This was the decade that saw not only the start of a new century but also the formation of a new award ceremony, superstars uniting on screen and a movie that had men dressed in loincloths playing cricket. But it also included other films that created disputes and a strike that would last for two months.
International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA)
Though many award ceremonies take place each year, including the Filmfare Awards, it is this one that attracts thousands, if not millions around the world as it's held in different countries each year. The idea for the awards came in 1999 and popular actor and producer Amitabh Bachchan was appointed its first brand ambassador.
The first IIFA Awards were held in London at the Millennium Dome in 2000 and celebrated its tenth year in 2009, in the Chinese city of Macau. The awards create huge interest in Bollywood fans around the world bringing thousands of people together wherever and whenever they are held. It is an opportunity for fans get to see their favourite stars in the flesh and get their autographs. And the beginning of this century also saw another star being born.
Son of a former actor and director, Rakesh Roshan, and grandson of music director Roshan, Hrithik was born on 10 January, 1974. He first made an appearance in the film Aasha at the age of six as an extra in a dance sequence and later went on to assist his father in such films as Karan Arjun (1995) and Koyla (Coal) (1997). When asked as a child what he would like to be, he stammered 'actor' and many thought he would not be able to overcome this problem. But he did and he made his début in his father's film Kaho Na Pyar Hai (Say It's Love). The role was first was offered to Shah Rukh Khan but he was unavailable. The film was a success, with Hrithik's dances a contributing factor.
Kaho Na Pyar Hai was in fact so successful that a few weeks after its release, members of the underworld tried to extort money from Rakesh Roshan. He refused to pay them and was targeted for assassination, being hit twice by bullets in 2000. The family was given bodyguards but the incident prevented them celebrating the success of the film.
Mohabbatein (Love Stories)
In 2000, Yashraj films released Mohabbatein (Love Stories). This movie was about three students who arrive at a boarding school whose strict headmaster is prone to expelling anyone who disobeys him. A new music teacher then encourages the students to fall in love, which the headmaster is against. The movie brought together two superstars - Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan - for the first time since 1982, when Bachchan starred with Dilip Kumar in the movie Shakti. Mohabbatein was almost entirely filmed in England during the winter. Aishwarya Rai made a guest appearance in the movie, playing the headmaster's daughter who has a relationship with a student. The movie, marked the return of Amitabh Bachchan, as he had been hosting Kaun Bangega Crore Pati (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) on TV. Though not a critical hit, the film was a commercial success and Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan received Filmfare awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively.
In 2001 director Ashutosh Gowarikar, released Lagaan (Land Levy), the movie in which men dressed in loincloths played a game of cricket against those who were ruling them.
In the 1880s, a small village in India is burdened by the Lagaan (Land Levy) imposed by the British. The villagers can't pay the levy due to a drought and approach the Maharajah in the hope that they will be excused for a year. This is ridiculed by the British authorities, who suggest a game of cricket against them, on condition that if the villagers won, then the levy would be lifted and they wouldn't have to pay for three years. If they lost, however, the levy would be doubled.
The movie starred Aamir Khan as a spokesman for the villagers, who agrees to the game. It was filmed entirely in the Western Indian state of Gujarat. Before filming began Shah Rukh Khan was originally offered the Aamir Khan role, but since he wasn't available he suggested the director opt for his colleague Aamir Khan. The other problem that Gowarikar faced was that not many producers showed interest in the movie. But after Aamir Khan agreed to play the main role in the film, it was decided that he would also produce it. The location chosen for the filming was Kamuna village in the state of Gujarat for its dry land and because it lacked electricity and because it was similar to what a village would have been like in the 1800s. Prior to being released, the film was shown to the villagers and other locals. It was then premièred at the IIFA, in South Africa, and also shot into the UK top ten. It was screened at various film festivals and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2002 Academy Awards. The award went to a Bosnian film1 instead.
In 2002 film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali released his movie Devdas, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. This was a remake of a film directed by Bimal Roy, based on the novel by Saratchandra Chatterjee. The song 'Dola Re Dola' sung by playback singers Kavitha Krishnamurthy and Shreya Ghoshal, lipsynched by Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit, was very popular. The film received ten Filmfare Awards and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the BAFTAs and was India's entry for the Academy Awards.
The following year, besides the release of a sci-fi movie, Koi Mil Gaya (I Have Found Someone), another movie, which went on to seal Shah Rukh Khan's status as a superstar was released. In Kal Ho Naa Ho he played a man suffering from a heart condition who falls in love with the girl next door. Knowing that he hasn't got long to live, he brings happiness to her life as well as love. The movie also starred Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan and Jaya Bachchan. The role played by Bachchan was initially offered to Neetu Singh, mother of the actor, Ranbir Kapoor and wife of the actor Rishi Kapoor, but she declined. The role of Naina Katherine Kapoor was first offered to Kareena Kapoor, who lost it to Preity Zinta. The movie was directed by Nikhil Advani, who had previously been assistant director to Karan Johar on the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The movie received many awards, including awards at the IIFA, while playback singer, Sonu Nigam went on to receive a National Award for the title song.
Veer - Zaara
In 2004 director Yash Chopra returned to directing. The movie starred Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta and was about a Pakistani woman who goes to India to scatter her late governess's ashes in the city of Kiritpur. En route, the coach she's travelling in has an accident and she is picked up by an Indian squadron leader, Veer Pratap Singh. The two fall in love but are soon separated - for 20 years.
The music was based on old, unreleased compositions by the late music director Madan Mohan and was revised by his son, Sanjay Kohli. The soundtrack was released on a double CD - one containing the songs and the other the original compositions. Lata Mangeshkar, who had sung many songs with Madan Mohan when he was alive, provided the playback for most of the songs with her male colleagues, including the Punjabi singer Gurdass Mann, whose name had been suggested to Yash Chopra by Amitabh Bachchan, who makes a special appearance in the movie along with Hema Malini. When recording the songs, Lata Mangeshkar had tears in her eyes and said to the director:
Madan Mohan was like a brother to me. You are like my brother. I feel like I have gone in the past.
Yash Chopr never had the opportunity to work with Madan Mohan and he wrote in the inside cover of the CD that he was at a loss when he planned to direct this movie, at the request of his son Aditya. The compositions had been written 50 years before the release of the movie. The role of Sammiya Siddiqui, played by Rani Mukherjee, was originally offered to Aishwarya Rai and the scenes, in which Veer Pratap Singh is seen in a jail, were all filmed in one day. Director Karan Johar designed the costume for his friend Shah Rukh Khan, while the director of photography, Anil Mehta, used sepia to give the film a nostalgic feel. The film was originally titled 'Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum' (Where Are We Today), a song from his own 1980s film Silsila but Yash Chopra felt that Veer - Zaara was better suited.
The film was a worldwide success and won many awards. When the three leading actors, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta an Rani Mukherjee, visited a Virgin Mega Store in the UK, an estimated 5,000 fans turned up to see them.
2005 saw the release of the super hit comedy No Entry but it was the following year that a film, directed by Karan Johar, tackled controversial issues regarding marriage and breakup.
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (Never Say Goodbye)
Dev Saran, a successful, married soccer player, meets Maya, who is about to marry Rishi Talwar and suspects that she may be having second thoughts. Dev realises that Maya is doing this because she feels indebted to Samarjeet Talwar (known as 'Sexy Sam') as he's been like a father to her. Despite Dev confessing his doubts about her forthcoming marriage, Maya goes ahead and marries Rishi anyway. Later, Dev has an accident, thus ending his career as a soccer player, and becomes dependent on his wife Rhea, a successful magazine editor. Years later, Maya and Dev meet up again and this time it leads to an extramarital affair and thus the break-ups of both their marriages.
The idea of making this film was first thought of by Karan Johar while he was in London, after watching the movie Before Sunset, and also while having dinner at a restaurant, where he overheard a couple breaking up amicably. The role of Maya Talwar was initially offered to Kajol, as Rani Mukherjee was to play the role of Rhea Saran. But Kajol was unavailable and was already involved in another film, though she did briefly appear. Ajay Devgan was offered the role of Rishi Talwar but he refused. Karan Johar asked Shah Rukh Khan to direct the controversial hotel room scene, but Khan, feeling uncomfortable about doing it, asked Amitabh Bachchan, who played the role of Samarjeet Talwar, to direct it over the phone. The film shooting took place on a 90-day schedule in the USA and the remainder in studios at Mumbai.
Om Shanti Om (Om Peace Om)
Released in 2007, this starred Shah Rukh Khan and introduced a new actress to the industry, Deepika Padukone. In the 1970s, an aspiring actor is killed by thugs who work for a film producer as he tries to save the woman he loves when the building she is in is set alight. Years pass and he is reborn and becomes a superstar. However, he soon remembers his past life and sets out to seek revenge.
Directed by Farah Khan, the film went on to win five Filmfare awards and was nominated for five others; three at the IIFA, one at Zee Cine Awards. It also won an award for Best Composer at the Asian Film Awards. But along with the success came controversies. Actor Manoj Kumar felt that he was made fun of when his lookalike in the film turned up for the movie première while security guards asked him for an ID card. He shows a driving licence photo in which he is covering his face with a hand. In another scene, Om Prakash Mahkija, the character played by Shah Rukh Khan, in a drunken state, claims to be Manoj Kumar and covers his face with his hand. Manoj Kumar was said to be offended by such scenes and upon knowing about this, Shah Rukh Khan and Farah Khan apologised to him.
But in 2008, before its TV première, the veteran actor filed for an injunction against the movie being shown. Sony TV, premièring the movie, was ordered to edit the scenes. This was done and the film was premièred on Sony TV. But later, Manoj Kumar filed cases against Shah Rukh Khan, his wife Gauri Khan and Farah Khan for not keeping their promise of deleting the scenes when they said they would. There was also a case of plagiarism. Writer Ajay Monga, who wrote scripts for movies such as Corporate and Fashion, filed a petition at the high court in Mumbai, claiming that the film had been lifted from a script that he had emailed to Shah Rukh Khan when he was filming in Malaysia. The Film Writers Association investigated this and informed Red Chillies (Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan's Production Company) that it had found similarities in the film with Monga's script. In another case, the daughter of the late Bimal Roy claimed that the second half of the movie was similar to her father's movie Madhumati which had been released in 1959.
The decade also saw films such as Singh is Kinng and Mumbai Meri Jaan (This is Mumbai My Darling) being released. The latter was based on the aftermath of the bombing of the trains in 2006 when 209 people were killed.
In November 2008, the terrorists struck Mumbai and people were scared to venture out, thus leading to cinema halls becoming empty. In December, Yashraj films, released the movie Rab Na Bana Di Jodi (Couple Made in Heaven), starring Shah Rukh Khan and introducing the new actress, Anoushka Sharma. The film was not only a success but it also pulled the audiences back into the cinema halls and multiplexes. A few weeks after the release of this film, another film, Ghajini, a remake of the original Tamil film, Memento starring Aamir Khan, was released. This went on to break all box office records. The year ended with movies doing well at the box office, but the following year, the slump that had taken place during the terror attack on Mumbai, re-appeared and films with big budgets and superstars failed to make any significant impression. Films such as Chandni Chowk To China, starring Akshaye Kumar and Deepika Padukone and Bilu, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Irfan Khan and the former Miss Universe, Lara Dutta, also failed at the box office. The situation was not helped by the strike that had been looming on the horizon.
The Bitter 2009 Strike
A bitter strike within Bollywood had been looming for a while, and towards the end of March there were indications that a strike was inevitable due to a dispute between the multiplexes on one side and the directors and the producers on the other. The dispute was over revenue sharing and the last film to be released before the strike was 8x10 Tasveer (8x10 Photo), starring Akshaye Kumar, a thriller directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. During this time, not a single Bollywood film was released in any part of the world and those single screen cinemas, showing Bollywood films, had no option but to shut their doors to audiences and suffer the losses. After two months however, this came to an end after it was decided that the revenue share would be judged on the audience reaction and how it would be shared after the release of the movies.
Set against the background of 9/11, this was about three college friends who study in New York and about how their lives change after the terror attack on the Twin Towers. The movie starred John Abraham, Katrina Keif and Neil Nitin Mukesh, the grandson of the legendary playback singer Mukesh.
The script for this movie was submitted to the US authorities as the producers wanted to film this in the city itself while John Abraham studied the Quran as he prepared for his role.
Films were released as quickly as possible after the dispute; it had been a costly time and many were eager to recover those costs. However, they didn't all succeed at the box office. One of the few that did was Love Aaj Kal (Love Today Tommorow), which was released on 31 July and starred Saif Ali Khan, son of the famous Indian cricketer, Nawab of Pataudi, Deepika Padukone, Rishi Kapoor and a Brazilian model, Giselli Monteiro. Initially the latter had auditioned for a role to play the part of Saif Ali Khan's non-Indian girlfriend but the director, Imitiaz Ali, had been searching for someone to play the role of a young Harleem, and after watching her audition, it was the director's wife who suggested she play that role. The role of elder Harleem was played by actress Neetu Singh, wife of Rishi Kapoor and mother of actor, Ranbir Kapoor.
However, it was at the end of the decade that two films would end the drought of hit movies being released.
A 13-year-old boy suffering from progenia (also known as Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome — a rare and severe genetic condition which causes an acceleration of the aging process), tries to prove to everyone that he is a man with a mission. But his mother hides the truth from him. This starred Amitabh Bachchan as the 13-year-old Auro, Vidya Balan and Abhishek Bachchan.
What was compelling about this movie was, not that it starred father and son but that the roles were reversed. Amitabh Bachchan, father of Abhishek, played the role of the 13-year-old, while Abhishek Bachchan played the role of the father. The filming took place in the UK and Malaysia. The make-up for Amitabh Bachchan's prosthesis is said to have taken Hollywood's Christian Tinsley up to several hours to apply. The movie was produced by Abhishek Bachchan with the family company AB Corp Ltd and went onto win four awards out of 14, which included Best Actor (Amitabh Bachchan), and Best Actress (Vidya Balan).
However, the film that went onto become the highest grossing Bollywood film - grossing 400 million Rupees (US$ 86 million) worldwide - was 3 Idiots, about two friends who embark on a journey to find a lost friend, during which they encounter a long-forgotten bet, a wedding they must crash and a funeral that goes wrong.
With the success of the film also came controversy. The credit to author of Five Point Someone, on which the movie was based, Chetan Bhagat, came at the end instead of the beginning. One New Year's Eve, the author made a post on his website that he had been told that the film was 2.5% based on the book but when he watched it, he felt it was 70%. He felt he was misled by the makers. In response to this, the producer, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, lost his cool during a press conference and told a reporter to shut up when asked if the movie had been lifted from the book. He later apologised for his behaviour. The director, Rajkumar Hirani, went on to say:
We have officially bought the rights for the film. We drew a contract with him and it clearly mentions about the position of his credit. With open eyes he had seen the contract, consulted his lawyer and signed the agreement … In the contract, we have said that the title would be given in the rolling credits. We haven't changed the font size. We haven't increased the speed of the title. It's exactly there where it was agreed to be.
Bhagat later apologised.
The following year My Name is Khan would see Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol work together for the first time since Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes Happiness Sometimes Sadness), a film that would go on to break several records worldwide. In this, Shah Rukh Khan would play the role of a character who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, an autistic disorder most notable for the often great discrepancy between the intellectual and social abilities of those who suffer from it.