s home all added a new and entertaining layer to the film’s totality. And of course, one cannot doubt how Kamal Hassan handled each scene so well in the direction department – the simplicity of the humour and the weight of the emotions were so fine balanced.
Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994) Remake of The Hard Way (1991)
Whenever I stumble across The Hard Way, I tend wonder what talented actors like Micheal J Fox and James Woods were doing in this film? Both seriously miscast in a buddy cop film which was a genre from the 80s that was dying out in the West – the 80s in Hollywood had an overload of buddy cop films which eventually by the time Hard Way had released, the audience had washed their hands off the genre. Main Khiladi…came at a time with a certain freshness, action thrillers had just become new in-thing by this point. Mohra, released a few months ago and had set the box office on fire, Akshay now with this new image on the block with Yeh Dillagi also being out several months ago in which marked a new on-screen male duo of Akshay and Saif.
Main Khiladi opened at the box office for its image and became a success story because of the film itself. Although adapted, Main Khiladi had everything that a successful Hindi commercial film had. Humour, style, light-heated moments, the emotional family aspect, melodious music and the strong chemistry the two lead heroes had shared. Film historians for years had argued that Main Khiladi worked strong on the merit of the chemistry of Akshay and Saif, how a serious fitness fit cop and a frustrated film star tolerated each other eventually became the crux of the film, it was those moments in the film between the two leads that makes it a repeat watch even till date.
Yes Boss (1997) Remake of For Money or Love (1993)
Not sure if many remember this forgettable flick of Micheal J Fox in which he plays an employee trying to make his fortune till he discovers his boss is having an affair with the girl he likes. What was so forgettable about it? Well it just the run-of-the-mill romantic comedy that came around the early 90s with Micheal J Fox for some reason doing anything at the time. But Yes Boss on the other hand, being its remake is still remembered. What makes that still remembered? Well, it was more to do with the timing – the time of the release and the peak of Shahrukh’s Stardom.
These are the commercial aspects in what made the film work – but Yes Boss as film spoke about ambition and aspiration in a fast moving Bombay-now-become-Mumbai in the late-90s. The city of Mumbai where people come with hopes in their eyes and dreams in their hearts – that too during the period of the rise of the population of a now-becoming metropolitan city. Yes Boss dealt with two characters played with Khan and Chawla- two strugglers aspiring for a better life but end up going down the wrong path with Siddharth Chaudhary (played by Aditya Pancholi), later leading the couple to realise they are selling their morals at the price of their blind dreams. It was deeper layer of a connect that Yes Boss had which many failed to connect with in For Money or Love. Well we all cannot forget the connect we had with the melodious soundtrack by Jatin-Lalit which makes songs like Chand Taare still relevant today.
Ek Hasina Thi (2004) Remake of Double Jeopardy (1999)
Completely unaware if the act of ‘Double Jeopardy’ even exists in any country in the world, but the premise is if a convict is proven innocent after completing their sentence, they are forgiven for a crime as the term has already been served. Sounds bizarre but so was the film. The Bruce Beresford directed film at the time was labelled as a ‘snoozefest’ and ‘bore score’, not to be that radically as the film wasn’t as bad as the media had made it out to be but it was fairly okay – one-time fare.
Ek Hasina Thi, a remake or plot similarly treading on the same line, however you see it, is far better treatment of the premise. Ek Hasina Thi wasn’t exactly seen by many at the time of release despite being praised by the press – it became a prey to the dark genre not being a seller to the average ticket buying Joe. This happened to be Sriram Raghavan’s first feature film after his work on television – and a fine debut he had gave. Sriram and many of his colleagues had recently mentioned how Ek Hasina Thi still feels contemporary and relevant so many years later, the film geared Raghavan for a long running in the Hindi film industry.
Dushman (1998) Remake of Eye for an Eye (1996)
To begin with, neither film did wonders at the box office. In fact, both films were declared as a ‘flop’ by its distributors but the Tanuja Chandra’s directional debut was a level notch higher in terms of quality of the film. Eye for an Eye was released to negative reviews by the critics, in which one critic mentioned “Overwrought, thinly written, and all-around unpleasant, Eye for an Eye crudely exploits every parent’s nightmare with deeply offensive results”, many critics arguing the film does not serve its sole purpose in fact a pseudo-intellect crime drama. No critic spared Eye for an Eye leading to its death at the box office.
Dushman on the other hand had something right to offer – made on the simple Bhatt camp formula, Dushman worked on the sleek on the toned down violence and disturbia which the Hollywood original had – but the Hindi remake was riding on thrills. The performances were the highlight of the venture, Kajol (shunning out one her better performances) as the vengeful sister, the film shows an interesting graph of what the actress was capable of. One cannot forget, the industry had gained a thespian in the form of Ashutosh Rana as the disturbed postman, gaining him a Filmfare award at the end of the year, the performance of Rana stuck out for everyone. At the film was well received by the general media but sadly and possibly during the time of its release it didn’t get the audience it wanted.
Taare Zameen Par (2007) Remake of Love, Mary (1985)
A relatively unknown TV movie – Love, Mary was a film made specially for Network CBS with almost a complete unknown starcast and crew behind the name. During this period, very many independent filmmakers who found their platform on television due to the fall in cinema moviegoers because of video piracy in the 80s, many television channels like CBS and NBC began to make low-budget productions exclusively for their channels and later selling the video rights for the rental stores.
Surprising, no one at the time had come across Love, Mary the time Taare Zameen Par had released where Amol Gupte had basically adapted the TV movie for the Hindi screen – Aamir Khan who took up the director seat and his infamous dispute with Gupta in public, was not aware the film was a remake or so called adaption as Gupte had claimed his script was based on his personal experience with working people who had Dyslexia. Love, Mary and Taare Zameen Par both dealt with the unawareness of dyslexia and it being not being addressed in educational institutions, Taare Zameen Par was an attempt in also keeping the commercial element in tact by sugar-coating the topic.
Aitraaz (2004) Remake of Disclosure (1994)
Disclosure opened to a fair amount of positivity on release and even scored big at the box office. Some mentioned the feature had turned out far superior to the criticised ‘sexist’ novel which poked the theme of the ‘glass-ceiling’ into a computer-savy thriller. But many may or may not agree, that Disclosure is a one-time-watch affair, one wouldn’t either take it too seriously or find it memorable. Aitraaz on the other hand, followed a similar suit to the original but being an updated ‘mobile-savy’ thriller.
Aitraaz still dealt with the similar issue of the ‘glass-ceiling’ with a tenor of anti-feminism, was toned down to make it the family-friendly affair for its Diwali release. Aitraaz wasn’t the usual Abbas-Mustan thriller, it was more of a courtroom drama with the male protagonist dealing with his honour in his work place and the society he lived in. Aitraaz had a more entertaining streak over the original while it was attempting to fit the masala genre of the time for it attempt at being market-friendly.
Jurm (2005) Remake of Deceived (1991)
Either I being the only person that has seen Deceived or the only person to have seen Deceived and Jurm other than Vikram Bhatt, but I had come across this feature around a year ago. Deceived being a low-budget, small theatrical and bigger VHS release at the time did miss the eyes of many. But this John Heard starrer (famously known as the father from Home Alone) caught the eye of Vikram Bhatt at some point. Of course, Vikram Bhatt known for his remaking abilities didn’t hesitate in leaving this one out too.
Deceived almost lacked in everything, for a thriller it neither was gripping, neither had a performance worth remembering and the film in general slogged and direction was incredibly weak. Surprisingly that I have to say this, as Bhatt’s version itself is not great cinema but his remake did tick the boxes in its relevant space – being a gripping thriller. Jurm isn’t exactly remembered as the Bhatt could have easily polished major areas in the film and even if he gave better second half but nevertheless, the film is a decent thriller for a re-run on a Friday night.
Ajnabee (2001) Remake of Consenting Adults (1992)
A fine example of content on paper just executed badly. It made me wonder while watching the film why actors like Kevin Spacey and Kevin Kline seemed so disinterested in the film? To be honest, as the film progresses, everyone gets disinterested. The writing of the film had potential, which wasn’t fulfilled properly by the director. The film turned into a depressing, slow-paced pseudo thriller that fell straight on its face with the lack of conviction in almost every department.
Abbas-Mustan, knew how to represent their thrillers. When adapting their films, either it working or not the director-duo are aware on how to get their thrills right. On adapting Consenting Adults, firstly they certainly had got the cast right – secondly getting the screenplay right. The writing and the plot of Consenting Adults itself was decent enough, Abbas-Mustan just happen to be the right people is using the material appropriately. Ajnabee was well received by the audience and critics at the time and still is remembered for being the entertaining thriller it was. This was new curve in Akshay Kumar’s career – the risk of taking on the negative role at this point in his career surely paid off and still people remember the film for Akshay as the cunning so-called ‘mastermind’.
Kaante (2004) Remake of Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Its an infrequent situation when a director of a Hollywood original voices his opinion on a Hindi remake, most of the makers would be unaware that their film was remade in a foreign language before Google became a portion of their lives. Tarantino had mentioned he loved Sanjay Gupta’s take on his film but Gupta himself voiced that his film wasn’t just inspired by Reservoir Dogs but also he borrowed from Lam’s City of Fire. The reason why Kaante is a somewhat equivalent, similar stance in terms of content to the original is because it wasn’t heavily reliant on the original – it lead its own life through the scripting, living through each individual character and warmth over the bonding of the characters made it what it was.
Sanjay Gupta, known as the ‘Yash Chopra for men’, mounted and wrote Kaante differently but didn’t let it leave the boundaries. It wasn’t high in commercial value but yet it was a commercial seller, it broadened its values of being an Indian film set in a foreign country with the heart in its right place – the spectator being sceptical of the characters at first but the confusion was won over with Gupta showcasing that his characters are not bad people – just a bunch of men who have taken a wrong decision leading to a bad situation – but at the same time Gupta didn’t sugar coat his characters , he let them be. In fact, Kaante still seems contemporary today making its appeal still stand what it was set out to be.
Milan (1995) Remake of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
Both films indeed are completely different in terms of scale and the treatment, one dealing with John Wayne, a captain carrying out his last patrol when being prepared for an attack by Native Americans, on the other hand we have Jackie Shroff, a Goan gangster taking out his last task before marrying his beau – both films dealing with the protagonist dealing with his final job later putting them to the test of time departing them with their loved one.
John Ford’s tale deals with the frontier and the heat of the attack on Native American in smaller areas at the time, Wayne’s character being a veteran almost losing his ways – the sense of loss and defeat by the lead character. Milan on the hand, despite borrowing from John Ford’s plot, deals with the hard luck of the protagonist and the controlling nature of the ways of the system – his colleagues and friends the ones leading to his fall. Sadly, Milan sunk without a trace at the box office in 95’ despite a good soundtrack and Manisha Koirala being a popularity peak – the film didn’t find any takers, possibly because the film wasn’t for the faint-hearted (Akash Khurana’s track was found way too disturbing for the audience at the time). Plus, Mahesh Bhatt’s career wasn’t going too smooth at the time with critics saying he had lost his touch – either way both films were vastly different and can be merited in their own perspective.
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992) Remake of Breaking Away (1979)
It’s hard for any director to emulate the same emotion of the original, keeping the same feel intact. JJWS isn’t an imitation of Breaking Away but an entity that lives in a different world. Both films, from the filmmakers, mounted a soul which connected with the spectator – the graph of the film spoke louder than the basic outline of the film. Often misinterpreted as a sports film, both JJWS and Breaking Away are films about belonging. The sense of belonging to society, to a school, a group or to a particular someone.
JJWS, for me personally is a special film, a film which you leave watching with a tweak inside. A film which in rarity brings a smile with a sense of comfort. On remaking the film, Mansoor Khan had his mishaps with the casting and production in which he at several occasions wanted to abandon the project – but the people involved knew the film was in the process in becoming a landmark film. It goes without saying that JJWS lands on par with Breaking Away and both films excel in their own zones and is case where both excelled in areas where the prior may have not.
On The Contrary…
We couldn’t complete the antecedent without the remarks on the films that deserve a special mention. The remakes where the original films were either average or bad films to begin with and newly produced remake still turning out to be bad, making us wonder why these films were ever remade in the first place.
Bang Bang (2014) Remake of Knight and Day (2010)
The moment you hear that a Tom Cruise flick gets remade in Hindi, the doubts begin to occur but in this case on the launch of Bang Bang had some curiosity despite the original was panned for being lazy but some Indian critics speaking about how it got the emotional core right. The segment in the latter half of the film in which focused on Roy Miller’s (played by Cruise) private life and the angle with the parent still presuming their son is gone – this long segment established in many minds how ‘Indianised’ the film already was.
Siddharth Anand could not get a better replacement for Cruise and Diaz than Hrithik and Katrina, that too being officially remade by the same production house now backing the remake. So, what went wrong? Well a lot. Anand seemed to have kept his focus on the high-octane action sequences than the actual soul of the film. The emotional core of knowing the protagonist which struck in the original here was shortened, the sequence which could have been the trump card for the remake in connecting with the Indian audience comes too late in the day and seems like forced input into the screenplay – by this point, the audience were already too invested into the action. The addition of the brother angle with Jimmy Shergill even makes you wonder why they had even bothered making it seem too hollow. Nevertheless, Anand and the makers went on ringing cash registers for the film with the numbers bringing Anand in the elite club.
Players (2012) Remake of Italian Job (2003)
Before anyone asks, just to underline that Abbas-Mustan had based their remake on the 2003 ‘modernised-mess’ than the original Michael Caine classic. The 2003 remake was a ‘post-Matrix’ marketed film, where the studio attempted in to cash in on the trend of ‘slick-action’ genre, but what was made was barely passable film diluting the original’s style and substance entirely. It was conspicuous that the Men-in-White seemed to have their eye on the 2003 remake when officially making Players and what could one do when the source itself was damped.
Players, was a mess from the word go. It made one wonder that the duo in the past were good at remakes – with not only remaking good but bad films with such a substantial technique, but here the tower of cards crashed. To begin with, the casting seemed to the first problem – not for the choice but the disinterest every actor had showed on screen. Sonam Kapoor being the first miscast, Bobby Deol who seemed invisible throughout, Vinod Khanna didn’t seem as if he was well enough and the annoying combo of Omi Vadiya and Sikander Kher. It seemed Neil Nitin Mukesh was the only actor who had put in some effort for the film – but the problem doesn’t finish here, it goes on. Its surprising to know the film had taken somewhat of six and a half months to edit but it still seems of shambles. Needless to say, the film bombed at the box office of course for the right reasons.
Tees Maar Khan (2010) Remake of After the Fox (1966)
If many are not aware, but After the Fox at the time of its release was abandoned by the general public and media resulting it becoming a commercial disaster. Being criticised for abrupt screenplay, over time it gained a cult status from the fan base of Sellers over time. Personally, I have seen far better from Peter Sellers. After the Fox was just another formulaic Sellers slapstick comedy in the routine procedure, a way of comparing After the Fox is what Govinda did when he stepped out of the David Dhawan formulas, they just didn’t work. Similarly, Sellers tried his routine with various different makers and only a handful could get it right.
Only someone like Farah Khan would pick up something like After the Fox, a film itself that was a charade and try to add to its farce. Attempting to bring in her opinion of the Indian critics, her perspective of the Oscars and her possible jealously over the Slumdog Millionaire admiration. She truly made a mess of something that almost ruined mostly everyone’s Christmas that year, Tees Maar Khan is shining example how bad commercial cinema can get when the gimmicks and highlights completely ruin the totality of the film.
Brothers (2015) Remake of Warrior (2011)
As mentioned earlier, Lionsgate had approached Dharma Productions with the idea of remaking Warrior. On understanding the economics of current market-climate of Hindi film industry with benchmarks of the 200 Crore club – with Fox also coming on board for the project- the budgeting wasn’t an issue, but sadly smart budgeting wasn’t visible in a near distance. Costing around 112 Crores which eventually made a net of 70 Crores, the expected benchmark was one of the crumbles of the film. Lionsgate and Fox’s contribution to the film’s budget made the film too heavy where more was spent on the film than necessary (goes without saying that the starcast were given very generous paychecks) which went against the film’s economics.
But, as a film Brothers went wrong in many ways. For starters, nothing of the film looked ‘Indian’, it seems like a straight cut-and-paste job keeping the essence of the original, one would ask the director, excuse me, the point to remake this film was to deliver to the right audience – you have repackaged the wrong parcel to the right receiver. In attempts of adding item songs and a slow romantic track by Sonu Nigam didn’t remotely engage with anyone. But the choice of casting Siddharth Malhotra to be pitched against an Akshay Kumar did at all seem convincing, it seemed director Karan Malhotra (recently riding high on the remake of Agneepath) botched up and got carried away with his non-existent formula.
Logo credit goes to Pankhuri Badal (@love.syaahi) her work can be found on the official Social Media accounts:
107 years of Indian cinema, yet many of us are unaware of the first film in sound, colour or even the first film released even. This article covers every development over the years of Indian cinema (yes Indian, including every language from the country) from the years when everything had just started till now!
This article was a mighty task to complete (almost a month and half of completion) from phone calls, to enquiries to hours of reading. I would like to thank the people who put in their effort for this article who went out of their way to make this happen! This one is for you! Thank you Rana Saab, Bhaskar Choudhary, Ali Khan from Zulm for keeping it active for years and Mr Ravi Kumar.
First Hindi film: Raja Harishchandra (1913)
Raja Harishchandra was the first silent feature film made in India. Dadasaheb Phalke, the director of the film was in charge of scriptment, direction, production design, make-up, editing, along with film processing. Fun fact, as no women were available to play female leads, male actors performed the female roles for the movie. Anna Hari Salunke is the first person to perform as a heroine in Indian cinema. He played the role of Rani Chandramat in Raja Harishchandra. He was also the first person to play the roles of both the hero as well as heroine in 1917 in Lanka Dahan.
First women on screen: Durgabai Kamat and her daughter Kamlabai Ghokhle in Mohini Bhasmasur (1913)
Women acting in theatre and cinema were considered a taboo in the early 1900s. Dadasaheb Phalke was forced to cast a male actor as the female lead in Raja Harishchandra because he couldn’t find a woman who would play it. However, after Raja Harishchandra captured the imagination of India, he had no trouble casting the female character in his next film. Two women, Durgabai Kamat and her daughter Kamlabai Ghokhle, paved the way for actresses in Indian cinema. Durgabai portrayed the role of Parvati and Kamlabai appeared as Mohini in Dadasaheb Phalke’s second film called Mohini Bhasmasur.
First double role: Lanka Dahan (1917)
Dadasaheb Phalke cast Anna Salunke, the actor who played Rani Taramati in Raja Harishchandra, in a double role in Lanka Dahan. Anna Salunke played both Ram and Sita in the movie. It is said that when the film was screened in Mumbai, people took their shoes off when Lord Rama’s character appeared on the screen.
First South full length feature film: Keechaka Vadham (Tamil – 1917)
In 1916, R Nataraja Mudaliar, an automobile spare parts merchant interested in the brave new world of cinema, built a silent film studio in Chennai. After being trained by British cinematographer Stewart Smith, Mr Mudaliar made the first full length Tamil feature film Keechaka Vadham in 1917, leading to the birth of the vast Southern film industry.
First film certified in India: Orphans Of the Storm (1921)
Despite not exactly being a film produced in India, this was the film in which the censor decided to give films a certification. The story of two sisters at the backdrop of the French revolution, DW Griffith’s film Orphans of the Storm underwent censor cuts in 1920 under the Indian Censorship Act 1918.
First film to face a Ban: Bhakta Vidur (1921)
Film censorship is commonplace today, but the first time a movie found itself on the wrong side of politics and the law was in 1921. Released during the imposition of the Rowlatt Act that put restrictions on Indian imports, Bhakta Vidur was banned in Chennai and Karachi for it political undertones.
First social satire: Bilet Ferat (1921)
In 1921, Dhirendranath Ganguly, a Bengali artist made his first film Bilet Pherat which was translated in English as England Returned. The film, which mocked the upper strata of pretentious, Anglicised Indians, was the first to use satire as a social commentary.
First woman producer and director: Fatma Begum for Bulbul-e-Parastan (1926)
When in period when the general public were just about to get use to the idea of women on-screen, one woman changed the idea of women taking the role of leading the entire film. In 1926, actress Fatma Begum became the first woman to take an important role behind the camera by establishing her own production company, Fatima films, and directing Bulbul-e-Parastan.
First talkie film: Alam Ara (1931)
The film that gave the medium of cinema a voice was a period fantasy about an ageing king and his two rival queens. Alam Ara (1931) by Ardeshir Irani opened a whole new chapter for Indian cinema, breaking the silence. The film took months to make because of hazardous recording conditions and the secrecy surrounding the project. With the introduction of sound came music and songs. Alam Ara contained seven songs composed by the first music directors of the film industry, Pirojshah Mistry and B Irani. Also, De De Khuda Ke Naam Par Pyare became the first ever song recorded for a film. It was sung by actor Wazir Mohammed Khan who played a fakir in the film. As playback singing had yet to start in Indian cinema, it was recorded live with musical accompaniment of a harmonium and a table on set.
First Indian film to be shot with artificial lights: Apradhi (1931)
One of the most iconic personalities in Indian cinema, P C Barua is also noted for being the first to use artificial lights while filming. He went to Europe in 1931, observed the production techniques in a London studio and bought lighting equipment used in the studio to India. Mr Barua returned to Kolkata and founded his own production studio, Barua Pictures Ltd. The first film from the studio Apradhi, directed by Debaki Bose, was made using artificial lights.
First animation film: Lafanga Langoor (1931)
Animation movies may still have miles to go but the first experiment with the genre was by German photographer Bocho Gutachwager in 1931 who produced the country’s first animation film Lafanga Langoor.
First Film With Background Music: Chandidas (1934)
New Theatre’s Chandidas in Bengali was the first talkie film in which Background music was scored by music director R.C. Boral in 1932. Prabhat Film Company’s Amrit Manthan released at almost the same time also had imaginative background music scored by music director Keshavrao Bhole, the film eventually got a release in 1934.
First English song: Now The Moon Her Light Has Shed from Karma (1933)
Amongst its many breakthrough achievements, the 1933 movie Karma was the first Indian movie to have an English song sung by its actress Devika Rani.
First on-screen kiss: Marthanda Varma (1933)
The second Malayalam feature film Marthanda Varma that released in 1933 raised eyebrows for showing a lip-lock between the lead actors. Later that year Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai also shared a kiss in the Hindi movie Karma.
First international award: Seeta (1934)
Directed by Debaki Bose, Seeta was the first Indian talkie film to premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 1934. The movie, featuring Durga Khote and Prithviraj Kapoor, won an Honorary Diploma, making Debaki Bose the first Indian director and Seeta the first film to have won an international award.
First movie with a flashback sequence: Roop Lekha (1934)
Flashbacks have always been an important part in the telling of cinematic stories and the first movie to use the technique was P C Barua’s 1934 film Roop Lekha.
First female music composer: Ishrat Sultana for Adl-e-Jehangir (1934)
Ishrat Sultana was the first female music composer who composed the music for the Mughal Historical drama Adl-e-Jehangir (1934) the following year renowned singer and actress Nargis’ mother, Jaddan Bai became the second woman composer with Talashe Haq that released in 1935.
First playback singing in a film: Dhoop Chhaaon (1935)
One of the most important developments in Indian cinema was the introduction of playback singing. Rai Chand Boral was the first to use the systematic technique of playback singing in the film Dhoop Chhaoon (1935). It was Nitin Bose, the director, who came up with the idea of playback singing. He discussed with music director Raichand Boral and Bose’s brother Mukul Bose, who was the sound recordist in New Theatres, implemented the idea.
First film using stunts: Hunterwali (1935)
Hunterwali starring Fearless Nadia was released to mass hysteria and an instant box office success, turning the ‘stunt film’ in a big budget genre. The film also marked the first time stunt men were used and the first time India had gained an ‘action actress’
First Golden Jubilee film: Sant Tukaram (1936)
Marathi film Sant Tukaram (1936) became the first ever film to run in a single theatre for more than a year. The film also won a citation at the Venice Film Festival.
First colour film: Kisan Kanya (1937)
Ardeshir Irani of Imperial Film Company established India’s first colour film laboratory in 1937 and Moti B Gidvani’s Kisan Kanya emerged as India’s first indigenously produced colour film. The film unfolded the poor plight of a farmer and the consequences he faces for being a peasant. The movie was not a commercial success but is still remembered as the first ever movie made in colour. This indeed was a stepping stone for Indian Cinema.
First songless talkie film: Naujawan (1937)
Right after the first talkie film released in 1931, songs became an indispensable part of Hindi films. However, one film that did not catch up with the trend and was released without a single song. J B H Wadia’s Naujawan released in 1937 became India’s first songless talkie.
First film with an anti-hero in the lead: Kismet (1943)
With Ashok Kumar in the lead role, the film came with some bold themes for the first time in Indian cinema showing an anti-hero character, double role and an unmarried girl getting pregnant. The movie was the first blockbuster movie of Indian cinema. This image of the anti-hero lead on for years with memorable roles such as Shahrukh Khan in Baazigar (1993) and Sanjay Dutt in Khalnayak (1993)
First Indian Sequel: Hunterwali Ki Beti (1943)
Hunterwali was a runaway success and a bonanza in terms of money earned, as it ran for 25 weeks making record earnings for the year. Hunterwali Ki Beti, made 8 years later after the prequel and was made with the same producers and almost the same team as its prequel and went on to become a blockbuster.
First film to win the Palme d`Or at Cannes Film Festival: Neecha Nagar (1946)
Directed by Chetan Anand and produced by India Pictures, Neecha Nagar was the first Indian film to win the Palme d`Or at 1946 Cannes Film Festival. The film portrayed a contrasting picture of the rich and the poor society.
First film with an Adult certification: Hanste Aansoo (1950)
Hanste Aansoo (1950) featuring Madhubala and Motilal became the first film to receive ‘only for adults’ certification following the amendment of the original Indian Cinematograph Act (1918) in December 1949 by which time ‘A’ and ‘U’ had been introduced.
First dream sequence song: Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi from Awara (1951)
Who can forget that long dream sequence in the song Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi from Raj Kapoor’s classic film Awaara (1951)? A sea of twirling cloud symbolised the conflicts in Raj Kapoor’s mind.
First technicolour film: Jhansi ki Rani (1953)
Director and producer Sohrab Modi flew in technicians from Hollywood to execute the first technicolour film Jhansi Ki Rani (1953) featuring Mehtab. Despite its stirring performance and appealing shots, the movie failed to make a mark on the box office.
First film to be shot abroad – Naaz (1954)
Naaz (1954), a costume film starring Ashok Kumar, Nalini Jaywant and Veena was the first Hindi film to be shot in foreign locations, the film was shot in Cairo and London. In the same year Meena’s Chandni Chowk was released where the protagonist travels to Egypt to earn money.
First Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar: Mother India (1957)
One of the most expensive films of the time, Mother India (1957) finally took Indian cinema to the Oscars. The story of a rural woman who sacrificed all her life to raise her children and finally kills her criminal son was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category and became a definitive classic. Mother India lost to the Italian film Le notti di Cabiria.
First Indian cinemascope film: Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) is a classic in more than one ways. Apart from its realistic take on the vagaries of the Indian film industry and Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rahman’s impeccable acting, the movie was also the first cinemascopic film made in India. The movie had some of the most breath-taking images ever seen in Indian cinema.
First film to be shot simultaneously in multi languages: Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
When now shooting a film simultaneously in different languages has become a norm of the industry, this was first conceived by K.Asif who had took years to make his magnum opus, one of the reasons for the long schedule to complete the film was because the film was shot three times. While it is known that the film released in Hindi, with prominent Urdu dialogues, it was also shot in Tamil and English. As the actors didn’t know how to speak in Tamil fluently, they lip-synced to Tamil dialogues instead. The Hindi version of Mughal-e-Azam was a blockbuster. However, the Tamil version flopped badly. Since the Tamil version didn’t work, the makers decided not to release the film in English. Even the idea of dubbing the English version with British actors was aborted. And unfortunately, no print of the English version is now in existence.
First actor to play 9 roles in a film: Sivaji Ganesan for Navarathri (1964)
The film is well known for starring Sivaji Ganesan in nine distinct roles: the basic emotions – wonder, fear, compassion, anger, peace, love, courage, repulsion and happiness. Navarathri traces Nalina’s (the female protagonist) experience of these nine emotions on nine consecutive nights. The film was later remade in Hindi with Sanjeev Kumar with Naye Din Naye Raat (1974)
First film to be shot with a single actor: Sunil Dutt with Yaadein (1964)
Yaadein was directed and produced by Sunil Dutt also starring himself. The only other actor in the film is Nargis Dutt, that too in a silhouette in the final scene. This film is first-ever Indian and one of kind films in world cinema as it features only a single actor and hence has found an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records in the category ‘Fewest actors in a narrative film’.
First 70-mm / Stereo Sound Film: Sholay (1975)
Despite, Pachhi’s Around The World (1967) was the first film released in 70mm, Pachhi used technology to blow-up the negatives from the original 35mm. Sholay however, was the first film to be completely shot in the 70mm format. The tagline of the movie, ‘First film in 70mm,’ probably helped make Sholay the blockbuster it was. With Stereo Sound, despite many films prior had used the sound just for the soundtrack while the actual film was in mono, Sholay was the first entire film to be in Stereo sound.
First Hollywood and Bollywood collaboration: Shalimar (1978)
Shalimar marked the first time two of the giant industries of the world had collaborated for a project, with half of the cast and half the crew were from both industries. Krishna Shah, who had already been apart of some Hollywood projects had convinced a Hollywood studio about making Shalimar which itself was an adaption of the novel, The Vulture is a Patient Bird by James Hadley Chase which was Indianised and made in two version – one in Hindi and one in English.
First film to gross 100 Crore Worldwide: Disco Dancer (1982)
The so called ‘100 crore club’ did not actually begin to many years later with Aamir Khan’s Ghajini (2008) in which started a trend for a big film to cross the 100 crore mark, but the first film to hit that target is B.Subhash’s Disco Dancer which shockingly had done such great number, where the film only had grossed around 10 crores domestically but shockingly did a whocking 90 Crore plus in the Soviet Union, establishing Mithun Chakraborthy as India’s Soviet star.
First 3D movie: My Dear Kuttichthan (1984)
India was introduced to three dimensional motion pictures with the Malayalam film My Dear Kuttichthan in 1984, which was later dubbed into Hindi in 1998 as Chotta Chetan. The phenomenon rapidly caught the Hindi film industry too with the first 3D Hindi film Shiva Ka Insaaf releasing in 1985.
First screenplay writing software used: Thevar Magan (1992)
Earlier screenplays were never used, the format of the screenplay had came a lot later on and that too was manually wrote by writers, who wrote day and night trying to correct the format. Kamal Hassan introduced India to Scriptor, from Screenplay Systems to only simplify but maintain the order of syntax for the traditional screenplay.
First Dolby sound film: 1942 – A Love Story (1994)
Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 1942- A Love Story (1994) was music maestro R D Burman’s swan song. The movie was also a stepping stone to advanced sound engineering with the introduction of Dolby sound.
First film ever to be dubbed in Hindi: Jurassic Park (1994)
The first movie to be dubbed in Hindi was Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg is the director of this movie who take this decision to release the movie in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu language. The movie was opened in the India on 15 April 1994. This trend of dubbing began a wave in the Hindi belt, with films like Roja, Dalpati and Humse Hai Muqabala all went on being dubbed into Hindi and did fantastic business in Hindi.
First film subtitled in English theatrically: Bandit Queen (1994)
Shekhar Kapur’s ambitious venture was one of the few films at the time to be selected for film festivals around the world, at the time while submitting Shekhar Kapur felt the need to subtitle the film in which he approached Armenian Subtitling Services for the festival print of the film. Being so happy with the results, Shekhar Kapur and producer Bobby Bedi decided to subtitle all the prints for the film for the international market, making it the first Hindi film subtitled in English.
First film in 4 track-stereo sound: Hum Aapke Hain Koun? (1994)
The stereo 4 track sound has been around since the late 50s but only in audio form, HAHK is the first Indian film to be entirely mixed in the film. The 4-track sound was an extension of the original stereo sound which had 2 outputs, here the 4 track would ensure the surrounding of the sound through the output being from 4 waves.
First film mixed in 5.1 Dolby Digital – Ram Shastra (1995)
For years, people being confused between the difference between Dolby sound and Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby 5.1 is the common name for a six-channel surround sound audio systems. 5.1 is the most commonly used now in home theatres but was first brought to India by Firoz Nadiadwala for his high budget film Ram Shastra, a development that went on and changed sound for years for Indian cinema.
First film in DTS sound – Karuppu Roja (1996)
DTS stands for Digital Theater Systems, a popular cinema audio format that was developed in 1993 as a competitor to Dolby Labs in the development of surround sound audio technology for movie production. Karuppa Roja, being the first film in DTS for years until cinemas had gone to digital, most Tamil cinemas were using DTS sound over Dolby Digital. The first Hindi film being Judwaa (1997) the following year, only a small number of Hindi films used the DTS format and faded away quickly as most cinemas did not convert their sound to DTS, most Hindi production houses stopped using the format.
First and only actor to win Best Actress award: Nirmal Pandey for Daayra (1996)
Amol Palekar’s peculiar film about a woman’s journey who transforms herself into a man after being kidnapped which Nirmal Pandey’s powerful portrayal of a transvestite in Amol Palekar’s Daayra (1996) fetched him a Best Actress award, which he shared with female lead Sonali Kulkarni, Kulkarni, at the Valenciennes Film Festival in France in 1997.
First film based on Homosexuality: Fire (1996)
Unspoken about in an Indian society, the first film that touched on the subject was Mira Nair’s controversial film on two housewives played by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das went on to cause a lot of actual fire in the tabloids at the time in which it was banned and recut several times and eventually released in India in 1998 with full houses and running in cinemas for a continuous three weeks until it was removed from cinemas from the protests with the fear of the cinema owners.
First film released on DVD: Koyla (1997)
In 1997, the newest home viewing experience came to the homes of people, through a Digital Versatile Disc aka DVD, VHS and laser discs had their issues which people endlessly had complained about, the DVD was to get rid of them problems. In March 1997, Twister was the first Hollywood film to be released on DVD and India, the technology was still in progress. Koyla after being released in April 1997 in cinemas, a couple of months later Super Digital (based in the USA) had released the first Indian DVD, Koyla being that first which started a new wave of Indian films being released on DVD.
First film to use CGI for a double-role: Judwaa (1997)
For many who are unaware, but during the earlier years of cinema right till the 90s, most double-roles were done using camera tricks or even a very old system of joining the frames together with old ‘guillotine-like’ editing mechanism. Seeing CGI was becoming a new thing for producers in the 90s, Sajid Nadiadwala felt that the film seeing it was largely based with many scenes of the two Salman’s appearing together to go for the CGI rather than the old school method. The technique worked results bringing back the ‘double-role’ genre to the market.
First and only film to be inaugurated by The Royal Queen Elizabeth II : Marudhanayagam (1997)
The Queen of England is said to have expressed interest in going to an Indian film set with one of the top actors and Marudhanayagam was the chosen film. The British monarch was invited to be Chief Guest for the launch of the film. She was invited to MGR Film City on October 16, 1997 where she spent 20 minutes. Elaborate preparations and security arrangements were made before the Queen’s visit. As soon as the Queen arrived on the set, Kamal Haasan’s then wife Sarita had performed the typical Indian welcome ritual with an aarti, a tilak and a garland. Unfortunately, the film never saw the light of the day due to the lack of funds
First film to be Rentrak Nielsen EDI tracked: Dil Se (1998)
Rentrak Corporation is a global media measurement and research company serving the entertainment industry that collect actual figures of box office collections for films played in cinemas without any foul play. The company formed and operated since 1988, began to operate and began to track Indian films after Eros Entertainment had a wide release with their film Dil Se in order to keep track of official figures.
First film to be digitally remastered for Home Viewing: Maine Pyar Kiya (1988 – Remastered in 1998)
Just during the late 90s when DVDs were becoming the new talk of the town, Eros and DEI (Digital Entertainment Inc) had formed an alliance in which DEI were authoring the DVDs backed by Eros. DEI had the technology and the vision of getting the best outcome of every film authored, until they felt that they could remaster or even experiement with the older films they were beginning to author. Maine Pyar Kiya, not only was cleaned, restored from the original negatives but the sound was remastered from the original 2.0 stereo to a new sounding 5.1 Digital track.
First film insured: Taal (1999)
Subhash Ghai is credited with starting the trend of insuring movies in India and Taal became the first ever Bollywood film to be insured for a whopping sum of ₹110 million! Almost 85 years after the release of first Hindi movie, the Indian film industry addressed the demand for risk cover against any mishap prior to the release of the film and insuring movies quickly became a trend.
First song to be entirely shot in CGI: Teri Yaad from Kartoos (1999)
Regarding Kartoos and its production – the film went through many issues. From Sanjay Dutt’s issues with the court for leaving the country, Mahesh Bhatt not giving a lot of attention to the film and Nushrat Fateh Ali Khan not completing the album for his death. Firoz Nadiadwala needed a trump card for the film and his homage to one of the last songs Nushrat Fateh Ali Khan had composed, Teri Yaad, he wanted it to be done on a grand scale. He brought in Music Video director Ken Ghosh, recreated the Taj Mahal via CGI and shot the song entirely in a studio in film city with a green screen which was a first for that time.
First film in sync sound – Hey Ram (2000)
Originally, Kamal Hassan had begun filming his directorial feature Marudhanayagam in sync sound way back in 1997, but after the first schedule, the film had stalled. Using the same equipment, Kamal Hassan had used it for his feature Hey Ram as he was filming the film simultaneously in Tamil and Hindi, he felt the sync sound would save time on the dubbing later, as India was new to Sync Sound Technology, the film did go through a small stage of dubbing but regardless the results still turned out well for the feature.
First film to be entirely shot abroad: Kaante (2002)
Most Indian films from the 60s onwards would have a segment or a song shot abroad, shooting in Europe had become a norm in the 80s and 90s at one point. Up until Kaante, no film had been entirely shot in a country outside of India. Sanjay Gupta had visualised the entire script of Kaante in Los Angeles which made it the first Indian film entirely from start to finish shot in a foreign country.
First film available to download online: Supari (2003)
The film not getting the release as the producers had hoped for that the time, prior to the release the producers had decided that the film would be legally available for people to download at a fee of Rs.220, the film did not fare well in cinemas but the producers were happy with the download sales.
First film to be digitally colorized from black-and-white: Mughal-E-Azam (1960 – 2004 re-release)
In 2002, The Sterling Investment Corporation, the negative rights owner and an arm of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, undertook restoration and colourisation of Mughal-e-Azam, The negative was cleaned of fungal growth, damaged portions were restored, and missing parts of frames were re-instated. After cleaning, each of the 300,000 frames of the negative was scanned into a 10 megabytes-sized file and then was digitally restored. Mughal-e-Azam became the first full-length feature film colourised for a theatrical re-release in the world and became an instant hit at the box office of Diwali 2004.
First film to be shot digitally: Mumbai Xpress (2005)
Kamal Hassan again, being the technology savy-person he us brought digital film making to India in 2004, his film Mumbai Xpress first digital film implemented (shot in the pioneering Red epic camera) a no-profit no-loss affair thus opening up a new path for potential filmmakers and India’s forey into the digital film making they used 3ccd cameras.
First film to be screened at the United Nations – Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006)
Lage Raho Munna Bhai directed by Rajkumar Hirani was the first Indian film to be screened at the United Nations on November 10, 2006. The film had a goon protagonist learning the lessons of non-violence from none other than Mahatma Gandhi.
First film to be released on Blu-Ray: Heyy Babyy (2007)
The Blu-ray, a digital optical disc data storage format designed to supersede the DVD format, capable of storing several hours of video in high-definition (HDTV 720p and 1080p). In America, just as soon as the Blu-Ray became commercial after many prototypes had been tested, in 2008, Eros had announced of going to Blu-ray, the director who had already planned a Blu-Ray release for his during his production stage was film buff turned director Sajid Khan. Heyy Babyy released on Blu-Ray early 2008 followed by Om Shanti Om (2007) which was released a couple of months later.
First film to incorporate the 4K resolution technology: Sivaji: The Boss (2007)
When it comes to technology, the South film industry has often led the way. Rajinikanth’s blockbuster film Sivaji: The Boss (2007) was the first Indian movie to incorporate the latest 4K resolution technology that is used only in big-budget Hollywood films. In India, 2K resolution has been the set standard.
First film to be released on the theatrical digital format: Guru (2007)
Since the dawn of cinema, films have been viewed and released on celluloid in cinemas, the 35mm format slowly was replaced by the DCP digital cinema format. Guru, became the first Indian Film mastered in the DCI-compliant JPEG 2000 Interop format and also the first Indian film to be previewed digitally, internationally, at the Elgin Winter Garden in Toronto. This film was digitally mastered at Real Image Media Technologies in India
First Indian online streaming platform – BigFlix (2008)
BIGFlix is a Reliance Entertainment owned movie on demand service in 2008. It is India’s first movie on demand service. It allows users to stream or download movies at any time. It generates its revenues from subscription fees and does not rely on advertisements. After arrival of Netflix and Amazon prime in 2016, BigFlix did find a struggle to hold onto.
First Two Part film: Rakhta Charitra (2010)
The formula of a two film cannot be confused to be being a sequel/prequel, the formula of a two part film is one film in which its narrative has been broken down into two films – In this case Rakhta Charitra is a 5 hour film but broken down into two films because of the length. Ram Gopal Varma had even released both films in the same both month not wanting the audience to lose interest in the earlier part.
First film to be crowd funded: I AM (2011)
Usually the process of getting a film financed is simply through a producer or a financier, Onir and Sanjay Suri’s I AM was a first of its kind in which they had launched an online campaign in order for people to draw their finance to their film but also making them stakeholders in the film and becoming profit sharers, all the people who were from the general public financed the film via social media platforms making it India’s first crowd funded film.
First film mixed in 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround: Dum Maaro Dum (2011)
Dolby Surround 7.1 was the latest upgraded sound system by Dolby Laboratories which delivers theatrical 7.1 surround sound to movie-goers. It adds two new channels to current Dolby Digital 5.1. The first film to feature Dolby Surround 7.1 was 2010’s Toy Story 3, in India the Sippy’s who had earlier brought Stereo to India had brought the sound of 7.1 Dolby with their feature.
First film in Dolby Atmos: Dhoom 3 (2013)
Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology developed by Dolby Laboratories. It expands on existing surround sound systems by adding height channels, allowing sounds to be interpreted as three-dimensional objects. The first film to be mixed in Dolby Atmos was Disney’s Brave in 2012, on hearing this development of technology, Aditya Chopra had made his efforts that his 2013 Christmas production would also be mixed in the same sound, which made it the first film from in India in Dolby Atmos.
First recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke award – Devika Rani in 1969. First winner of National Award for Best Actor – Uttam Kumar for Anthony Firinghee and Chiriyakhana First winner of National Award for Best Actress – Nargis for Raat Aur Din First winner of National Award for Best Supporting Actor – Victor Banerjee for Ghare Baire First winner for National Award for Best Supporting Actress – Rohini Hattangadi for Party First Filmafe Best Actor – Dilip Kumar for Daag First Filmfare Best Actress – Meena Kumari for Baiju Bawra First Filmfare Best Film – Do Bigha Zameen First Indian Oscar winner – Bhanu Athaiya, Best Costumes for Gandhi (1982)
On the morning 30th April 2020, the Hindi film industry took a big hit on discovering the death of legendary actor Rishi Kapoor. Many were aware of his poor health for the last year and half but it came to a shock when he was hospitalised and declared dead during the early hours of the morning. Rishi Kapoor, an actor who has an acting career of over five decades, seeing fans of at least three generations. Son of superstar, husband of a superstar, uncle to superstars and of course father to a current superstar – Rishi Kapoor despite coming from a large family of numerous actors always made his presence felt – both on screen and off-screen.
He was one of the remaining superstars from the yesteryear generation in the industry that tried to keep the roots of tradition that once the industry had, he served honour for his family and for the fraternity he belonged to. Strong on principals, Rishi Kapoor came from an era of gentleman like his father and uncles, as well an era of the brat age in the mid-70s – Rishi Kapoor was an actor who combined modernity with tradition yet with the sense of adaption but always stuck with idea of respect for the film industry.
For those who didn’t know the star that well – the following will break down the actor’s graph and qualities he maintained over years in the industry. Leaving behind some phenomenal work, the actor sadly at the age of 67 maintained the same energy as he did at 17. The Talented Kapoor will always be remembered.
The Superstar Child
Rishi Kapoor, son of the ‘showman’ Raj Kapoor was the first out of the five children to be launched as an actor. Raj Kapoor was always against the idea of women in his family to act – he gave his children the choice of their careers but as once Rajiv Kapoor once joked ‘what else can we become’. Rishi Kapoor, pet named Chintu by his Grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor, had first faced the camera at the age of 17 where he played the role of young Raju in Mera Naam Joker in which he won his first national award. The first segment of the film which deals with the character’s first love for his teacher and the step into puberty. Mera Naam Joker, sadly after its disastrous fate left the Kapoor family in stress and almost leading to the showman mortgaging his studio and home. In 1973, Raj Kapoor bounced back with coming-of-age romance, with a next-to-nothing budget, Bobby, which launched the now-adult Rishi Kapoor and went on smashing records. Raj Kapoor, saw his middle son as the saving grace bringing back the fortune to the family that they once had and bringing new luck to the R.K Studios. Not only did the family, but the country had gained a new superstar.
The Complete Family Man
Coming from a large family, the Kapoors were always known for their passion of food, outgoings and their alcohol. The Kapoors were famous for their rather large gathering at every festive occasion (this would be at Raj Kapoor’s Pali Hill Bungalow) calling everyone who is someone from the film industry. Raj Kapoor passed on to this attribute to his children, the idea of togetherness, respect and generosity. Rishi Kapoor, was known to be one of them Kapoors who would do anything for his people – coming from a large family of actors, directors and producers many of them took to the opportunity of using his stardom – which was no personal harm for the young Kapoor. His uncles, cousins and his own brothers would cast him in their production or directional ventures – even his father’s and uncle’s friends! Rishi wouldn’t charge them a dime at times, within the family or even the outer close friends as he saw it as a gesture of helping them out.
The Unobstructed Supportive Co-Star
In a current area, where most actors are concerned with the length of the role, the portrayal of their character and character sketch in comparison to their co-stars, Rishi Kapoor did not keep any of these conditions in mind when giving his nod to any filmmaker. These were the days when most filmmakers did not have scripts when signing their lead actor nor contracts – it was all done on the idea of trust. Rishi Kapoor didn’t really follow a specific agenda for his characters – as he once mentioned “work was coming to me. So it must have been somewhat good” with this faith he signed mostly everything as long as if he got a decent brief of the plot of the film. Many overlook, Rishi Kapoor was one of the rare few actors who supported his female co-stars faithfully, at times some of his female co-stars even had took the limelight whether it being Chandni, Nagina, Prem Rog or even Damini where the actresses were the main protagonists. Kapoor just wanted to be a part of good work – he believed in his directors and his co-actors, even with his male friend colleagues like Vinod Khanna, Jeetendra, Sunny Deol or Anil Kapoor he was not hesitate in the smaller role but he somewhere knew, his role would make some impact on the totality of the film.
From Leading Man to Leading the Man
Kapoor played the leading hero from the 70’s right till the late 90s where even most of the actors who were the similar age or even younger than him were playing his parents. Actors like Anupam Kher, Alok Nath or Khulbhushan Khardanada would play the father role to him even though playing roles younger to him or of similar calibre earlier. Kapoor knew by the mid-90s that it was time to hang up his dancing shoes when many discussed his weight on set – especially with the costume department. Films in the mid-90s such as Yaarana, Hum Dono, Daraar, Prem Granth etc didn’t work for his actor’s credibility by that time, he took the decision of doing character roles – Kaun Sachcha Kaun Jhootha and Karobaar (was in the making for a few years before release) being the last of his hero tagged films. He did this starting with Raju Chacha followed by Kuch Khatthi Kuch Meethi playing a father (Karobaar he played father to himself – but here he played a full-fledged father role) which surprised many as he played a father to Kajol despite being opposite of many of her contemporaries such as Juhi Chawla, Pooja Bhatt, Raveena Tandon, Manisha Koirala etc. Years to come, till his final years, Rishi Kapoor roles got meatier and substantial. Be it an Agneepath, D-Day or Shuddh Desi Romance he played roles that left a vast impression.
Donning the Director’s Cap
The death of Raj Kapoor questioned the family about the fate of the studio – the Chembur studio would be rented daily but the now-righteous owners were not using it for their own ventures. The three sons, Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv had mutually agreed on doing a directorial venture each in tribute to their father and to keep the pillars of R.K Studios high. Being unhappy with the fate of his acting recent acting features, Rishi Kapoor had wrote and directed Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999) which featured his friend’s son Akshaye Khanna, the new beau on the block Aishwarya Rai and bringing back a family friend to the silver screen, Rajesh Khanna. The film did not exactly work wonders, but many argued the film was a topic that was overlooked at the time – dealing with the issue of Indians abroad and their struggle with residency and respect in an alien country. The similar theme was tackled in many films over the years – even inspired the Punjabi blockbuster Jatt & Juliet. Sadly neither did Rishi or any of the other Raj Kapoor sons had not gone back to the director’s seat.
The Ten Roles that Defined Rishi Kapoor’s Career
Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Very rarely in Hindi cinema a child artist’s performance can become the talk of the talkie, despite having a towering starcast – Kapoor as young Raju embarked a somewhat satisfying yet unsettling feeling to the viewer. The narrative which follow the unfortunate circumstances of a clown, the first act lays the foundation of how the protagonist’s ill-fated journey had begun. The boy – being an average school boy being bullied, to living in poverty which his sick mother to the lead of fascination with his school teacher – which is his step to almost manhood. Rishi Kapoor, winning his first national award for best Child artist, secured himself his place here onwards in the film fraternity.
The archie-comic romance that launched the adult Kapoor at a mere age of twenty, this tale of two city bred teenagers attempting to understand the norms of acceptance in society at the same time recognise their strong feelings for another being. Bobby, by far, goes down as one the biggest launches for two newcomers at period of star dominated cinema. Bobby would be a first which took a rage by a launch, making Kapoor becoming an overnight star and the poster-boy of teenage girls. The film is remembered for its shear innocence, sincerity and joyous melody which is carried to another generation.
Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin (1977)
Nasir Hussain riding high on success took chance of making a film with moderate younger stars – which he tried with Yaadon Ki Baarat but it still helmed by the stardom of Dharmendra, this time he wanted younger for the young. The story being based on three flamboyant characters in their early 20s and the chase for the mystery diamonds surrounding them – but the film stood out more for R.D Burman’s composition. Arguably one of the best albums in the 70s, the music is still remembered today. Rishi Kapoor’s famous Bachna Ae Haseeno made him a youth icon where no one of his calibre or of his stance was running second. Hussain’s writing and enhanced music makes Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin still remembered today.
The birth of Mukta Arts and the birth of Monty. This remake of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud was Subhash Ghai’s stamp to success but not only being a cult for years to remember, it was always remembered for its haunting signature tune. During the late 70s, most of the films despite a few were multi-starrers for Rishi Kapoor, either being with Manmohan Desai or the odd few titans. Karz was a shift in Rishi Kapoor’s career – it defined him more to the calibre of being an all-rounder in one film – a superstar, the romantic hero and a vengeful son. The reincarnation genre had rarely been touched earlier, Ghai brought back the genre which followed with years of commercial successful reincarnation features. Karz is not only remembered for its theme but also for its music and Ghai’s peculiarly written characters.
Ek Chadar Maili Si (1986)
During the period of the 80s, when commercial cinema had dropped its value in terms of cost and quality, a handpicked section of directors had marched into their stamp of cinema. Despite with the new-age of art cinema competing with commercial, Ek Chadar.. falls into the category of ‘middle-of-the-road’ cinema with the dash of both. Saleable stars staying away from this genre, Kapoor had picked up the role which dropped by his colleague Raj Babbar, who felt the topic was too bold, Kapoor on the other hand felt it was something meaningful to be a part of. Based on Rajinder Singh Bedi’s novel which deals with the issue of ‘chadar dalna’ when a widow has to marry her brother-in-law is somewhat unsettling, bold yet meaningful cinema challenging the demeaning rituals of rural India.
Yash Chopra, was going through a rough patch during the 80s which he saw frequent failures, his bounce back to success – Chandni – was one film that worked for everyone – especially for Chopra and Sridevi. Chandni put Sridevi where she really deserved to be. For Rishi Kapoor, it worked to the extent that for the definitive ‘hero’ it changed the outlook. Rishi Kapoor’s character spent half of the film in a wheelchair grieving for the heroine, rather than fighting goons – he fought his disability. Many feared being paired with Sridevi, but in this case we have to say the role Rishi Kapoor had been complimented by Sridevi giving Rishi Kapoor a new feather to his hat.
Bol Radha Bol (1992)
What Chandni had did for Sridevi, arguably Bol Radha Bol had did for Rishi Kapoor. Bol Radha Bol, took Rishi Kapoor to doing the entertainers, an upcoming genre for the 90s where he played the central entertaining hero, well twice. The David Dhawan entertainer set new records at the box office and even giving a new lease of life to Rishi Kapoor as the leading man. The success of Bol Radha Bol boosted Kapoor’s career on the levels of his contemporaries Anil Kapoor, Govinda, Sunny Deol and the offers began to flood in. Kapoor through the 90s was getting substantial decent commercial ventures with him leading even working with some of the biggest directors, the entertaining genre worked for Kapoor right till the end of the decade giving him the few successes.
Originally, Rishi Kapoor had rejected the role of Rauf Lala on the first narration claiming he did not see any morals in this character – which was what Lala stood for. He felt he was not the villain that fitted between the war between two central characters. After persuasion, Rishi Kapoor took the role which was freshly written for the adaption and was not existent in the original – another possibility why Kapoor had rejected the role as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan and Kancha Cheena were such powerful written characters – he didn’t want to be bone in the meat. But, again Kapoor worked wonders and left his presence felt despite his role being shorter than the other leads. The menacing Rauf Lala won praises and saw Kapoor in a new light.
An ensemble cast on capturing the most wanted criminal in India – that too played by Rishi Kapoor did not seem favourable at first to many in the industry. The role of Dawood Ibrahim has been played by many in the past, even a few years before D-Day we saw Emraan Hashmi playing the don with his young charm with a commercial heroistic look which raised the bar. What shocked many was Rishi Kapoor’s take on the don, dialogues were only a few but the presence was felt. The maturity of the character that Kapoor had brought was the beauty of the role being it so far different to Hashmi’s interpretation a few years earlier. Regardless, this won him the role of Best Negative Role that year.
Kapoor & Sons (2016)
Shakun Batra had apparently a hard time with dealing with Rishi Kapoor, first trying to persuade him in playing a grandfather which did not go down well in the first few narrations and then making his life hell on the sets. Rishi Kapoor would often let his load off to Karan Johar, the producer of the film, but he then would calmly continue. What Rishi Kapoor had eventually seen of his work had shocked him, the makeup and the persona brought out a new Rishi Kapoor within – he told Shakun ‘this I never knew I was capable of’. The loveable Grandad in Kapoor and Sons won hearts not just at the box office but even at the award functions at that year – Rishi Kapoor hilariously called it his ‘third innings’ after playing lead and then the onscreen father.
The film industry does not guarantee any permanent relationship, similar how it does not guarantee success or even failure for that matter. For years, we have seen such relationships within the industry either built on complete trust or even out of complete fondness. For such filmmakers, its good to have a backing force to see eye to eye on a similar vision, what is eventually projected on celluloid. In most cases, a filmmaker’s journey begins from their conviction of the portray of their world – finding an similar eye and a backing of course is a blessing but in some cases can be a bridge falling.
In the Hindi film Industry, many producers which over a course of time established their so called ‘camps’ sticking around with their trustworthy pillars – their directors. Leaving their directors to their devices with the trust of winning gold. At the same time, many directors being the minds behind establishing the production house – some of which have branched out but many feeling comfortable in their producer’s shower of facilities during their journey.
A few directors now mentioning are those who have repeatedly have churned their work with the same production house establishing their relationship and to some extent mostly giving success. These are few directors who likely to stick with their camps in the coming years. As far we can establish for now!
Homi Adajania – Maddock Films
One of the key directors for this article after seeing the recent Angrezi Medium. Honestly speaking, Angrezi Medium for me was a complete disappointment with a lot basic flaws regarding the British Law, British immigrancy and the student life in Britain. Either it was the writer’s ignorance, or the lack of effort by the director or a team with zero research done. And of course the wastage of Kareena Kapoor adds to the tasteless cake. But coming back to Homi Adajania – which myself has never regarded as a good director but his career has had the fortune with the backing of people like Imitaz Ali, Saif Ali Khan and Dinesh Vijan who have taken forward his projects – Angrezi Medium being one of them – where one had completely did it out of their relationship with him. Ideally, it would be foolish for the non-Hindi speaking director to branch out or make anything outside of Maddock after the complete backing Vijan has given him, as it seems, only they have somewhat confidence in him.
Siddharth Anand – Yash Raj Films
This director is a little exception here, as Siddharth started his career with YRF as an assistant director for Kunal Kohli’s Hum Tum. Many wondering how did Siddharth get such fortune – well it happens to be that Siddharth is the grandson of late writer Inder Raj Anand and the nephew of actor/director Tinnu Anand also went to school with many established names one of course one being Ranbir Kapoor, so he already was an industry kid. He started his directorial career with YRF, later branching out but like they say “the best journey always leads us to home”, similarly with Siddharth he came back home. Last year, one of the highest grossing films of the year being YRF’s War which established Siddharth’s ability of action but also packaging his products to fit Pan India. Anand’s next two projects, the one in talks, is an action film with Shahrukh Khan as well as working on the sequel to War. Why would one want to go elsewhere?
Farhad Samji/Ahmed Khan – Nadiadwala Grandson
Sajid Nadiadwala being one of the most successful producers we currently have – known for his confidence and going ‘all-out’ for his directors. We are all aware that Nadiadwala truly believing in his commercial cinema, his products are even usually money spinners and even confidence in his products is what sells. Nadiadwala recently shared his concern with how there are not many commercial directors around to deliver, so it could that Nadiadwala is backing those who are capable. Farhad Samji, being around at Grandson for some time recently took credit for Housefull 4 and now Nadiawala has already trusted him with three projects, Bachchan Pandey, Kabhi Eid Kabhi Diwali and Housefull 5 working with stars like Akshay and Salman respectively. Ahmed Khan, giving two hits continuously with Baaghi 2 and Baaghi 3 is already working with Tiger again with Heropanti 2 and Baaghi 4.
Shashank Khaitan – Dharma Production
Dharma has a reputation of launching a lot of new talent, especially new directors and writers. Many of them have been repeated – a lot of lost out due to disastrous results but very few stick with the company but not everyone takes along a producer credit. Khaitan, who started with the ‘Dulhaniya’ series later going on to establish his presence in the production house, went on to bringing other assistant Directors from Dharma into the limelight. Currently, Khaitan is co-producing most of the products coming out of Dharma as well as directing on the side. Khaitan will be next taking the director’s cap with Mr Lele with his favourite Varun Dhawan and then will start working on his big scale venture RannBhoomi, which apparently is a reworked or reimagined version of Karan Malhotra’s Shuddhi which was shelved way back 2014.
Rajkumar Hirani – Vinod Chopra Films
This has to be a team who do not necessary seek out commercial vibes for their films but make the cinema they desire. Hirani, known to be a taskmaster who spends years on his scripts and time on his production. Hirani, earlier an editor for VVC had narrated an idea about a fake doctor spreading joy and since then there was no looking back for Hirani. Chopra, arguably is the definitive producer for any director, with his confidence and never turning away a demand, surely shows his faith in his relationship with Hirani. Even recently, during the #MeToo movement when Hirani has found himself in a soup, Chopra had backed him and refused to accept any of the allegations till a proper trial was to take place – the accuser went missing and so did the accusations. This is a relationship completely built of trust.
Contrarily, in the other ‘Direction’…..
Sajid Khan – Nadiadwala Grandson
Once upon a time, being a blue-eyed boy of Grandson. It’s no state secret that Sajid Khan was seen as obnoxious, egocentric and over-confident in the public eye. It was said post the Housefull success stories, he became too proud giving all credit solely to himself and even claiming to be the reason of the resurrection in Akshay Kumar’s career. He offended many which caused a big fallout with most people responsible in making him filmmaker from host. The last nail in the coffin, was during the filming of Housefull 4 when the stories of the victims in #MeToo movement came forward about Khan. Forcing the production house to remove his credit as director and even replaced him. Despite being best friends with Sajid Nadiadwala, there is no way this repeated director at the production house will be apart of any of their future projects.
Sabbir Khan – Nadiadwala Grandson
The director behind taking on a responsibility for launching one of the country’s sensations – Tiger Shroff. Sabbir Khan had earlier had hard luck at Grandson but it seemed to have found a new lease of life in Tiger Shroff with Heropanti, going down as one the most successful debuts in recent times. The confidence he had in Shroff went on for him to work on Baaghi, which began the a new successful franchise for the production house. So where did it all go wrong? Well – his feeling of ownership over Shroff. His spat with Nadiadwala over a project left him leaving the production house and making his next feature outside with Tiger. Sadly, no one really saw Munna Michael and Nadiadwala was not hesitant in passing on the Baaghi franchise to Ahmed Khan, who also now seems to helming the Heropanti franchise too.
Tarun Mansukhani – Dharma Productions
We all saw the fate of Mansukhani’s last venture Drive, a few of us even had the misfortune to even watch the film. The director who returned after a decade to the production house, after his previous success Dostana, ideally, the producers would consider his next venture after giving the house a merit. According to sources, the dispute behind Drive was quite heated, where the producer was not too impressed with the final outcome resulting to constant delays and the director fighting for his chair at the editing table. Things got so out of hand that the producer released the film straight to Netflix – a win-win situation for the producer but no such much for everyone else. Sadly, this state of conflict doesn’t seem that Dharma would be backing another venture from the director again.
Habib Faisal – Yash Raj Films
No fight, no dispute was ever mentioned between either parties. Faisal being great talent especially with his first film, then leading to his name joining with YRF. Being an asset as a writer, giving some great work to the house. His last two features. Daawat-E-Ishq and Qaidi Band bombed at the box office, one wonders where the director went wrong. But possibly a safer option for Faisal is to stick to the writing and maybe take a rest with direction?
Going by the current global climate and the pause a virus has made on our daily busy lives has made us been cautious and lead to the wise decision of staying at home – many still wondering how use this period in attempts of being productive or to make use of this time creditable. But there is nothing like staying at home and catching up on all of them flicks we had either missed at the cinemas when we were busy or just didn’t find spending X amount on a flick was really worth it. Now that you have the time – here is a way you can use it wisely – catch up!
Many films recently have passed our eyes either because of the overflow of films, lack of publicity or thanks to many fellow critics who now tend to feel their opinion is our decision of rather watching the film or not, tend to trash the film on Day one. Sadly, the efforts behind such filmmakers misses the spectator’s eye and we tend not to hear about these films till the power of word of mouth.
So now we have time – here are bunch of films recommended by myself which you can see on most major streaming platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee 5 etc) to sure let you pass your time efficiently!
Jawaani Jaaneman (2020)
Firstly, the entire recommendations are not all parallel cinema/Indie Based or even as many of our audience would say in India ‘Oscar deserving cinema’, there are all a mixed bag especially the entertainment/commercial based cinema. This Saif Ali Khan starrer released earlier this year and was rubbed off maybe due to being lost in the stampede of releases. Saif also not having the greatest run on recent at the box office, this was the bounce back to what he plays best – the playboy. JJ is actually an extension of Saif’s character from Yeh Dillagi where now he’s a 40 something-old-man still trying his way not coming to terms with his age – finally finds out he has pregnant 21 year old daughter and his denial in growing up. The film is indeed entertaining, filled with laughs with no over the top humour and of course – Saif shines.
Vodka Diaries (2018)
A small town murder mystery, set in the snow glad area of Manali is about a bunch murders that connect to one party ‘Vodka Diaries’ where one after the other the murders have a connection in between. Kay Kay Menon – playing a cop who is traumatised by his ‘vodka’ based past sets out to unravel the mystery but later taking over his mental stability. Fitted in the ‘mind-messing’ genre which makes the audience a little unbalanced between the real world and the idea of illusion – the on-going events make it clear it’s more psychological to the protagonist which makes one wonder – what is actually happening. The film boast a great performance by Kay Kay Menon who after a long time goes solo.
Made in China (2019)
A recent film which also got lost in the stampede of releases, released on Diwali with big commercial releases like Housefull 4 and Sandh Ki Aankh, this film somewhere got lost – in the eyes of the public and of course screens in cinemas. This Rajkummar Rao starrer is a witty comedy about entrepreneurship, where a failed entrepreneur goes to China only to find a cure for the needy husbands in India with the help of sexologist Boman Irani – they touch the soft corner which makes them huge but the trouble begins when the Indian moral police get involved. Witty, funny and indeed an interesting watch. Don’t expect a Rocket Singh but yes – this one is one to look out for.
Very many are not aware of the issue in Kashmir of ‘half-widows’, well it’s about the political issue that stood during a period of time (to some extent still exists) where husbands have not arrived home in years in which gave the tag to their wives as ‘half-widows’. In this sweet simple story about a young Hamid, who tries to get in contact with Allah by his phone number (786) which leads him to contact a frustrated, tired-of-the-system Army Soldier who plays along with the child’s wish. The plot develops to the faith one has in each other and how the innocence of trust in god improves the way we live in a society. Hamid went on to where the lead actor won the National award for best actor but sadly the film is still unseen by many.
Laal Kaptaan (2019)
Navdeep Singh who earlier has helmed critical acclaimed films like Manorama Six Feet Under and NH10 teamed up with Saif Ali Khan which ended being his least successful film – critically and commercially. The film is about a bounty hunter in a form of a Naga Sadhu played by Saif during the British Raj who gets the bounty who always was looking for. Many misjudged and didn’t actually get the film – the film lies in a world possibly never created by a Hindi film director before – a world that is non-existent but living in a non-fictional world. Many criticised the film for its length and its pace – which is subtly of the film. It’s not loud, it’s not daunting yet the pace builds the establishment of the characters. The uncertainty of Saif’s character and who he stands for – is he the righteous or the wrong is not clear till the end which the one of the standing pillars of the film. One has to the see film without any comparison as its thriller of its own kind and a possible wave of new genre.
Mentioned in one of my earlier articles – this Akshat Verma film, of Delhi Belly fame who makes his directorial debut, set on a monsoon night in Mumbai, dealing with various characters and plots that brings together a wacky black comedy about greed, lust, love and hope. This being another Saif starrer which went unnoticed was of course due to the mammoth Padmaavat at the time – very few had seen this in the cinema and it gained somewhat life on the OTT platforms. This hilarious black comedy with its individual wacky plots which are almost absolute random surely entertain and do bring a smile to your face – especially Saif’s high and tripping scenes. One is reminded of Delhi Belly during sequences but the highlight of the film boasts of Saif’s comic timing and his various shift of his character during stages of the film.
India’s Most Wanted (2019)
Rajkumar Gupta who was recently riding high on the success of Raid, gave his next outing quite sooner than expected. A smaller budget film yet high on content which he finished in a quick span of time. The film deals with India’s Osama Bin Laden – if many are not aware this is Yasin Bhatkal who was involved with 10 separate blasts in India these include the 2008 Delhi bombings and the 2010 Varanasi blasts. The film is about the small team who went with a zero budget and no arms for protection captured this demon from his own home and how the team till now is still unnamed while other seniors took their credit. The film missed the bus due to two reason – the negativity surrounding Arjun Kapoor and the huge amount releases at the time which was followed by Salman’s Bharat one week later. Surely, the film does guarantee a good thriller with engaging climax.
First premiered at MAMI 2018, the Indie film deals with the issues women police officers in Delhi and how they are treated by the public and their respective seniors in the police department. Delhi for years being known for its unsafe conditions towards women, Soni is a critique towards the issue of how even being in the police force the issue of safety is still existent. The lead character Soni, who has a temper issue tries to deal with the issue and prejudice towards women in her own manner but upsetting her seniors – she is occasionally made aware that it’s not her space, continuously being reminded that it’s a male driven society. Soni works on many levels and proves the strength of storytelling without a commercial set up, Soni is a thought-provoking film neatly packaged boasting performances by both female leads Geetika Vidya Ohlyan and Saloni Batra.
Section 375 (2019)
Going by the recent controversial issue of #MeToo, Section 375 takes a story of a costume assistant being molested by a film director and how it leads to a courtroom drama. Lawyers played by Akshaye Khanna and Richa Chaddha follow a dispute between right and wrong, the issue of consent and the power and the weak. The dispute in this courtroom drama throws away the typical response of who ‘usually’ is in the right but deals more with the idea of the misuse of the law during such circumstances and the idea of ‘justice’ and how it’s can occasionally fail. Khanna says ‘Law is actually our business. To prevail justice is not our job’. The film eye opener of issue of misconduct of the suit of law during such cases but at the same time how such a movement in the public has made and broke prominent careers.
Laila Majnu (2018)
Finally, my topper of the list. It came a shock to me that during the time of the release it bashed by a majority – neither no major film has eclipsed it but neither did anyone back the film. This Imitaz Ali film which is directed by debutant brother Sajid Ali is a contemporary adaption of the Arabian story Majnun Layla, which means ‘Layla’s Lunatic’, the unfortunate infamous story of the separation between Qays and Layla. The Alis have based the film in a modern Kashmir with the same characters just fitted a little more towards the time but with the same emotions, at the same time dealing with the issues raising in Kashmir. The debut couple in the film excel by far and surely leave a lasting impression but the film makes it real mark in the final 45 minutes of the film – where the protagonist actually becomes Majnu. The detail and depth to the character – the unspoken issue and lasting happiness adds such depth to the plot of what actually is the ideal way one sees love – what does one expect? Majnun Layla was a story about loss, grief and love but the Ali’s version elaborates as a story of illusion, madness and hope. One has to hand it to both brother of pulling off such an adaption which lasting in the mind – it would be hard to live up to such an adaption in years to come. Highly recommended.