I realize a worst-of-the-year list can never be complete as long as I have yet to see "Dhaal," and Akshay Kumar's thrillogy -- "Insaaf," "Daava," and "Lahoo Ke Do Rang." Nonetheless, here are my 10 least pleasurable moviegoing experiences of 1997, ranked in no particular order.
... AUR PYAR HO GAYA Aishwarya Rais first Hindi film raised sky high expectations and got an excellent opening but only in Mumbai. But even in movie town it didnt last long. The first week collections were so dismal all over that distributors were too embarrassed to reveal the figures. Despite the presence of the promising Bobby Deol, the erstwhile Miss World and a big screen debut by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan also scored the music for his first and last Hindi film, ...Aur Pyar Ho Gaya was an unexpected disaster. Sold for Rs 2 crore per territory, it will do a business of less than 40 per cent of the price it was sold for.
BETAABI This youthful entertainer by Harry Baweja was not a total write-off but it features in this list because this was Arshad Warsi and Chandrachur Singhs first film after Tere Mere Sapne and a lot was expected from the duo. This was also Vishal Bharadwajs first score after Maachis. But Harry and company couldnt tune into success despite their best efforts. Sold for Rs 65-75 per territory, Betaabi will recover only about Rs 25 lakh. In fact, in certain theatres it just about managed to recover the cost of rentals.
DAUD The sizzle, the suspense, the hype and the hoopla got Ram Gopal Varma and Urmila Matondkars first film after Rangeela a bumper initial. And then, after an encouraging weekend, it fizzled out, not even completing its run in some theatres. The verdict was that Ram Gopal Varma in his preoccupation with technique virtuosity had completly neglected the storyline which was deemed wholly and solely responsible for the debacle of this much-talked-about action adventure sold for an astronomical Rs 2 crore per major territory. Not even AR Rahmans hit hot tunes could keep Daud in the race. It wont even recover 50 per cent of investment for its distributors.
HAMESHAA Twenty-two years after Sholay the Sippys had reconciled themselves to the fact that they would never be able to make another Sholay but they were hoping that Hameshaa would at least ensure that the banner would remain flying... forever. A lot was at stake for director Sanjay Gupta and actor Saif Ali Khan, this reincarnation drama based on a true life incident could not resurrect their careers. The initial reports were so discouraging that the Bengal distributors didnt take delivery of the film and elsewhere too it had to be sold at a price lower than the agreed upon Rs 1 crore per territory. In Mumbai and Delhi the Sippys released it themselves and are still reeling under a Rs 3 crore blow. In many theatres it was discontinued in the second week itself. Not even Anu Maliks hits like Neela dupatta could revive interest in this lost project.
LAHOO KE DO RANG Krantiveer Mehul Kumar slipped up this time. And despite a star-studded castNaseeruddin Shah, Akshay Kumar and Karisma Kapoor who were all fired up, this action special was gunned down in the first week itself. Sold for Rs 1.25 crore per territory, it was a total loss for its distributors perhaps because Mehul Kumar was concentrating too hard on his Big B bonanza and even after two years couldnt spare much time or thought for this lesser film.
MERE SAPNON KI RANI Despite a low key, release this Urmila-Sanjay Kapoor-Madhoo love triangle got an encouraging opening. And despite being sold for a pretty steep price, Rs 90 lakh, for a Sanjay Kapoor starrer it did a business of Rs 1.35 crore and will recover Rs 10-15 lakh per territory. However, it couldnt come anywhere close to the Telugu original and coming on the heels of Daud, added to Urmila Matondkars misery.
MOHABBAT A lot was expected from this Sanjay Kapoor-Akshaye-Madhuri love triangle directed by Reema Rakeshnath who was hoping for another Saajan. The film had a decent start but by the second week the charm of Nadeem-Shravans reworked chart-topper, Meri jaane jaana ,obviously inspired by Stereo Nations Ive been waiting, wore off. The storyline was too thin and the film looked dated, was the unanimous verdict.
MRITYUDAATA The Big Bonanza didnt fare any better. Sold for a record Rs 2.50 crore per territory (the highest price paid for any film), the film couldnt even register 50 per cent collections inspite of a good first-day collections. It was a disaster from the word go. In CPCI it could not even command an initial draw and elsewhere it nosedived after the third day and never recovered. It was Amitabh Bachchans biggest debacle even though ABCL netted Rs 10 crore by selling it for an astronomical price. It was the Bachchans first film after five years yet the second week collections were so poor that the distributors refused to release the figures. Those who had bought it on a minimum guarantee basis lost heavily. The film drove home the stark reality that in the present-day scheme of things even Big B cannot be a substitute for a poorly structured film filled with old gimmicks. Bachchan's teaming up with Daler Mehndi in the chart-topping Na na na na nare did make waves, but it couldn't salvage the film at the box-office. A nightmarish debut for Ajits shehzaade, Arbaaz Khan.
ITIHAAS This Ajay-Twinkle love story was Raj Kanwars dream project and he was hoping itd make box -office history. However, it turned out to be one of the biggest debacles of the year. It was Ajay Devgans first release of the year and it failed to get a decent opening despite all the hype. The 70 per cent initial collections dropped to a dismal 50 per cent by the end of the first week and the film never recovered. Sold for Rs 1.75 crore per territory it will hardly do a business of Rs 50 lakh.
MAHAANTA It was an uneventful comeback for Sanjay Dutt (his guest appearance in Sanam was too insignificant for the Hanif-Sameer film to be called as his come. ack vehicle). Directed by debutant Afzal Khan, Mahanta was initially sold for a nominal Rs 25 lakh per territory but after seven years it suddenly became a hot proposition because it was going to be Sanjays first film in four years, and the producer hiked the price to a crore (in Delhi at the time of delivery it was sold for Rs 1.35 crore). After a satisfactory opening, collections dipped drastically. Despite Afzals best efforts (he reshot almost 80 per cent of the film and even added a new number, Tapka re tapka) the film had a dated look and was summarily rejected.