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Looking At 1999: 25 Years Ago In Bollywood...

Last updated on: March 12, 2024 13:48 IST
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1999 in Hindi movies marked the end of a vibrant young decade and a gentle promise of electrifying new things to come in the new millennium.

Where madcap masala still reigned supreme, morally strong cinema made its presence felt.

Where some filmmakers made a stronger case for old school, some attempted to step out of their comfort zones and reach out to a wider base. Still others were happy just to bend the rules.  

Where fading superstars hoped to draw in audiences on the strength of the good old days, Generation X realised the need to grow and change to live longer in public memory.

It was a year of iconic beauties and irresistible evolution -- a year of dance and drama, emotions and expressions.

It was the year Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt (now husband and wife) received their first ever screen credits, one as assistant to his dad Rishi Kapoor on Aa Ab Laut Chalein, the other a child actor in her uncle Mukesh Bhatt's Sangharsh.

It was the year the likes of Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Karisma Kapoor came together to launch a celebrity restaurant called India Talkies on the lines of Planet Hollywood amidst much fanfare. That it never took off is another story.

It was the year Rajendra Kumar, fondly known as Jubilee Kumar for his unbeatable success at the box office, passed into the ages.

It was the year we'd see the last of Gulzar as a director in Hu Tu Tu as well as Mahesh Bhatt in Kartoos until the latter came out of retirement to direct daughter Alia in 2020's Sadak 2.

It was the year when 14 Mithun Chakraborty potboilers hit the screens, which is no biggie when you've had 17 just the year before that.

It was the year Puducherry-born Manoj Night Shyamalan delivered the most sensational twist of all times and took Hollywood by storm with The Sixth Sense.

But there's more to 1999 than this.

Sukanya Verma recaps all those events from 25 years ago.


Beginning of Bhansali's razzle-dazzle

Think Sanjay Leela Bhansali, think splendour and scale.

But the director's sophomore effort, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, which displayed his eye for magnificence in a passionate love triangle high on art, craft, costumes and culture is where it all started.

His trademark opulence has grown by leaps and bounds since.


Ash Power

Everybody complimented the model-turned-Miss World on her beauty but it was in 1999 that Aishwarya Rai became a bonafide movie star with grace and gorgeousness dripping out of every single frame of Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Subhash Ghai's Taal.

Portrayed like a dream in these lavishly scaled stories, the makers played to her strengths and ensured the fans, both in India and abroad, have good reason to root for Nandini and Mansi respectively.


Sush support

Fellow Miss India alumna and Miss Universe Sushmita Sen hit the bullseye around the same time if not exactly in leading lady category.

Her scorching presence as a boss lady coveting someone else's guy, be it in Biwi No 1 or Sirf Tum, infused new life in an otherwise shoddy stereotype like never before, never after.


Actors turning directors

Star kids turned star directors hoping to take the family banner forward.

Be it Rishi Kapoor's attempts to revive RK films with his NRI melodrama Aa Ab Laut Chalen, starring Akshaye Khanna, Aishwarya Rai, Suman Ranganathan and Rajesh Khanna or Sunny Deol's long troubled production London Dreams turned Dillagi pitting him and kid brother Bobby vying for Urmila Matondkar's affections under Vijayta films.  


Directors to watch out for

But it was the work of first timers behind the camera like Mahesh Manjrekar in Vaastav, Milan Luthria in Kachche Dhaage, John Mathan Mathew in Sarfarosh and E Niwas in Shool that made critics and viewers sit up and take notice.


Two sides of the Bajpayee coin

Filmed in the span of a couple of weeks, Ram Gopal Varma's atmospheric thriller, Kaun, penned by Anurag Kashyap, showcased the horror and hysteria Manoj Bajpayee is capable of.

The same creative collaboration was at the helm of his simmering rage as an upright cop disillusioned by the rampant corruption of the world he's meant to safeguard in Shool, directed by Varma's former assistant, E Niwas.

On both occasions, Bajpayee's brilliance and range are on full display.


Bollywood's peak sanskari moment

If there was a penny for every time someone appears with folded hands in Sooraj R Barjatya's multi-starrer and modern-day Ramayan -- Hum Saath Saath Hai -- that takes the filmmaker's penchant for family love, traditional ties and grace-at-all-costs stance to another level...


Tabu's balancing act

Showing her mettle since Maachis, Tabu juggles all kinds of roles and genres like only she can: As the resentful politician's daughter in Hu Tu Tu, loud Punjabi housewife in Biwi No 1, demure bahu of a joint family in Hum Saath Saath Hain, classical dancer in Thakshak and corrupt cop in Kohram.


Lolo's hit factory

All those energetic eye candy roles in David Dhawan laugh raisers finally earned Karisma Kapoor her own No 1 title in and as Biwi No 1, a silly, senseless ode to polygamous affairs.

Breezy bits in successes like Haseena Maan Jayegi and Hum Saath Saath Hain didn't hurt either.


Trick or treat, Urmila style

But it's the sheer creepiness the masoom-faced Urmila Matondkar is capable of that had jaws dropping on the floor as she delivered her own twisted take on Ittefaq territory: A girl alone in a large house until the entry of a mysterious intruder or two, in Kaun.


The Khan files

Shah Rukh Khan had a quiet 1999 except he got to reunite with his Baazigar director duo Abbas-Mustan.

Though Badshah's goofy mishmash of Inspector Gadget and Nick of Time, where he plays a blundering detective, didn't get the cash registers ringing as expected, the movie's title is now synonymous with his superstar stature while the comedy itself has achieved cult classic status.


Hailed as the two milestones in Aamir Khan's mostly impressive body of work, both John Mathan Mathew's Sarfarosh and Deepa Mehta's 1947: Earth, revealed deeper facets of his person and preparation as a studious actor.

Interestingly, both films, one a police procedural tackling cross border terrorism, another chronicling the ugly aftermath of Partition, tread on a sensitive communal space and offer Aamir an opportunity to be as gritty and grey as possible. 


But the box office belonged to Salman Khan with a spate of hits like Hum Saath Saath Hain, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Biwi No 1 that made it easy to overlook the no-show of his comical ghost in Hello Brother and casanova tropes in Janam Samjha Karo.


Two hero awesomeness

Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan, as step brothers forced to find a middle ground in Kachche Dhaage, Devgn and Salman as desis bumping into foreign land and bonding over the love of their lives in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Govinda and Sanjay Dutt marking the beginning of a fruitful partnership in Haseena Maan Jayegi that'll spring combo comedies like Ek Aur Ek Gyarah and Jodi No 1 or the Deol brothers going from real to reel in Dillagi... Two hero star vehicles, a near rarity now, would regale folks with their paisa vasool appeal.


Remake-remake, bhai bhai

Brothers Anil Kapoor and Sanjay scored big hits in remakes of South Indian dramas.

If Telugu weepie Pavitra Bandham inspired Anil Kapoor and Kajol's contract marriage in Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain, Sanjay Kapoor and Priya Gill's love letter dependent love story in Sirf Tum was a copy of Tamil romance Kadhal Kottai.


Of censor board and controversies

Censor board chief Asha Parekh's stint is strewn in controversy.

But in 1999, the veteran actress faced severe backlash for rating A-certificate on Shekhar Kapur's acclaimed Elizabeth at the time of its release in India.

Columnists like Pritish Nandy and Vir Sanghvi did not mince words and expressed their displeasure at her attitude. Years later in her memoirs, The Hit Girl, Parekh dubbed the episode as a 'storm in a teacup.'


Beyond mast mast and masala

The Mohra troika of Akshay Kumar, Raveena Tandon and Suniel Shetty proved there's more to them than mindless masala by breaking out of their action and glamorous image in serious fare like Sangharsh, Shool and Hu Tu Tu.

All three received a thumbs up for their efforts.


Year of Sooryavansham

Arguably, the most aired movie on Indian television and memes that have transcended social media, Sooryavansham is gold standard in stuff of so bad it's good.

That is saying something in a year that was exceptionally bad for Amitabh Bachchan on a comeback spree marked by duds like Lal Badshah, Hindustan Ki Kasam and Kohram.


A to Z of comebacks

Speaking of comebacks, AB's Dostana co-star Zeenat Aman made one too in the low-profile Bhopal Express centred around the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. Despite the hype accompanying these mainstream releases, neither Sharmila Tagore in Mann nor Rajesh Khanna in Aa Ab Laut Chalen fared any better.


Deadly Dutt: Back with a bang

Following his run-in with the law in relation to the 1993 serial bombings, Sanjay Dutt's career took its own sweet time to get back on track.

His changing hairstyle in Kartoos, above, is telling of this struggle and Bollywood's continuity woes. 


But playing a young man sucked into the underworld meeting with a Mother India-inspired fate in his friend Mahesh Manjrekar's Vaastav put him back on the map. And how.

Dutt bagged his first Filmfare trophy for his powerful portrayal of guy gone astray in Vaastav.


Awe and awards for Godmother

Speaking of awards, Shabana Azmi's grit and gravitas in Vinay Shukla's Godmother, inspired by the life of alleged underworld gangster and former independent MLA Santokben Jadeja of Gujarat, swept the National Awards winning six honours in all, including one for Best Actress.


And they lived happily ever after…

A year of fairy tale romances.

Where Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna developed feelings for each other on the sets of Zulmi and International Khiladi culminating into marriage a couple of years later, Ajay Devgn and Kajol decided to make it official in an intimate ceremony at home as did Madhuri Dixit when she tied a knot to US-based cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Sriram Nene.

Cheers to these silver couples!


Debuts of 1999

Unlike brother Akshaye, Rahul Khanna picked a sensible movie like 1947: Earth over a star-studded launchpad.

Best known for his kiddie roles in Mr India and Chaalbaaz, Aftab Shivdasani made his adult debut as Urmila Matondkar fanboy in Ram Gopal Varma's Mast.

Dimple Kapadia and Rajesh Khanna's daughter Rinkie tested her filmi genes along with model-turned-actor Dino Morea (briefly changing his name to Siddhant for conventionality's sake) and Sanjay Suri in Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhie.

Supermodel Nethra Raghunathan dabbled in movies on two different ends of a spectrum: Mahesh Mathai's super serious Bhopal Express and Govind Nihalani's attempt at commercial viability, Thakshak.

Sharman Joshi and Raima Sen hoped to impress under Shabana Azmi's tour de force shadow in Godmother.

But it's these two unofficial debuts -- Nawazzudin Siddiqui in a minor role of Sarfarosh and Alia Bhatt as knee-high version of Preity Zinta in Sangharsh -- that would go on to rule the roost.


Bangers of 1999

The chartbusters of 1999 could easily put these melody-bereft times to shame.

From A R Rahman's timeless mix of melodious gems in Taal and 1947: Earth, Ismail Darbar's grandeur personified tunes in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Anu Malik's catchy chartbusters in Biwi No 1, Baadshah, Haseena Maan Jayegi and Janam Samjha Karo, Vishal-Shekhar's sublime ode to young love in Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhie, Jatin Lalit's charming creations in Sarfarosh, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy teaming up a whole army of singers for Dillagi and nostalgic touch in Rockford, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's lilting, poetic sounds in Kachche Dhaage, Sandeep Chowta's edgy tempo in Mast, Raam-Laxman's playfully parivarik score in Hum Saath Saath Hain, Sanjeev-Darshan's romance and rhythm in Mann, Shool's rustic item number UP Bihar Lootne or Dahek's rain-time wonder, Sawan Barse -- the sounds and soundtrack of 1999 are tailor made for repeat mode.


A special word for singers on the brink of greatness: K K's heartrending lament in Tadap Tadap and poignant nostalgia in Yaaron, Sunidhi Chauhan's verve in Main Mast, Shaan cooing Musu Musu, Lucky Ali's soothing vocals in Tu Kaun Hai, Hema Sardesai's masti-packed Chunari Chunari even as actors like Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt tried to flex their vocal skills or lack of it in Hello Brother's Chandi Ki Cycle and Khubsoorat's Aye Shivani.


Fashionistas of 1999

Karisma Kapoor's funky ponytails and trendy athleisure in Haseena Maan Jayegi, Urmila's iconic white shirt dress maxi in Kaun, Aishwarya's mirror work embroidered organza saris in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Twinkle Khanna's chic shrugs in Baadshah make for some of the grooviest styles of the year.  


Blood, sweat and tears

It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times.

You just cannot miss the over-the-top tone of villainy and blood-soaked melodrama colouring Ashutosh Rana's brutal theatricality as the bizarre antagonist of Sangharsh, Manoj Bajpayee going bonkers in Kaun, Manisha Koirala discovering she's lost her limbs in Mann, Bobby Deol throwing Sunny in the mouth of death in Dillagi, Juhi Chawla and Sunny Deol's obsessive urge to destroy each other in Arjun Pandit, a ruthlessly stabbed Anil Kapoor bleeding through his gut while coming to the rescue of his heavily pregnant wife, Kajol after she trips on the floor in Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain or Amitabh Bachchan vomiting cans of blood in Sooryavansham, the ever-so-sick internet is teeming with gifs of the horrific image of the latter.


India Shining

If Shekhar Kapur nabbed a Best Director Golden Globe nomination for Elizabeth, designer duo Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla made an international splash when Dame Judi Dench walked the Oscars red carpet in their intricate ensemble and delivered her award-winning speech for Shakespeare in Love.

Meanwhile, Om Puri made waves in the West with a BAFTA nomination and Cannes debut as a Pakistani-origin British patriarch in East is East, close on the heels to rave reviews for My Son the Fanatic in America.

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