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Debutants deliver hope with hits

Debutant directors have played a key role in boosting B'wood's sagging fortunes, says Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2003 19:34 IST

The year 2003 has traversed nearly two-thirds of the way. The Mumbai film industry, too, has come a fair distance from the air of despondence that had descended on it in 2002. What is it that has helped tinsel town turn the corner?

Part of the credit would certainly accrue to the fact that films like Ramgopal Varma’s Bhoot, Aziz Mirza’s Chalte Chalte and Harry Baweja’s Qayamat have been declared bonafide hits – the makers of at least two of these films have already indulged in the de rigueur celebratory ritual by throwing well-publicised five-star bashes. But, more than anything else, Bollywood owes its current exultant mood to the emergence of a slew of successful first-time directors.

Among the films that have already created a major buzz this year are four releases helmed by debutants. The year began propitiously with Jism, produced by Pooja Bhatt and directed by newcomer Amit Saxena. The film’s storyline may have been derivative – a wealthy young hausfrau plots her middle-aged husband’s murder in collusion with her smitten paramour – but it had enough stylistic flair and thematic substance to romp home.

Music video director Ken Ghosh achieved even greater box office success with his comic book, Riverdale High-inspired love story, Ishq Vishk. It made a star out of debutant actor Shahid Kapoor, rescued Amrita Rao from anonymity and threw the sluice gates open for Ghosh to take his pick from an assortment of future projects.

Another debut-making Ghosh, Sujoy, scored a huge urban hit with Jhankaar Beats, a musical about a duo of RD Burman acolytes, played by Rahul Bose and Sanjay Suri, who grapple with personal and professional problems even as they prepare to win a neighbourhood music competition. If there was nothing exceptional in that plot, it was more than made up by Ghosh’s controlled, low-key directorial style.

The latest to join the swelling Class of 2003 is Prawaal Raman, the director of the Ramgopal Varma-produced Darna Mana Hai. Like Jhankaar Beats, DMH is destined to be no more than a niche hit, but the low budget film has recovered its investment in less than a month of its release. The unusual 'six stories, one ending' format is certainly not for all tastes, but the debutant director’s confidence shines through in the manner in which he handles the disparate strands of his tale. He pulls off his audacious premise with a fair degree of success.

Things are only likely to get better in the coming weeks as many more new directorial talents get set to take their bow. Anant Balani has two films lined up – Joggers’ Park for Subhash Ghai and Mumbai Matinee for Pritish Nandy Communications. Shona Urvashi has completed Chupke Se…, while Apoorva Lakhia’s Mumbai se Aaya Mera Dost holds the promise of resurrecting Abhishek Bachchan’s wobbly career.

The success of debutant directors in 2003 is particularly encouraging when it is seen in the context of the fate that befell first-timers in the previous year. Anurag Kashyap, who shot to fame with his Satya script, wrapped up Paanch in early 2002 but, as 2003 draws to a close, he still awaits the release of his film.

Those debutants who did manage to release their films in 2002 had reason to wish they hadn’t. Veteran actor Anupam Kher came a cropper with the high-profile Om Jai Jagadish, while Meghna Gulzar fared no better with Filhaal.

Anant Mahadevan’s first film as director, Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, struck no chords at all despite the reworked RD Burman tracks.The wretched run for first-time directors continued all through the rest of 2002, with Sushen Bhatnagar (Soch), Arjun Sablok (Na Tum Jaano Na Hum), Sanjay Gadhvi (Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai) and Kunal Kohli (Mujhse Dosti Karoge) discovering exactly how tough wooing the masses can be.

In less than 12 months, the script has undergone a total change: new directors have begun to open new vistas for an industry that had until recently found hits hard to come by. Play on!

First Published: Aug 04, 2003 13:46 IST