Sunday, December 28, 2003

Bold themes and pretty faces

From Jism to SSSSHHH…the audiences were treated to stimulating cinema, never mind if some flicks were inspired by Hollywood. Dare-to-bare young stars sizzled on the big screen like never before, says Avinash Kalla.

THE bigger, the better! Not always and certainly not when the buzz revolves around Bollywood. The year 2003 belonged to the minnows that made it big even as many of the mega projects fell flat on their faces. It was the young and energetic youth that swept the screens with fresh faces and fresher ideas and set the cash registers jingling while many of the mega-starrers turned turnip at the box office.

Right from Jism to SSSSHHH`85 the audiences were treated to stimulating themes that weren’t only bold but beautiful as well—who cared if some took their inspiration from Hollywood. The big screen sizzled with the dare-to-bare youth.

But the biggies weren’t completely out of the picture. The year witnessed the remarkable comeback of Hrithik in Koi Mil Gaya. The father-son duo managed a hit after a string of flops. Ajay Devgan emerged as one of the most bankable star whose four films sent the producers smiling on their way to the bank.

It was a double whammy for Shah Rukh. His home production Chalte Chalte clicked with the viewers and its music was a super-duper hit. And the Shah Rukh-Saif-Preity-starrer Kal Ho Naa Ho started sizzling at the box office from the word go, once again showcasing the magic touch of Karan Johar.

Kaante: Thorns all the way
Kaante: Thorns all the way

The year started with a disaster called Kaante. It was thorns all the way for the multi-starrer featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Mahesh Manjeraker and Kumar Gaurav along with Sunil Shetty and Lucky Ali.

Sunny Deol’s The Hero, shot at a mind-boggling budget of Rs. 55 crore, sank without a trace. The biggest shock came when Suraj Barjatya’s Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon bombed. The director’s attempt to glamorise the Rajshri’s traditional mushy-mushy family drama, didn’t go well with the audiences, they gave it a thumbs down. Another big blow for the industry was the sinking of Honey Irani’s directorial debut Armaan. The film had the best of everything—star cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Preity Zinta; script by the director, lyrics by Javed Akhtar and a mega budget of Rs 50 crore. But Armaan still remained the director’s unfulfilled desire.

No Boom time

No Boom time, this
No Boom time, this

But it was Boom that got stuck with the dubious distinction of being one of the worst flops ever in Hindi cinema history. Many disgusted cinema owners took the film off midweek and there were reports from places where cinema screens had been stoned People could not digest the extra skin show and verbal blows of Boom. However, all was not gloom and doom as the tides began turning with Jism the inspired version of Madonna’s Body Of Evidence. Pooja Bhatt’s Rs 4-crore project was a runaway hit, Bipsha Basu reconfirmed her position as the hottest babe in the business where as the film gave model turned actor John Abraham the much deserved acceptance.

Then came Ram Gopal Varma’s horror flick Bhoot was a runaway hit and set the stage for the thrillers. What followed were films like Darna Mana Hai, again a Varma Corporation presentation Hawa, Saaya and Cinevistaa’s SSSHHH`85.

Thanks to Varma’s appetite for making films with new ideas and new directors, the man today stands at par with stalwarts of Bollywood. The seven films that he plans to release next year add up to a mind boggling Rs. 150 crores and this includes Amitabh Bachchan-Ajay Devgan starrer Ek which alone will take up almost half the amount. Amidst the thrillers and the mega flops, films came and went. There were just a few which could grab the attention of viewers. Priyadarshan’s Hungaama, Deepa Mehta’s Bollywood Hollywood, Anees Bazmi’s Deewangi, Raj Kanwar’s Aandaz, Harry Baweja’s Qayamat were the only few names to attract audiences in the middle of the year when it looked like a never-ending saga of duds for the film industry.

What could have been a better timing for the superstar to make an entry then this? When the industry was facing the wall, Chalte Chalte came and people walked their way to the theatres to watch Shah Rukh Khan at his romantic best.

Koi Hit Mil Gaya

Koi Mil Gaya: Much-needed hit
Koi Mil Gaya: Much-needed hit

To follow suit was Rajesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya which again established son Hrithik when everyone was busy writing him off. Powered by his brilliant performance and special effects including the made-in-Australia alien Jadoo it was collection time for the industry. To add to this hit parade of mega stars, the industry’s favorite lover boy Salman Khan gave a surprise hit teaming up for the first time with Satish Kaushik and debutant Bhoomika Chawala in Tere Naam.. Unfortunately A True Love Story.

In between all these hits and flops Ajay Devgan was making a quiet ascent as one of the most dependable stars of our times. With the brilliant portrayal of a man with dual identities in Deewangi, followed by Qayamat, Devgan gave a sparkling performance in director Prakesh Jha’s Gangajal. His portrayal of a cop got him kudos from all quarters.

But the big news was the young brigade that livened things up in 2003. The feel good movies like Ken Gosh’s Ishq Wishq, Milind Soman’s debut production venture Rules Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula, Jhankaar Beats, Jogger’s Park and Main Madhuri Dixit Banana Chahati Hu grabbed public attention.

These movies were light and their subjects were treated differently. Ishq Wishq showcased a college love story, Rules defined the formula of love in granny Tanuja’s language, Jhankar Beats was all about passion for the band whereas Main Madhuri `85.was a tale of a young village girl’s heady journey to Bollywood.

The most talked about film however, was Joggers Park produced by Shubash Ghai. The film was a tale of love between a retired Judge and a young single girl. The film transformed the leading lady Perizaad Zorabian into an overnight star.

Kal Ho Naa Ho: Towards a new tomorrow
Kal Ho Naa Ho: Towards a new tomorrow

The themes of films featuring the younger lot weren’t merely feel good but were bold as well. Films like Jism, Oops, Khwahish, Footpath raised many an eyebrow. The seductive Bipasha was a major factor in the success of Jism. Himanshu Malik and Mallika Sherawat became the talk of the town when they smooched 17 times in Khwahish and Oops was made on the life of a male strippers. The parallel cinema on the other hand made steady progress with actors excelling in their performances. The Irfan Khan starrer The Warrior won the acclaimed BAFTA award, Kiron Kher won the best actress award at Locarno film festival for her seasoned performance in first Indo-Pak joint venture Khamosh Paani. Parallel films like Mr & Mrs.Iyer, Makdee, Road to Ladakh, Teen Deewarien were appreciated in art circuits.

The year approached the end with minnows like Samay becoming a hit, big-budget films like Baghbaan giving a fresh lease of life to the fading career of Big B and Kal Ho Naa Ho jamming the box office. Bollywood was seen confidently riding into the New Year with biggies like LOC-Kargil, Khakee and Rudraksha. Gone was the gloom that marked the start of 2003. There was a fortune awaiting to be made in 2004. NF

Moving towards the final frontier

The year saw television settle down in its vital role as a medium of information with a plethora of news channels. As 2003 came to a close the sky was choc-a-bloc with more programming, more software and the battle for airwaves was hotting up even as the Conditional Access System threatened to spoil the party, writes Mukesh Khosla.

IT'S been a year of controversies and war of ratings. Serials expected to hit big time collapsed while others from which nothing was anticipated became the flavour of the year.

Many new  news channels went on air
Many new news channels went on air 

News was big news. New channels, newer technologies and in-depth reportages became the norm of the day. In fact two years post-9/11 and post-Iraq, news was turning into a mega business. Channels were seen vying with each other in providing groundbreaking stories 'on the hour, every hour', as BBC World puts it.

A couple of years ago, news channels claimed just 1.9 per cent of the total TV viewership. The figure went up to 7.5 per cent post- 9/11 and 8.5 per cent during the Iraq conflict. The assembly elections in five states pushed up the popularity and the combined news viewership crossed the 10 per cent mark. The rise was at the cost of serial and soap viewership that fell from 41.7 to 37.1 per cent.

One of the most significant shift in the viewership pattern was seen with the decline of the 'K' factor. Soaps like Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and others went on the backfoot with the eyeballs shifting to other more novel themes.

Just Jassi!

  Jassi Jaissi Koi Kahin:  Surprise hit
Jassi Jaissi Koi Kahin: Surprise hit

One serial that took all by surprise was Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin. Defying all odds, it became a resounding success. Its appeal could be gauged from a survey that put it ahead of soaps across all channels, including all of Ekta Kapoor's serials. It also stole a march over the much-hyped Karishma-the Miracle of Destiny on Sahara Entertainment. Viewers gave the Rs. 60-crore soap an unambiguous thumbs down.

Karishma...Miracle of destiny: Mega flop
Karishma...Miracle of destiny: Mega flop 

If long-drawn soaps were going out of fashion, patriotism was the flavour of the earlier part of the year with Star Plus airing Kashmeer, the story of a Hindu and two Muslim families who find themselves in the midst of the twin nightmare of terrorism and hatred.

But after a few absorbing episodes it was given a quick ending because producers reportedly had to show each episode to the bureaucrats actually putting it on air.

Zee TV came out with its own version of patriotism with Mulk. But unlike Kashmeer, it was the same old tired theme of Partition and its horrific repercussions. Mission Fateh on Sahara depicted the true-life stories of Indian war heroes from 1948 till Kargil.

It was the year of the chatterati. If Simi Grewal was chugging along with Rendezvous on Star Plus, Karan Thapar's Face to Face on BBC World too built a dedicated following. M.J.Akbar's Akbar Ka Darbar on Star News took on politicians and business tycoons. But it was Vir Sanghvi who stole the show with his choice of guests in Star Talk.

CAS fra-cas

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was on the mat for a different reason altogether. Confusion reigned supreme as it announced its intention of implementing the Conditional Access System (CAS). The issue snowballed into a major controversy with viewers across the board condemning it. The government quickly shoved the issue under the carpet. 

Obscene music videos drew widespread criticism
Obscene music videos drew widespread criticism

But as soon as the polls were over, CAS came back to haunt viewers and major channels were switched off in many parts of Delhi holding people to ransom.

Another controversy that dogged channels concerned censorship. The I&B Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad stirred a hornet's nest when he suggested censoring risqu`E9 music videos and serials that depicted women in a poor light. Though he quickly retraced his steps, the question whether channels were ensuring the basic standards of decency and morality remained.

But along with entertainment the year also saw television settle down in its vital role as a medium of information. Even as 2003 came to a close the sky was choc-a-bloc with more programming, more software and the battle for the airwaves was hotting up.

Never before had the small screen offered such a variety to the viewer. What was just a one-channel affair a decade or so ago has now assumed the proportions of a hydra-headed wonder with more and more new entrants in the fray. All that the viewers have to do is to sit back with remote in hand and watch the fun. Newsmen Features