Mumbai, Dec 20 (IANS) It was the year when the letter 'M' seemed to rule.
Mallika Sherawat's "Murder" proved the most shocking success of the year. Legendary comedian Mehmood passed away and vintage classic "Mughal-e-Azam" regained lost glory.
Two runaway hits of the year "Mujhse Shadi Karogi" and "Main Hoon Na" added to the 'M'pire.
We lost laughter. Mehmood passed away. But we found comic virtuoso in Arshad Warsi. After "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." at the end of 2003 and "Hulchul" at the end of 2004, Warsi represents that wacky side of Bollywood where most creators remained more mired in sleaze and other sordid matters.
Sex jumped out of the closet
2004 was the year when sex jumped out of the closet and leapt into our laps with luscious legs.
'Sex' had many shapely forms. On one end of the spectrum there was Kareena Kapoor, stunning as the tart in Sudhir Mishra's "Chameli" and as the femme fatale in Ken Ghosh's "Fida".
At the other end was Mallika Sherawat with her huge hit "Murder". Even as its director Anurag Basu battled cancer, its leading lady jumped on to a high horse, demanding the kind of exclusivity that one thought went out of fashion with Rajesh Khanna.
After a series of 'sexy' films like "Hawas", "Julie" and "Tauba Tauba", the cheesy genre reached a saturation point with a film aptly titled "Ab...Bas".
Oh! Oh! 'Dhoom' didn't start with an 'M'
So how did the scenario look for Hindi cinema in 2004?
Not bad at all! During the year 'M' replaced the superstitious industry's other favourite letter 'K'.
All the hits of the year seemed to begin with the letter 'M': "Murder, "Main Hoon Na", "Masti", "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi", "Mughal-e-Azam".... Then at year-end just when you thought the letter 'M' can't go wrong, along came "Musafir" to set the record straight.
Oh, yes, there was also "Dhoom", Abhishek Bachchan's first bonafide hit that rocked the box office, and "Hum Tum" which gave Saif Ali Khan his first success as a solo hero.
Shah Rukh makes it all easy
Both the hits with non - 'M' titles came from the Yash Chopra banner which for Diwali (Nov 12) gave audiences the purported love legend "Veer-Zara", Shah Rukh Khan's second hit of the year, and also a respectable comeback for the illustrious Yash Chopra who hadn't directed a film for seven years.
The film industry lost precious directorial talent like H.S. Rawail and Pramod Chakravarty who, between them, gave innumerable hits during the 1960s and 70s. Over the years they had become total misfits in the mutating movie industry.
2004 saw several major filmmakers coming a cropper at the box office, thereby putting a question mark on the quality and content of commercial cinema, which is likely to prove a winner at the box office.
Three of the tallest filmmakers - J.P. Dutta, Mani Ratnam and Farhan Akhtar - couldn't get the audiences interested in their mammoth star-studded films, namely "LOC", "Yuva" and "Lakshya".
Among them these three purported blockbusters brought major grief to the shaken and stirred film industry, which quickly seemed to gravitate towards the small 'sexy' film and back again towards the biggies when "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" and "Veer-Zara" did well.
New directors - Not good enough?
However, it was as clear as daylight that the stars alone couldn't draw in the crowds. Big budget star-spangled films like Mahesh Manjrekar's "Rakht", Rajiv Rai's "Asambhav" and Ahmed Khan's "Lakeer" couldn't even garner a respectable opening.
Ahmed Khan was among the swelling brood of disgruntled debutant directors in 2004 whose failed maiden venture gravitated them towards near-anonymity. Other wannabe filmmakers like Kabir Sadnanand ("Popcorn Khao...Mast Ho Jao"), Ashwin Chowdhury ("Dhoop"), Sanjay Upadhyay ("Satya Bol") and Samir Karnik ("Kyun... Ho Gaya Na") are so badly bruised by the experience of their first film that a second film seems a remote possibility.
Two hour hindi movie?
The new faces fared no better. Except for Sammir Dattani who made a strong impact in Rajshris' "Uuf...Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai", not a single debutante was noticed, let alone lapped up by a talent-starved industry. Hyped youngsters like Vatsal Seth ("Tarzan The Wonder Car") and Shawar Ali ("Hawas") are struggling to hold their heads above the water.
One positive trend that emerged in 2004 was the reduced playing time of the average film. Suddenly we had a spate of Hindi films including "Fida" and "Uuf...Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai" that ended in under two hours. Whether that was a sign of a more mature movie-making trend or an impatient audience remained unclear.
It's always there...
As usual the year was cluttered with scandals and link-ups. The most far-reaching controversy of the year occurred when director Madhur Bhandarkar was accused of rape by an aspiring actress, Preeti Jain. The scandal gave a new twist to the notorious casting-couch syndrome in Bollywood.
Earlier, director Kaizad Gustad caused another national scandal when a female assistant in the unit of his new film was crushed under a hurling train. Kaizad went to jail, Bhandarkar didn't.
We lost Hindi cinema's most beloved mother Nirupa Roy. But where there's death, there's life. Arshad Warsi, Jimmy Shergil and Ashutosh Rana became proud parents. Choreographer Farah Khan and actor Bikram Saluja tied the knot and Saif Ali Khan shocked his friends and fans by walking out on wife Amrita Singh to set up a new home with an Italian girl.
During 2004 'The End' and a new beginning went hand in hand in the Hindi film industry. If in Vijay Anand we lost one of our finest filmmakers, we also built new bridges to our neighbouring countries when films like "Main Hoon Na" and "Veer-Zara" tried to mend the bridges between the borders.
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Promising debutants of 2004
Debutant Directors of 2004