The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 21, 2003
Lead Article

On the sands of time: 1996
Year of bold themes
M.L. Dhawan

Tabu and Chandrachur Singh in a scene from Maachis
Tabu and Chandrachur Singh in a 
scene from Maachis

SANJAY Leela Bhansali’s Khamoshi—The Musical was the story of a daughter Annie (Manisha Koirala) torn between her obligation towards her deaf and dumb parents—Joseph (Nana Patekar) and Mary (Seema Biswas)—and her desire to pursue singing and settle into matrimony. She almost ended up losing her identity as well as the man who had brought music and romance into her drab life. Even without using his baritone voice, Nana set the screen afire with his histrionics. Manisha, Seema Biswas and Salmaan, too, played their parts with conviction. Though the film was a dud at the box office, it was an artistic masterpiece. Late, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Jatin-Lalit gave it a memorable musical score in Aaj main upar, Gaate thhe pehle akele, Aankhon mein kya and Bahon ke darmiyaan.

R.V. Pandit and Gulzar came out with a daring and thought-provoking film in Maachis that portrayed terrorism in Punjab. It was a telling comment on the politics of religion. It was also a scathing attack on disgruntled leaders who lured educated youth into the vortex of terrorism and the brutal police policy of ‘bullet for bullet’. Gulzar earned kudos for extracting searing performances from his artistes. Vishal Bhardwaj’s songs, particularly Chappa chappa charkha chale, Chhod aaye hum woh galiyaan and Pani pani re, lent pathos to the script.


In Agnisaakshi, Madhu (Manisha Koirala) assumed that her tyrannical husband Vishvanath (Nana Patekar) had died in a car accident and left Mauritius for Mumbai. There she married Suraj (Jackie Shroff) without revealing to him her past. Her new-found happiness was shortlived as Vishvanath followed her to Mumbai and claimed her back. Manisha came up with a sterling performance.

Prakash Jha’s Mrityudand was the story of three women who wanted to break the shackles of their tortured lives. Ketaki (Madhuri Dixit), Chandravati (Shabana Azmi) and Kranti (Shilpa Shirodkar) raised the banner of gender revolt against the feudal practices in a Bihar village.

Dharmesh Darshan’s Ghulam was a typically masala film with a climax in which good triumphed over evil. Aamir Khan played Sidharth Marathe with verve and made the film a big grosser at the box office. Rani Mukherjee made her presence felt in Aati kya Khandala.... Mita Vashisht sparkled in the role of a lawyer.

In Shankar’s Hindustani, the talents of special make-up man Michael Westmore from Hollywood were utilised to portray Kamal Haasan as an old patriarch and a member of the INA. Popularly known as Senapati, the patriarch became a one-man army against corruption after the death of his daughter in a hospital following his refusal to grease the palm of a doctor.

Saeed Mirza’s Naseem—set in Bombay—depicted the toils and turmoils of a middle-class Muslim family in the turbulent days after the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya and the subsequent Hindu-Muslim riots. Mayuri Kanungo played Naseem with aplomb. Late Kaifi Azmi stole the thunder as the patriarch who’d not gone to Pakistan during Partition as he had profound belief in India’s secular ideals. But his faith stood shattered after the mosque’s demolition. Naseem’s brother’s anger, his desire for revenge and the disquiet of her parents were symbolic of the angst of the whole community. The film was described by some people as ‘positive propaganda’.

Dharmesh Darshan’s Raja Hindustani was almost a remake of Shashi Kapoor’s Jab Jab Phool Khile. A rich tourist, played by Karishma Kapoor, fell in love with her guide-cum-driver, enacted by Aamir Khan.

Amol Palekar’s Dayera, starring Nirmal Pandey and ravishing Sonali Kulkarni, had a bold theme — the natural bisexuality of human beings. Unfortunately, the film provoked considerable outrage on account of its theme.