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Friday, September 14, 2012

In this second last of our series on cinema in the last century, TV competed and enforced change in cinematic values. Women emerged supreme.

1980-1990 : Of TV, Video and Women Film Makers And The Show Goes On...
ALTHOUGH television came to India in  the 60's,  its impact was felt only in the 80's when Doordarshan decided to telecast the Asiad (Asian Games) in colour. The sale of TV sets tripled within a span of four years.

Soaps and serials like Buniyaad, Hum Log, Karamchand, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi claimed more viewership for a single episode than a film did in a week! With Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan and B.R. Chopra's  Mahabharat, the popularity of television reached a frenzied high.

To add to the damage, was the video boom. An estimated 20,000 video parlours sprouted throughout the country, renting out or selling video films at affordable rates. This trend gave way to video piracy, because of which a film could be seen weeks before its release in the theatres.

Naturally, the industry was devastated by this double slaughter. Box office returns fell like a pack of cards. The industry continued making lavish multi-starrers. But most big-budget films fell flat on their faces, notably, Ramesh Sippy's Shaan, Kamal Amrohi's Razia Sultana and B.R. Chopra's The Burning Train.

Women Power

THERE was a marked rise in feminine talent in the 80's.

Noted Marathi actress and stage director, Vijaya Mehta made her Hindi debut with Rao Saheb (1986). Her second film, Pestonjee (1987) was a study of Parsi culture, with outstanding performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher and Shabana Azmi.

Kalpana Lajmi made her mark in 1992 with Rudali (Professional Mourner) with Dimple Khanna in the lead.

Sai Paranjpye had something different to offer. Although her debut film, Sparsh was a serious, sensitive love story of a blind man, her later productions were marked by great  wit and humour. Chashme Baddoor (a spoof on commercial Hindi films) and Katha won her the distinction of being  an Indian film maker with a real sense of humour. The eighties also showcased two formidable actresses — Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil — who were pitted against each other in Mahesh Bhatt's semi-autobiographical Arth ('83).

FILMS in the 80's concentrated largely around the aura of  stars  like Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and Rekha.
New film makers like Subhash Ghai (who later earned  the title 'Kapoor's showman'), N. Chandra, J.P. Dutta, Shekhar Kapoor, Mahesh Bhatt and Mukul Anand made their mark.

Tamil cinema freed itself from the clutches of mythology with a fresh crop of talented directors like K. Balachander (who made the popular love story Ek Duje Ke Liye), Bharathiraja (whose Vedam Puthithu - The New Vedas - created a furore among the upper-class Brahmins) and Balu Mahendra. With his third film, Mouna Ragam (A silent symphony) in 1986, Mani Ratnam gained a steady fan following. Tamil cinema also discovered versatile mega-stars like Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth.

1980: B.R Chopra's Insaaf Ka Tarazu (starring Zeenat Aman) became the first Hindi film to feature rape as its central theme.


  •     Indian Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was launched in Bombay for the promotion of good cinema in India.
  •     The Golden Jubilee of Indian Cinema was celebrated.


  •  Shashi Kapoor's 36 Chowringhee Lane (starring his wife Jennifer Kendall-Kapoor) won the  Golden Eagle at the Manila International Film Fest and the Best Indian Film in English language Award.
  •     Adoor Gopalakrishnan's  Elippathayyam (Malayalam) won the British Film Institute Award, National Award and the Kerala State Award.


  •     G.V. Iyer's Sri Adi Shankaracharya, India's first film in Sanskrit, won the  National Award.
  •     Kundan Shah's debut Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, a hilarious spoof on all political-social institutions,  one of the funniest films of all times was a box-office hit.

 (Content provided by Amrita Bharati)

1990-2000 : Special Effects & Musical Extravaganza
The Sound Of Music

Anand-Milind's soulful compositions for Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak reintroduced melody to Indian cinema. Gulshan Kumar of Super Cassettes and music companies - Weston, Venus, Tips got into film production earning royalties from audio rights that varied from 25 to  41 lakh rupees per film!

Then, in 1992 came Mani Ratnam's Roja and with it, the musical genius of the decade - A.R. Rehman (Roja sold over 12 lakh music cassettes, a record for a dubbed film!). His superhit number Muqabla Muqabla from Kadalan was copied by seven other music directors of the time!

Throughout the nineties, music played a major part in the success of a film.  Despite an apparent threat from the International Pop and Indipop segment, film music grabbed 67.5% of the booming music market. A hit music album could sell over 12 million units (cassettes and CDs), with sales going as high as Rs. 50 crore and above.

With financiers and producers like Bharat Shah, K.T. Kunjumon, Rajan Lall and Jhamu Sugandh spending enormous amounts on their productions (a special-effects dance-sequence could cost upto rupees 50 crore), the stakes got dizzyingly high.  Rajshri productions' Hum Aapke Hain Kaun — a 3-hr, 40-min 'wedding video'  became the top grossing Hindi film of all times.

Indian films also carved out a niche for themselves in the foreign market. Subhash Ghai's Taal opened in the U.S with 116 prints and collected $ 5, 96, 000, the highest 3-day opening for any Indian film abroad. It was also the first Indian film to enter the US Top 20. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ('99) collected Rs 43 lakh in one California theatre alone!

For the first time, technical crews of films began to get a share of the spotlight, including Choreographers (Farah Khan, Ahmed Khan), Dress Designers (Manish Malhotra, Neeta Lulla), Art Directors (Sharmishtha Roy, Nitin Desai) and Screenwriters (Saurabh Shukla, Anjum Rajabali).

One of the technical wizards of our time, Ram Gopal Varma, experimented successfully with a wide variety of genres, from horror (Raat) to romance (Rangeela) to realistic violence (Satya) and musicals (Mast) . Hyderabad Blues, a low-budget film made by an NRI chemical engineer, Nagesh Kukunoor, was the dark horse of the nineties, running for 29 weeks in Bombay to become the highest grossing Indian film in English. Kaizad Gustad's Bombay Boys and Deepa Mehta's Fire and Earth experimented in the same genre, successfully. Cinematographer Santosh Sivan' s Halo and The Terrorist won rave reviews worldwide.

Experimentation by actors was also successful to an extent. Heroes became villains (Shahrukh Khan in Baazigar and Darr) and villains became heroes (Manoj Bajpai in Satya) .


  •     A record number of dubbed films - 49 in all- were released this year.
  •     Actor-director V. Shantaram, actor-director Vinod Mehra, character artiste Om Shivpuri and actor-director Shankar Nag passed away.

1991 :

  •     Video piracy trade reached its lowest ebb, having been overtaken by music.
  •     There was massive price hike in film stocks.

1992 :

  •  Satyajit Ray was honoured with a special Oscar, just a couple of months before he died.
  •  Amjad Khan, the popular screen villain, passed away.
  •  Cable television, with film-based channels like Zee TV and ATN, posed a big threat to the industry.

1994 :

  •  R.D. Burman passed away after his melodious swan song, 1942, A Love Story.


  •  Time Music released the first India-made CD -  Karan  Arjun.
  •  Yashraj's  films,  Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge continued the HAHK success story by crossing the 100-crore mark.

1996 : Shekhar Kapoor's banned film Bandit Queen was finally screened.

1998 :

  •  Religious fanatics launched a protest against the release of NRI film maker Deepa Mehta's Fire.


  •  In January, Hrithik Roshan captured the hearts of millions in his debut film, Kahon Na Pyaar Hai.
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