Film Directors

Left to right: Bollywood’s hit filmmakers Ali Abbas Zafar, Nitesh Tiwari, Rajkumar Hirani, Rakesh Roshan and Rohit Shetty. (photo provided)

MUMBAI— Director Ali Abbas Zafar’s “Bharat” is due Eid 2019, and the director has had a foolproof run to date, with “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan” (2011), “Gunday” (2014), “Sultan” (2016) and “Tiger Zinda Hai” (2016) all being successively more successful. If “Bharat” hits the bulls-eye as expected, he will establish a rare record – of five hits in a row.

A hundred percent record that truly is praiseworthy is of Rajkumar Hirani, whose five films, “Munna Bhai MBBS,” “Lage Raho Munna Bhai,” “3 Idiots,” “PK” as well as “Sanju” became consecutive blockbusters between 2003 and 2018. Please note that none of these films did ‘hit’ business: they did blockbuster business!

Nitesh Tiwari directed the average “Chillar Party,” the break-even “Bhoothnath Returns” and the blockbuster “Dangal” between 2011 and 2016. His next film, “Chhichhore” is expected to also be a content-heavy hit. What’s more, at a conceptual level, he has been involved in two more successes – his wife Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s “Battey Sannata” and “Bareilly Ki Barfi.”

These three whizkids are among the best of the latest names. But all along, some directors scored on content; others also scored high in music, technical and technological innovations, newness in thought and so on. Many soon mastered a formula and followed it, like Nasir Husain and Manmohan Desai, others stuck to one genre, while versatility was a rule with many as well. Showing an immense yen for adaptability to changing times and trends, some of these filmmakers actually broke or set new trends.

Finally, some of the biggest and best names – B.R. Chopra, V. Shantaram, Guru Dutt, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, David Dhawan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali among others – are missing here because somewhere their track-records did not have that consistency. In short, luck also played a role in the careers of all these wonderful talents, who first connected in a minimum hat-trick of films with audiences before giving their first flops. And the Showman – Raj Kapoor – actually took 23 years to first disconnect with the audience, while Manoj Kumar needed 22 before he gave his first non-performer! Here then, is a look at such other weighty names in Hindi cinema, and their innings.

Neeraj Pandey, as a director, gave “A Wednesday!,” “Special 26,” “Baby” and “M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story” between 2008 and 2016 before facing failure with “Aiyaary” in 2018, an experimental format that Pandey said he had wanted to try out! Down a bit but not out, he is now scripting “Chanakya,” with Ajay Devgn.

N. Chandra gave us a humble hit (“Ankush” in 1985) and super-hit (“Pratighaat” in 1987) before his first big blockbuster “Tezaab” in 1988. After this again came an average “Narsimha” in 1991 before his first flop in the 1992 “Humlaa.” Chandra had learned his directorial ropes under Gulzar and South director Bapu, who also had great success streaks.

Gulzar’s first flop came after “Mere Apne” (1971), “Parichay,” “Koshish,” “Achanak,” “Aandhi,” “Khushboo” and “Mausam” only in his eighth film, “Kinara” (1977) despite a prolific innings. And the South’s Bapu directed, in Hindi cinema, “Hum Paanch” (1981), “Bezubaan,” “Woh Saat Din,” “Muhabbat” and “Pyari Behna” before his first flop in his sixth film, “Diljalaa” in 1986.

Feroz Khan had a hit streak of four directorials – “Apradh” (1972), “Dharmatma,” “Qurbani” and “Janbaaz” before hitting a roadblock with “Dayavan” (1988).

Just before his 1973 “Yaadon Ki Baraat” (his eighth consecutive directorial hit after “Tumsa Nahin Dekha,” “Dil Deke Dekho,” “Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai,” “Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon,” “Baharon Ke Sapne,” “Pyar Ka Mausam,” and “Caravan”) was to be released, well-known film whiz Nasir Husain (uncle to Aamir Khan) had said in an interview, “Wait, I will give you a flop!” But not only that film but also his next, “Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977) become blockbusters. It took his 10th film in 1982, “Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, to be for him to play his first ‘No ball’!

Another whizkid and inspiration to so many, Vijay Anand, gave eight successful films in “Nau Do Gyarah,” “Kala Bazar,” “Hum Dono,” “Teen Devian,” “Tere Ghar Ke Saamne,” “Guide,” “Teesri Manzil” and “Jewel Thief” before yielding his first and delayed flop “Kahin Aur Chal.” “Hum Dono”’s official credit went to Amarjeet, but on the eve of the release of its colorized version, producer-actor Dev Anand officially announced what most people knew – that it was Vijay who had directed that film!

Sooraj R. Barjatya made his debut with “Maine Pyar Kiya” in 1989 and faced failure first with his fourth film (after “Hum Aapke Hain Koun!…” and “Hum Saath Saath Hain”) in “Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon” in 2003. Aditya Chopra, who considered Barjatya his role-model, began with another whopper, “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” in 1995, and got his fourth film (after “Mohabbatein” and “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi”) again as his first flop, “Befikre,” in 2016.

Aditya’s father, the late Yash Chopra, had got his first failure with his fifth film, 1970 “Aadmi Aur Insaan,” also 11 years after he started with the 1959 “Dhool Ka Phool,” followed by “Dharamputra,” “Waqt” and “Ittefaq.”

And Subhash Ghai, doing his best for what emerged as a mere ‘proposal’ could not rescue his fifth film, “Krodhi” (1981), from tumbling. (To his credit, his next nine films proved successful up to “Taal (1999), and so he faced his next flop only with 2001’s “Yaadein”!)

Rakesh Roshan came up with a blockbuster in his debut directorial: “Khudgarz” (1987). “Khoon Bhari Maang,” “Kaala Bazaar” (1989) and “Kishen Kanhaiya” followed before he got his first flop in “Khel” (1992). Like Ghai, he had a hit-streak after another flop in “King Uncle” (1993) – the blockbuster “Karan Arjun” (1995), the average “Koyla” and the trio of whoppers – “Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai” (2000) that launched son Hrithik Roshan, “Koi…Mil Gaya” and “Krrish.” His latest directorial, “Krrish 3,” was liked by the people, but did not recover its massive investment for distributors.

There were two unique cases: Ramesh Sippy and Karan Johar. Sippy gave a hat-trick of ascending (as in progressively bigger) hits in “Andaz,” “Seeta Aur Geeta” and finally, Hindi cinema’s biggest hit “Sholay” in 1975. After this, his next three film, “Shaan,” “Shakti” and “Saagar” did well in terms of audience response but failed (a flop is when the investment by a film’s buyers is not recovered) because their budgets went so high that they could not recover their investments.

Johar gave us blockbusters in “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” and “Kabhi KHushi Kabhie Gham…” but after that, two films did well ONLY abroad – “Kabhi Alvid aNaa Kehna” and “My Name Is Khan” but flopped in India. After that, “Student Of The Year” did average business, but “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” despite collecting 100 crore in India and a decent collection overseas, lost out on its investment.

Raj Kapoor, as a director, has given just one complete flop – “Mera Naam Joker” (1970), 23 years after his debut – this was his sixth film (after “Aag,” “Awara,” “Barsaat,” “Shree 420” and “Sangam”) as a director. The only other really famous star-director – Manoj Kumar, took 22 years to give his first flop – again in his sixth film as a director after “Upkar” (1967), “Purab Aur Paschim,” “Shor,” “Roti Kapada Aur Makaan” and “Kranti”) – in the 1989 Clerk.”

Last but not the least, we mention the unique cases of Manmohan Desai and Rohit Shetty. Desai, who had a mixed innings before, hit a winning streak after “Aa Gale Lag Jaa” in 1973 with “Roti” (1974), four of the five biggest hits of 1977 in the two biggest hits “Amar Akbar Anthony” and “Dharam-Veer” besides “Parvarish” and “Chacha Bhatija,” “Suhaag,” “Naseeb,” “Desh Premee” (average), “Coolie” and “Mard.” The figure of THIRTEEN consecutive successes and hist proved lucky for the man.

And Rohit Shetty too has had an unbroken hit record since his fourth film “Golmaal Returns” in 2008 – his earlier films include two flops (one of which has achieved hit status on TV) and an average success. Every film since – “All The Best,” “Golmaal 3,” “Singham,” “Bol Bachchan,” “Chennai Express,” “Singham Returns,” “Golmaal Again” and “Simmba” are successes, hits or blockbusters. In between is “Dilwale” (2015), which did rake in over Rs. 100 crore in Indian theatrical footfalls alone, but again lost out in return on investment.

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