The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, January 19, 2003
Lead Article

On the sands of time-1991
Year of critically acclaimed films
M. L. Dhawan

Saudagar was a feudal drama of love and hate
Saudagar was a feudal drama of love and hate

NANA PATEKAR’S Prahar spelt out his vision of dispensing justice in a society trapped in a morass of helplessness and indiscipline Maj Chauhan (Nana Patekar) ran a gruelling commando training centre. One of his wards Peter D’Souza lost a leg in an anti-terrorist operation and was discharged from the centre. He took charge of his family’s bakery in Bombay. When he refused to pay protection money to local criminals, he was killed by them. An outraged Maj Chauhan confronted and eliminated the criminals. After trial, the court verdict was that Maj Chauhan had lost his mental equilibrium. He was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment in a lunatic asylum. Dimple Kapadia and Madhuri Dixit impressed in a deglamourised role, but Nana Patekar stole the thunder as a military Pied Piper.

In Mahesh Bhatt’s Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Pooja (Pooja Bhatt), a pampered rich girl ran away from home. She than met a poor hack Raghu Jetley (Aamir Khan), who fell in love with her while she was in love with someone else. After several twists in the story, Pooja fell in with Raghu. Aamir Khan acquitted himself creditably in a role earlier done with panache by Raj Kapoor (Chori Chori) and Clark Gable (It Happened One Night).


Subhash Ghai’s Saudagar was the story of two-warring clans who had a history littered with blood and corpses. Bir Singh (Dilip Kumar) was supposed to marry a sister of Thakur Rajeshwar Singh (Raj Kumar). When Bir Singh abandoned her to save the honour of another woman, the Thakur’s sister committed suicide. Friends became foes and their feud stretched over two decades. Bir Singh’s eldest son Vishal (Jackie Shroff) was killed when he tried to make peace. Time played strange pranks when Vishal’s son Vasu (Vivek Mushran) fell in love with the enemy’s grand-daughter Radha (Manisha Koirala). At first love between them seemed doomed but the two pledged to end the enmity between their families and eventually brought the warring clans together.

In Lawrence D’ Souza’s Saajan, Aman (Sanjay Dutt) was a physically challenged orphaned guy who had been brought up by Aakash’s (Salmaan Khan) family, whose business he managed with devotion. Aman secretly loved Pooja (Madhuri Dixit) immensely. The only way he could repay Aakash was by fooling Pooja into believing that his casanova friend Aakash, who had lost his heart to her, was the poet ‘Saagar’ who had dazzled her with his sensitivity poetry. Saajan was obviously Sangam reworked, with the only difference that in the former, no one died.

Raj Kapoor/Randhir Kapoor’s Henna was a love story depicting the universal and timeless emotions of love and sacrifice. The film showed that love transcends all man-made barriers and boundaries. Chander (Rishi Kapoor) met with a near fatal car accident. He fell into a river and carried away by the current to Pakistan. He lost his memory in the process. In Pakistan he fell in love with beautiful girl Henna (Zeba Bakhtiar). He, however, disclosed his identity when he recovered his memory. Though Henna was heart broken, her family sent Rishi back home to India. This emotional drama set in Pakistan and India touched the hearts of audiences in both countries. Chithiye dard firaq waliye, Der na ho jaye kahin der na ho jaye, Jane-waley Tera Allaha nigh-e-baan Main hoon khush rang heena, and Main der karta nahin der ho jatee hai composed by Ravinder Jain became hits.

Written by Honey Irani, Lamhe was Yash Chopra’s most daring film that digressed from the traditional themes. Pooja (Sridevi) fell in love Viren (Anil Kapoor), a man who had loved her mother, Pallavi (Sridevi). Viren was not only a father-figure in her orphaned life, he was in fact the man who could have been her father, only if her mother had reciprocated his ardour. But Pooja’s love knew no spatial, temporal or age barrier. Even the knowledge of her beloved’s repressed passion for her deceased mother did not act as a deterrent. Viren realised that despite the apparent incongruity, he loved Pooja and ultimately the duo settled down to domestic bliss. The film was a disaster at the box office because of its unconventional theme. Neither Sridevi bursting into folk dance to the sound of Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Morni baghan mein boley aadhi raat mein’ nor Anil Kapoor’s look of hurt could force the audience to accept the theme which was viewed as morally incestuous.

N. Chandra’s Narsimha dwelt on the crumbling law and order machinery on account of the stronghold of petty goondas. Baapji (Om Puri) was a malevolent self-styled king of the town of Narayanpura. His loyal lieutenant Narsimha (Sunny Deol) committed crimes for him, but later turned against his mentor and finally succeeded in freeing the town from the tentacles of Baapji.

In Mukul Anand’s Hum, Tiger (Amitabh Bachchan) was a petty crook/lacky who collected protection money for dockyward don Bakhtawar (Danny Denzongpa). Tiger’s friend Gonsalves spearheaded a revolt by the oppressed dockers against Bakhtawar and Tiger supported Gonsalves. Inspector Girdhar (Anupam Kher) and his sidekick engineered bloody confrontations and got Bakhtawar jailed for the murder of Gonsalves. Tiger escaped into anonymity but years later, he resurfaced and went into action against a bunch of terrorists hell bent upon destabilising India. The film succeeded in refurbishing the sagging image of an ageing Bachchan who wooed the audiences by singing the frothy Jumma chumma de de.