Bollywood Cinema 1990-1999 Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Bollywood Cinema 1990-1999

0 Conversations

Bollywood Cinema up to 1949 | 1950-59 | 1960-69 | 1970-79 | 1980-89 | 1990-99 | 2000-10

Bollywood in the 1990s saw a veteran actor reviving his son's career, a TV actor entering the industry (who would later go on to be a superstar with Amitabh Bachchan), two romantic films that had marriage ceremonies as a theme, the release of a movie based on the life of Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi and the son of a movie producer directing his first film.

Actor Sunny Deol, eldest son of veteran Bollywood actor Dharmendra Singh Deol, had launched his career in 1983 with the release of the very successful Betaab, but his talents had seen little demand since and his career, by the early 1990s, had floundered. In an attempt to breathe new life into his son's career, Dharmendra produced the film Ghayal.

Ghayal (Wounded)

The hero of the film, a young, educated man, tries to live a respectable life, but is trapped in a web of circumstance far beyond his control. His elder brother, involved with a corrupt politician, is murdered after dabbling with drugs and other illegal activities. The police wrongly arrest the hero for his brother's murder, an intentional frame up, and the authorities find him guilty. In jail he makes friends with the inmates and participates in a successful escape. Seeking vengeance, the hero becomes a vigilante and Rambo-like figure, and has his revenge on the men who framed him.

Sunny Deol's character blended his natural onscreen image with that of the character of Amitabh Bachchan's Vijay in previous films, but instead of turning to crime the hero takes up arms. Besides being an action film, it also had a social message regarding corruption, which contributed to the considerable box office success of the picture. It re-established Sunny Deol as a action hero, which he successfully capitalised on in films like Gaddar Ek Prem Kahani. The combination of Raj Kumar Santoshi as a director and Sunny Deol as the hero proved a winning formula.

The following year, 1992, saw the release of cinematic blockbuster Beta, which starred Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor. It also saw the release of another film in which a TV actor, who had worked on the series Fauji, made his entry into the film industry. Shahrukh Khan was that actor and the film was Deewana, which also starred Rishi Kapoor and the late Divya Bharti.

Shahrukh Khan

Shahrukh Khan, like Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan, has fans all over the world.

Born to Muslim parents of Pathan1 origins, Shahrukh Khan was born on 2 November, 1965. His father, Taj Mohammed Khan from Peshawar in what was British India, was a freedom fighter; and his mother, Lateef Fatima, was the adopted daughter of General Nawaz Khan of the Janjua Rajput clan, who served in the Indian National Army of the freedom fighter Subash Chandra Bose.

Khan attended St Columba's School where he excelled in sports, drama and academics. He also received the Sword of Honour, an award given by St Columba's annually to the student who best represents the spirit of the school. From 1985-1988, Khan studied economics and received honours in it; and from then he went on to pursue a Masters degree in mass communication, though he opted out before completion to pursue a career in film. To that end, he moved to Mumbai in 1991, following the death of his parents. In the same year, he married his girlfriend Gauri Chibber, a Hindu, in a traditional Hindu ceremony. In 1997 Gauri gave birth to their son, Aryan, and in 2000, to their daughter Suhana.

Shahrukh Khan, also known to many as 'King' Khan because of his stardom, believes in Allah, but also respects his wife's religion. His children have been encouraged to follow both. In April 2007 London's Madame Tussauds installed a life size statue of the actor alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

In 2007 Khan received the Order of the Arts and Literature Award — the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres  — from the French Government. The following year, he received the Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka — an honour equivalent to a British Knighthood — from the head of state of Malacca in Malaysia for promoting tourism when filming One 2 ka 4 in 2001. Recently, he was awarded with an honorary doctorate in arts and culture from the University of Bedfordshire in Britain. The other actor to have received this is Amitabh Bachchan.

While the film Deewana, released in 1992, provided the stepping stone from TV to movies for Khan, it was another film, the following year, that really sent him rocketing along a path to success —  Baazigar.


The Hindi word 'Baazigar' basically means gambler (or player, as in 'playing the game'), someone prepared to lose everything to win. The title pretty much sums up the whole premise of this revenge-focused movie.

Ajay Sharma's family suffers a terrible fate at the hands of Madan Chopra. Ajay's father, Vishwanath Sharma, once sacked Madan, and Vishwanath only rescinded his decision when Madan begged, pleading of his need to support his two daughters. Shamed, Madan plotted revenge and defrauded Vishwanath of his business empire, leaving him destitute. Hungry and desperate, Ajay's father and sister sicken and die for want of medicine they can no longer afford and, Ajay's mother suffers a mental breakdown.

As Ajay grows up, he vows revenge. He starts by romancing Madan Chopra's eldest daughter, Seema, and promises to marry her. Madan would never approve of his daughter marrying a poor man, so they keep the relationship secret. Madan, in the meantime, arranges a marriage for Seema and, heartbroken, she agrees to Ajay's proposal of mutual suicide. They both write notes, but Ajay then admits he proposed the whole thing as a test of her devotion and proposes they marry in secret. But, on the day of their marriage, Ajay pushes Seema off a high building and uses the suicide note to avert any accusations of foul play.

In the meantime, Ajay has also been courting the affections of Priya, Madan Chopra's other daughter. Pretending to be a man called Vicky, Ajay conspires to narrowly lose a race to Madan. Vicky explains to Priya afterward he lost the race so as not to break her heart at her father's defeat, in what would be his final race before retiring.

The complexity of Ajay's plan begins to catch up on him, as Priya starts to investigate her sister's death. In the meantime, Ajay, as Vicky, insinuates himself into Madan's good books and joins his business. Gathering Madan's trust, he manages to ultimately seize control in the Madan's absence and cheats him just as Madan cheated Ajay's father. Ajay tells Priya the truth behind his actions and takes her to meet his ailing mother. Madan seeks to take his revenge on Ajay and a fight ensues between the two. Ajay, having sustained mortal wounds, manages to kill Madan, before struggling back into his mother's arms to die, his revenge complete, as the tearful Priya looks on.

Shahrukh Khan starred for the first time with the actress Kajol in this film, daughter of the actress Tanuja. The two have gone on to work in other movies. This film also introduced another actress, Shilpa Shetty, who became famous in the UK after appearing in, and winning, 2007's Celebrity Big Brother. Shilpa played the ill-fated Seema.

Ever since Amitabh Bachchan's meteroic rise to stardom in Zanjeer, no actor had made such an impact until Shahrukh Khan, who would blast his way in with another film in the same year. His previous film, Raju Bangaya Gentelman (Raju Is a Gentleman) hadn't done well at the box office, but with Baazigar he had blasted his way back into the industry.

Baazigar, directed by the duo Abbas-Mastaan, was the first Bollywood film to show a hero murdering the heroine, and the scene where she is pushed off the building went on to become a defining moment in Hindi films. The film contained two very memorable, and popular, songs — 'Baazigar o Baazigar' and 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen' (Those Black Black Eyes). Shahrukh Khan received the Filmfare award for Best Actor, the award for Best Music Director went to Anu Malik, while the playback singer, Kumar Sanu, received the award for Best Male Playback singer for the song 'Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen'. Shilpa Shetty, in her debut film, received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Another film in which Shahrukh saw a boost to his career was Yash Chopra's Darr, released the same year. In this he played the character Rahul Mehra, a man obsessed with Kiran Awasthi, who is married to Sunil Malhotra, a naval officer. Every time Rahul calls Kiran by her name, he stammers: 'Kkkk-Kiran', and it was this that made him more popular. When presenting Kaun Banega Crorepati (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) he was asked to repeat some of the dialogue from the movie that included the word 'Kiran'. The film was nominated for three awards, including Shahrukh Khan for Best Villain, but ultimately received only one — Best Comedian, which went to the actor Anupam Kher.

From 1994 Bollywood saw the beginning of a trend for films that had weddings as their theme.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun (Who Am I To You)

Hum Aapke Hain Koun kicked off the trend in Bollywood for movies using a wedding as the core theme, and was adapted from the 1982 film Nadiya Ke Paar.

Prem and Nisha's brother and sister, respectively, are getting married. The families of the bride and groom favour traditional celebrations, so the marriage ceremony takes forever, filled with elaborate rituals and festivities. In the midst of the complex affair, Prem and Nisha flirt and tease, fostering feelings bordering on love. Alas, the marriage ceremony comes to an end and everyone goes back to their respective homes and families.

Pooja, Nisha's sister, becomes pregnant and their mother and father, unable to attend themselves, send Nisha to the ceremony marking the baby's arrival. Prem and Nisha spend time together again, and fall in love. Some time later, Pooja discovers the feelings the couple share and promises to do all she can to get them married, gifting a treasured necklace, a family heirloom, to Nisha. Alas, Pooja suffers a fatal accident soon after, falling down some stairs. Nisha takes good care of her sister's baby, something that does not go unnoticed. Prem's father and Nisha's parents discuss the possibility of marrying Nisha to Pooja's widower, Rajesh, Prem's brother. Nisha manages to overhear part of this discussion and assumes they wish her to marry Prem, so the reality comes as something of a shock. Unable to go against the wishes of their parents, the young lovers resign themselves to the situation. Nisha writes a note and gives it, and the necklace, to Prem's dog, Tuffy, to deliver. Tuffy, the wily matchmaker, delivers the note to Rajesh instead, and he reads the truth for himself about the feelings shared by Nisha and his younger brother. He confronts them with the evidence and the young lovers marry with his blessing.

The film starred Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan, son of one of the famous duo of writers, Salim-Javed and Salim Khan, who co-wrote Sholay with Javed Akhtar. Director Sooraj Bharjatiya inherited one of the last independent production houses, Rajshr Productions, and decided to make a wedding film; and, what better than a Indian wedding which leaves everyone with a warm, fuzzy feeling for months.

The director chose his previous hero, Salman Khan, and Madhuri Dixit, who was very much in demand as she was the female superstar at the time. It is said that he hummed bits of the background score and songs between scenes while filming as many believe that good songs can 'open' a film as effectively as any star and that bad music can ruin a 'hit'.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun had 14 songs all of which were very popular. The song 'Didi Tera Devar Deeana' (Sister Your Brother-in-Law Is Mad), sung by the playback singer Lata Mangeshkar and lip synched by Madhuri Dixit, proved to be one of the most popular and fondly remembered songs of the decade. The production house, normally known for its low budget but good movies, now became the number one with this film. The movie went on to become a top grossing Bollywood movie, driving the need for future movies to consider inclusion of some equally catchy and engaging songs. The film also revived Salman Khan's career, while Madhuri Dixit received the award for Best Actress at the Filmfare Awards, and Sooraj Bharjatiya won the award for Best Director. It also received the award for Best Film.

In the year of this film's release, Shekhar Kapur, director of Mr India, directed the real life story of real life Indian female dacoit2, Phoolan Devi, in Bandit Queen.

Bandit Queen

Many consider this film to be the one that really put Bollywood cinema on the map. The grim tale of a true story, the film concerns Phoolan Devi, a woman driven to revenge and murder by a terrible and savage upbringing. At 11, Phoolan's father marries her off to a man twice her age, who sexually abuses her. Both Phoolan and her husband Puttilal belong to the lower ranked Mallah sub caste, a situation which puts Phoolan at risk of culturally accepted abuse from the Thakur, who belong to a higher caste. While Phoolan runs away from her husband, physical abuse by the Thakur and her resistance to it ultimately leads to her banishment from her home.

Leaving the village along with her cousin, Kailesh, Phoolan crosses paths with a group of bandits, and then with the police, who subject her to yet more sexual abuse. The Thakur post bail for Phoolan, but the bail is in fact a bribe from the leader of the gang she encountered and on her release the leader, Babu Gujjar, arrives for his prize. Gujjar continues the seemingly never-ending trail of abuse against Phoolan, until Vikram, his lieutenant, catches him in the act of rape and shoots him. Vikram takes control of the gang and forms a strong, respectful relationship with Phoolan. On her request, he helps abduct her ex-husband and Phoolan exacts her revenge.

From there, things only go from bad to worse. While Phoolan gathers authority and manages to find her way into a leading role in her own gang, taking on the mantle of bandit queen, she does so only after punishment and humiliation at the hands of the real boss of the gang Vikram had taken control. Phoolan plans and executes her revenge on him, but her gang suffers grievous losses and the survivors become subject to a police manhunt. Desperate for supplies and not wanting to expose her loyal followers to further risk of death, Phoolan surrenders to the authorities on the condition that her men and their families be protected and provided for.

The film ends with Phoolan Devi's surrender, the end credits revealing the authorities ultimately dropped all charges, leading to her release in 1994.

Directed by Shekhar Kapoor, the film starred a relatively unknown actress, Seema Biswas. Kapoor had turned to full-time producing and directing ad films, when Bobby Bedi, a Delhi-based producer, came up with the proposal to make a movie, with a script by Mala Sen. Originally planned as a docudrama, the producers found sufficient funds to turn it into a full-length film.

After completion, the Indian censor board objected to the strong Hindi swearing and during early screenings the audience jeered at the swearing and whistled at the rape scenes. Several cuts were made in the film as well as political manoeuvring in the appropriate circles; but, the film failed to make it as a nominee for the Academy Awards and, at the same time, Phoolan Devi, who by the 1990s had become a Member of the Indian Parliament, herself campaigned for the film to be banned, claiming that it was unacceptable and distorted.

In 1996 actress Seema Biswas received a National Award for Best Actress and prior to that, Shekhar Kapoor, received the critics award for Best Film as well as the award for the Best Director at the Filmfare Awards. On 25 July, 2001, Phoolan Devi was assassinated as she got out of her car at her residence in Delhi, and Bandit Queen remains the closest story of Phoolan Devi during her time as Daku Rani.

The following year saw one of the most popular films being released and one in which Shahrukh Khan played the role of a hero and not a villain, opposite actress Kajol, who had been his co-star in the movie Baazigar. The film was Dil Walleh Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The One With The Heart Will Take The Bride). The title was derived from a song from a 1970s movie Chor Machaye Shor. This again, had a wedding theme mixed in with romance but it didn't have as many songs as Hum Aapke Hain Koun.

Dil Walleh Dulhaniya Le Jayenge

Raj Malhotra (Shahrukh Khan) and Simran Singh (Kajol), both Non-residential Indians (NRIs) living in London, fall in love as they travel through Europe. The woman's father, a man fiercely determined to marry her to a good Indian boy in India, decides to jet off the family when he learns of his daughter's romance. Raj, not willing to lose his love, follows them to India, where he meets the prospective groom and Simran confesses her love but informs him that her family will never accept him. Raj plans to win over the family and tells Simran that he will only marry her when this is completed and in a traditional manner. In the end, after a fight with the groom, the hero manages to win over the family, and the father finally allows his daughter to get married to the man she loves.

One of the film's most memorable scenes comes at the end, where Chaudhry Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri), the father, who has held on to his daughter's hand tightly, releases her. As he watches Raj leaving on a train, returning home, Chaudhry tells his daughter to go and she, in the traditional bridal clothes and jewellery, runs along the platform. For a moment, the film leaves the audience to wonder if Simran tries to jump onto the moving train, she might miss. However, it doesn't happen and the pair are united to live happily ever after.

This was the film that brought back the romantic screen pair of Shahrukh and Kajol. It also introduced a strong friendship with another person — Karan Johar, director of films such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Is Happening), Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Happiness Sometimes Sadness) and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (Never Say Goodbye). Karan Johar, who made a special appearance in the film as one of Raj's friends, was said to be assisting his friend and director, Aditya Chopra, son of Yash Chopra, when he and Shahrukh Khan became good friends.

Location filming in London and other places proved a particular draw for audiences, along with the theme and the story; and, the film went on to be popular in both the USA and UK markets. More than anything else, Dil Walleh Dulhaniya Le Jayenge showed Bollywood film makers the potential of the Non-residential Indian market. The film ran past the 250 week mark in many cinemas — with matinee shows only after the first year of release. The film received eight Filmfare3 awards and went on to become one of the highest grossing Bollywood movies of all time, known in India as an All Time Blockbuster. At the time of writing, one cinema in Mumbai continues to show a performance of the film and still manages to bring in an audience.

Three years after the release of Dil Walleh Duhaniya Le Jayenge, the pairing of Shahrukh Khan and Kajol was repeated by Karan Johar, son of the legend and well known, Yash Johar, in the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Three young college friends, a man and two women — Rahul, Anjali and Tina — are in a love triangle. However, Anjali discovers Rahul's love for Tina and moves away without explanation. Ten years pass and Rahul is now widowed, having had an eight-year-old daughter with Tina, also named Anjali. Tina wrote eight letters to her daughter, to be given sequentially to her on each birthday and the final missive reveals the existence of her namesake and the feelings Tina knew Rahul had for her. Young Anjali, along with her grandmother, decides to find Anjali and reunite her with Rahul. But there's a small problem — Anjali is getting engaged. Young Anjali makes plans to attend a summer camp, at which Anjali works as a counsellor, hoping to arrange for her father to join her there. The two ex-friends meet and the romance between the two reignites, but then the fiancé turns up. Rahul, after all these years, still cannot admit his love to Anjali, and she refuses to endanger her engagement without some proof of his feelings. However, the fiancé realises that Anjali loves Rahul, and, rather than tread on the fingers of fate, steps out of the way, at the last minute, to ensure that Rahul and Anjali can realise their true love and get married.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai relied on a tried-and-tested storyline formula everyone could appreciate. Karan Johar seemingly came up with the idea for the movie while on holiday in London. While filming for Dil Walleh Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Johar told Shahrukh Khan of his plans to make a film. Khan told his friend he'd happily work with him, and the director got the same answer from Kajol, who would play the love interest Anjali.

The film proved to be very successful, not just in India but in the overseas markets as well. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai became another All Time Blockbuster and reinforced the reputation of the romantic screen couple of Khan and Kajol. The film received eight Filmfare Awards, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director.

The following year saw another film that made an impact as it dealt with terrorism —  Sarfarosh, which starred Naseerudin Shah, Aamir Khan and Sonali Bendre. The film received two Filmfare Awards.

Into the 21st Century

The 1990s had pushed Bollywood films onto a wider stage. Many countries in Europe, America and Africa discovered and showed appreciation for Bollywood films. A 'Bollywood craze' overcame many parts of the world, a phenomenon that would continue into the next century, and would see the forming of the International Indian Film Academy Awards.

1Also known as the Pashtun people, Pathans are an Eastern Iranian ethnic group that can now be found in Afghanistan and and parts of northern Pakistan.2From the Hindi, meaning a member of a gang of armed robbers.3Filmfare is an English language Indian movie magazine which has been published in Mumbai (Bombay) since 1952.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

There are no Conversations for this Entry

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more