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1997: The year of
Though 1997 had its shares of hits and misses, the big
screen was resurrected to some extent by the
ever-reliable Chopras and Ghais. People had enough of
drawing-room distraction with satellite TV and returned
to the theatres. Hindi films fetched record overseas
distribution rights and began new lucrative avenues for
the producers. On the bleaker side, panic set in the
industry due to the ever-increasing shadow of the mafia
and the usually publicity-hungry filmwallahs kept a
deliberate low profile. There was a severe cash crunch in
the industry as the financiers shied away fearing
extortions from the underworld. This resulted in a sharp
slump in the number of productions. Another worrisome
factor is the alleged involvement of Nadeem and Tips
chief in the gruesome murder of T-Series chief Gulshan
Kumar, which brought into focus the dwindling moral
values in the film market.
Juhi Chawla made a spectacular re-entry after a short hibernation. The chirpy Chawla set screen on fire with her effervescent performances in Yes Boss, Deewana Mastana and Ishq. Rejuvenated Anil Kapoor is back in the reckoning with Judaai and Virasat. JP Dutta, who had been in the dumps, hit big time with the blockbuster Border. And of course, David Dhawan-Govinda duo continued to add feathers (Hero No. 1 and Deewana Mastana) to their colourful caps. After Trimurti debacle, showman Subhash Ghai pulled out all the tricks under his hat and released Pardes amid low-key publicity. The film, starring his new discovery Mahima Choudhary and Shah Rukh Khan, went on to become one of the biggest grossers of the year. Ghai dropped Laxmikant-Pyarelal for the first time and Nadeem-Shravan reciprocated the reposed faith in them with chart-busters Do dil mil rahe hain, Dil deewana and Meri mehbooba. There were heavy overtones of DDLJ and Suraj Barjatyas traditional values in the film, but who cares for originality? Particularly when the guaranteed formula brings back the welcome queues and hordes of black-marketers to the theatres.
Another showman Yash Chopra continues to baffle the audience with his undiminished romanticism. Dil to Pagal Hai may not be his best film, but it has some of the best conceived moments in Indian cinema. Seasoned artists Shah Rukh and Madhuri brought magic to their intimate conversational scenes. Music by Uttam Singh (of Uttam-Jagdish of Painter Babu fame), Manmohan Singhs photography and Shaimak Davars choreography made it a work of art that will break your heart. Rajiv Rai-Viju Shah team struck again with a tornado called Gupt. The director maintained his reputation as the slickest film maker in Mumbai. The innovative starcast of Kajol-Bobby-Manisha and hypnotic musical score (Mushkil bada ye pyar hai, Mere khwabon mein tu and Gupt gupt) revived the long-forgotten ritual of booking tickets in advance for the new Friday release. JP Duttas magnum opus Border proved that films made with passion and sincerity always have audience clamouring for them. With Indo-Pak war as its background and splendid songs by Anu Malik-Javed Akhtar team (Ke ghar kab aaoge, To chahm and Mere dushman mere bhai) the film gave a fresh lease of life to Sunil Shetty who gave his career-best performance.
Judaai, a bizarre remake of Indecent proposal with Urmila playing Robert Redford and Anil Kapoor enacting Demi Moore, was one of the successful films of the year. Sridevi stole the show with an author-backed role. Matondkar babe, however, received a setback with Ramgopal Vermas Daud. This eagerly-awaited film from Rangeela director was a washout inspite of foot-tapping music by AR Rahman (Shabba Shabba, Zahreela Pyar and O Bhavre). Another of Rahmans effort which failed to save a film was Rajeev Menons Sapnay. This National-award winning album has some extraordinary compositions like Awara bhanware, Chanda re, Ek bagiya mein. Kajol along with her beau Ajay Devgan, Juhi Chawla and Aamir Khan scored a big hit with Ishq. Director Indra Kumar followed his earlier hat-trick (Dil, Beta and Raja) with this blockbuster, which has some memorable tunes by Anu Malik. Juhi Chawla preceded Ishq with Shah Rukh Khan in Yes Boss. The film directed by Aziz Mirza had first-rate performances from the lead pair and some scintillating solos (Main koi aisa geet gaaon).David Dhawans Deewana Mastana, starring Juhi with Anil and Govinda, brought cheer in the desi camp after a long time.
Priyadarshans Virasat is one of the
technically brilliant films in the recent times. Remake
of Bharatans Thevar Magan, the film gave a
boost to the careers of Anil Kapoor and Tabu. Akshay
Kumars ex-girl friend Pooja Batra made an
impressive debut with this film. This leggy model also
registered another hit Bhai with Sunil Shetty.
Sohail Khans debut film Auzaar was one of the flops in Sanjay Kapoors overflowing kitty of Zameer, Mere Sapnon Ki Rani and Mohabhat. Salman Khan had only a single hit Judwaa which had him in a double role. Sunny Deol reigned supreme with Guddu Dhanoas Ziddi, but could not rescue movies like Rajkumar Kohlis Qahar. The audience loved Nana Patekars performances but not his films Yeshwant and Ghulam-e-Musthafa. Mithun-starrers continued to hit silver screen inspite of their dismal show at the box office. Akshay Kumar had a dry season with disasters Lahu Ke Do Rang, Insaaf and Mr & Mrs Khiladi. And Aflaatoon is not likely to see him through. Basu Bhattacharyas Aastha did reasonably well, thanks to Rekhas powerhouse performance.
The film heralded the arrival of bold projects on Hindi screen. Mahesh Bhatts Tamanna followed it with an hitherto untouched story of hijras. Kalpna Lajmis Darmiyaan also gave a sensitive account of a mixed gender. But the stark reality of these themes is too painful to be accepted by the cinegoers. Hindi-dubbed films from Hollywood and the South flooded the theatres in 97. But in Hyderabad many of these dubbed films vanished within a week. Death struck a devastating blow by snatching away the musical genius Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The industry also grieved for the loss of whizkid Mukul Anand, director Basu Bhattacharya, lyricist Anjaan and audio-king Gulshan Kumar. They all might not be with us any longer but thier work lives on....
The number of films released during 1997 fell to 89 from 96 last year and 98 the year before. Mediocrity in story and substance was the rule, rather than an exception with films in 97. The biggest of makers and their films disappointed irrespective of how they fared at the box office. Repeat value of a film is what makes it a blockbuster in India but, sadly, the best grossers of the year lacked in repeat value. Dil To Pagal Hai and Border included. Consequently, the year was bereft of a memorable hit like Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Karan Arjun or Raja Hindustani as has been the tradition for the past few years. The year also saw the sectional patronage of many films where the performances of films differed in North India from that in Western India and South or from the Hindi belt to other parts. That way, the all India hits in 1997 are but few.
The best grossers the year that
Hero No. 1
Mafia sabotaged Darmiyaan, says
A few days later Lajmi wrote to him saying that the budget had increased further to Rs 1.84 crore, which shocked Pandit He agreed to shell out the amount if Lajmi was ready to forego 10 per cent of the profit, which the producer had promised to her. Another shock was in store for Pandit when Lajmi informed him that the budget had gone up to Rs 2.27 crore. This was when Pandit sensed that there was something fishy as Lajmi had insisted upon making all the payments through her. The final blow came when she asked for more money just 10 days before the completion of the film as the budget had escalated to Rs 3. 37 crore. Pandit was furious and lashed out at Kalpana saying this kind of dishonesty will lead Kalpana to jail.
On this, Dadasaheb Phalke awardee Bhupen
Hazarika came to Kalpanas rescue, said
Pandit, releasing a copy of the handwritten letter he had
received from the former advising him to refrain from
making such remarks.
When asked to be specific about sabotage by mafia, Pandit said that certain sections of the film industry did not like his style of making films with white money. The release of the film was even more difficult. First, a theatre in Mumbai forced Pundit to book the theatre one week ahead of the planned release and also book morning shows. Thus, he was forced to release Maachis for a week to fill the gap. Next, the theatre management would put off the air-conditioner in the auditorium during the running of the show, which gave the movie adverse publicity. People queued up to return their tickets as word spread that there was no AC. Pandit took up the issue with the theatre management who accepted their fault but the damage was done. Then there was another theatre which expressed its helplessness due to power failure.
Pandit was equally vociferous on the troubles his other film Train to Pakistan faced with the Censor Board. The release of the film was delayed because of a last minute change by the Board, he alleged. The Examining Committee of the Board had recommended certain cuts in the film against which I made an appeal, he explained. Following the appeal, the film was seen by the Revising Committee, which confirmed the ECs recommendation for an A certificate and imposed further cuts. In fact, two members of the RC felt that the film be banned, he said. The producer appealed to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, which passed strong strictures against the Board.
It said, We are constrained to observe that this general cut betrays non-application of mind, and worse we are of the view that the Board has prima facie committed a contempt of the Supreme Court. Pandit was curious to know who were the members of the Board who had recommended cuts and deletion of dialogues which were taking away the essence of the film. To his shock he found that just before the fall of the Gowda government, the then Information and Broadcasting Minister C M Ibrahim had recommended the appointment of 44 candidates who were like illiterates to the Board. The appointment was made only to ensure that some Muslim candidates get Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month by being on the Board, he said.
The producer narrated several experiences in the film industry. The press sings paeans in praise of Gulshan Kumar and his business acumen but, I can show you documentary evidence of the unhealthy practices he adopted to further his interests, Pandit charged. Flashing several letters and cheques sent to him by the late music magnate, Pandit said that Kumar used to send cheques of amounts as small as Rs 500 towards royalty for making cover versions of the music of his films. The letter used to state that some 10,000 copies will be made but in reality he cut cassettes in lakhs, Pandit alleged. From now on, in courts of law, in New Delhi and in the media I am going to use my position as a producer to do a little bit of cleaning in this business, declared Pandit. Already as the largest single donor of funds by cheques I have made an impact on the Supreme Court judgement in this regard, he pointed out.
How 97 was for me
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