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Mafia sabotaged

The best grossers of
the year that was

How ‘97 was for me,
Stars Confess


Deewana Mastana


Dil to pagal hain















































A scene from Darmayaan





























1997: The year of lacklustre fare
1997 was a depressing year for the film industry as a whole. Mediocre quality films with even the best grossers lacking in repeat value, the shadow of the mafia looming large, topped with demises and unfortunate incidents like Gulshan Kumar’s murder all took a toll on the film business

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.
Now to the flashback, folks. So, what’s 1997 been like? Not bad, really. Some of the gifted oldies proved they were goldies with their glittering comebacks.

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 Barjatya’s 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 Singh’s photography and Shaimak Davar’s 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 Dutta’s 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 Verma’s 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 Rahman’s effort which failed to save a film was Rajeev Menon’s 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 Dhawan’s Deewana Mastana, starring Juhi with Anil and Govinda, brought cheer in the desi camp after a long time.

Priyadarshan’s Virasat is one of the technically brilliant films in the recent times. Remake of Bharatan’s Thevar Magan, the film gave a boost to the careers of Anil Kapoor and Tabu. Akshay Kumar’s ex-girl friend Pooja Batra made an impressive debut with this film. This leggy model also registered another hit Bhai with Sunil Shetty.
Another model and ex-Miss World Aishwarya Rai had a disastrous debut with Rahul Rawail’s Aur Pyar Ho Gaya. Sold at astronomical price in all territories, the film was a washout raising questions over Bobby Deol’s charisma at the box-office. Some years ago, when most movies ran to empty houses, there was only one man who could drag them to the theatres. Ironically, in the very year audiences returned to the theatres, they refused to queue up for his film Mrityudaata. Mehul Kumar’s eagerly-awaited colossus became a nightmare to the distributors and gave death-knell to any hopes of Big B’s return to the superstardom. Rakesh Roshan’s Koyla was another costly turkey of the year. Starring Shah Rukh and Madhuri, the film sank without a trace. Sanjay Gupta’s Hamesha ended any hopes of Saif Ali Khan making it on the Hindi screen, a la his mother Sharmila. Director-turned- producer Raj Kanwar could not create any history with Itihaas.

Sohail Khan’s debut film Auzaar was one of the flops in Sanjay Kapoor’s 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 Dhanoa’s Ziddi, but could not rescue movies like Rajkumar Kohli’s Qahar. The audience loved Nana Patekar’s 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 Bhattacharya’s Aastha did reasonably well, thanks to Rekha’s powerhouse performance.

The film heralded the arrival of bold projects on Hindi screen. Mahesh Bhatt’s Tamanna followed it with an hitherto untouched story of hijras. Kalpna Lajmi’s 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 was
Dil to Pagal Hai
This Yash Chopra film generated the necessary craze and also tremendous opening collections all over. However, the instant reaction was that of disappointment. The film’s music and Karishma’s performance proved to be its saving grace, while Madhuri Dixit and the sagging second half of the film disappointed. The film took in all the moolah in its first few weeks, thanks to vacation and ‘must-see-once’ approach of cinegoers. The drop in collections was imminent which happened 4th/ 5th week onwards.

The chart topping music and not an easy to assemble starcast guaranteed the film a big start. This film, too carried on well for the first few weeks but, sans repeat value, ran out of steam soon. However, tax exemption in certain states helped it chug alone thereafter.

An all action film, Ziddi was a triumph for its fight master and Sunny Deol whose no-nonsense action image was consolidated. The film was the cinegoers’ delight in Delhi-UP, Punjab, Bihar and Rajasthan with only marginally lesser performance as it moved Southwards.

Hero No. 1
The Govinda-Karishma-David Dhawan combination struck once again. To the film’s advantage, it had a horde of other characters to provide entertainment unlimited. The film did well all over India.

Remake of the Telugu hit Hello Brother, with Salman Khan in a double role and Karishma to consolidate the casting, it was an all round fun film doing well all over but excelling in Bombay, CI, and South circuits.

With popular combination of class and mass heroes, Aamir Khan and Ajay Devgan, Ishq opened well in Bombay and South but had lacklustre opening throughout the Hindi belt. Fortunately, the film gained momentum over the first week-end. And, though not a block-buster it makes it to the plus slot with definite earnings in all circuits.

Being very, very reasonably priced, it did not matter much that the film was a gentry fare mainly and the cinegoers at smaller centres, especially in North, would not take to it so much. The media coverage was more in this case than the coverage at the box office. The film being a reasonable grosser generally, was best in Bombay and CP circuits.

Indecent Proposal, reversed and touched with Indian social theme, Judaai, like all Anil Kapoor films, was a slow starter. Expected to be a loser initially, it consolidated its position in Bombay.

Released opposite two major films, Dil To Pagal Hai and Ghulam-e-Musthafa during Diwali, Bhai was expected to be mutilated. It surprised all as, of the three, this was the only one unanimously appreciated and, due to low price, the first to recover costs.

Although a Subhash Ghai film, Pardes had created no euphoria before release and the cinegoers’ sixth sense seemed justified when it did. With no solid content and limited star value, the film was fed in some circuits till people accepted it. Tax exemption helped and Pardes can now be rated as an earner in Bombay, CP, and Nizam. Elsewhere it may lose a little in some circuits or scrape through in others.

Mafia sabotaged Darmiyaan, says producer
Darmiyaan, Pan Pictures’ latest release directed by Kalpana Lajmi, was sabotaged, according to R V Pandit, the producer of the film. The publisher-turned-filmmaker suspects the hand of mafia in the murky drama. “The mafia had taken over my film,” said Pandit addressing a press conference in Mumbai. Pandit minces no words about the role of director Kalpana Lajmi and music director-singer Bhupen Hazarika in abetting the fraud. Darmiyaan began with a budget of Rs 70 lakh and was to be co-produced by Pandit and National Film Development Corporation, who were to invest Rs 35 lakh each. But, once the film went on floors the budget increased from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1.37 crore. Pandit’s earlier film Maachis had a budget of about Rs 2 crore hence he accepted it.

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 Kalpana’s rescue,” said Pandit, releasing a copy of the handwritten letter he had received from the former advising him to refrain from making such remarks.
“The only consolation was the reduction of Rs 14 lakh which Lajmi managed by deleting some scenes,” he added. Substantiating his charge Pandit claimed that some Income-Tax officials have pointed out fraud in the invoices of expenditure. “Most of them are written and signed by the same person and are approved by Kalpana Lajmi,” he charged. “I am going to take it up in court next week,” he said.

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 EC’s 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

Dilip Kumar
The year has been the worst year for the film industry. Tainted money and twisted minds have influenced both the makers and the viewers of Indian Cinema. Things are getting worse day-by-day. There is a lot of panic and confusion in everyone’s mind. I am sure sanity will soon dawn upon the affected people and things will change for the better.

Ajay Devgan
For me, this year has been very good. My films have done well. I am very happy about the success of Ishq. I have just signed a film with Govind Nihalani But talking about Bollywood, this year has been gloomy. Activities of certain people has tarnished its image. However, there are a number of good projects in the pipeline so there is hope for the future.

Raveena Tandon
This year has been very confusing and disturbing for me. But professionally it has been a good year as I proved myself with some good performance. I am receiving some really good offers and my career graph is rising upwards. For the film industry as a whole, the year was not a very good. But then, there is always hope.

Bhupen Hazarika
It was very challenging for me. I saw brilliant end results. But for Bollywood, unexpected negative situations took its toll. In fact, it had nothing to do with creativity, which is why it was sad to see everything become stagnant. The coming year should be good with a number of good films in the pipeline. Distributors who were discouraged are now fearless.

Sunil Shetty
This year was really excellent for me. Two of my films have done tremendously well. I have been signed on by people who normally make serious, meaningful films. Actually, I wanted a change and the gamble paid off. For the film industry, however, it was a depressing year. There is hope for the future. All of us are praying that things will soon change.

Kalpana Lajmi
It has been a very good year for me. I saw the release of my film, Darmiyaan, with wonderful response. I have been getting lots of good offers in films and television. However, I wouldn’t say that this year was as dismal for the industry as it has been made out to be. I think there is a bright future provided star prices are curtailed.

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