Love or hate it, 90s Bollywood is a goldmine of sweet nostalgia for a certain generation


The film is luxurious and grand and is a build-up and a prototype for all future KJO hits. With a string of hits such as Aashiqui and Zakhm, he mined autobiographical stories for commercial benefits. Life is one big, unending party in this Prem-land. The superstar produced another blockbuster in Hum a year later, but these would, sadly, become Bachchan’s last great outings before the younger stars upstaged him and finally, the downfall brought in by ABCL fiasco. Though SRK and Kajol were first seen in Baazigar, it was DDLJ that established them as an unforgettable screen couple. Of the heroines, Karisma Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Raveena Tandon, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, Manisha Koirala and Shilpa Shetty commanded large followings. Yes, there once existed the ubiquitous Munna/Pakya-type black marketer (refer to Aamir Khan in Rangeela) outside Maratha Mandir, Minerva, Geeta, Gaiety-Galaxy and Chandan among others. The budgets went through the roof. Both films starred Shah Rukh Khan, who as many suggested, represented Bollywood to diaspora audiences. Meanwhile, economic reforms of 1991 had forced open the markets. Because that happened with two key films from the 90s: Roja and Bombay. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge gave Bollywood many gifts, including the trend of acronym. Aashiqui is also significant for Bhatt’s collaboration with Gulshan Kumar’s T-Series. Pure cringe-fest or plain, unadulterated nostalgia? Big money! This YRF film opened a goldmine that was the diaspora market, turning the NRIs from London, Toronto and New Jersey into a sucker for everything Indian. Did it even exist? Agneepath (1990)

The last of the ‘Amitabh Bachchan as a leading man’ hits, Agneepath is the star’s very own The Godfather/Scarface turn – complete with the famous Brando-inspired drop-in-the-voice. It was rib-tickling in the right places and thrilling at the same time. The Khans emerged as the romantic stars of the 90s but the decade equally belonged to action stars like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol and Suniel Shetty. Satya (1998)

There were gangster films before. But the little fellow will win hearts – justifying its Tramp-esque roots. Their music, in many ways, became the unofficial emblem of the 90s. He was at the forefront of sweeping musical changes, a marked shift from Nadeem-Shravan and Jatin-Lalit’s saccharine-days. Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Subhash Ghai’s Pardes were instrumental in creating the lucrative overseas market, cashing in on the NRI nostalgia. and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

A harbinger of the designer film era, this Karan Johar blockbuster celebrates love and fashion in equal measure. Urmila Matondkar was instantly hailed as a sex siren on the lines of Zeenat Aman while Aamir Khan aka Munna pulled off an Anil Kapoor (the original screen Munna), only more multiplex-y. Bombay (1995)

Those who say that Mani Ratnam won Mumbai over with Dil Se or Guru are probably wrong. It also gave us SRK’s romantic Raj, Kajol’s dreamy Simran, Amrish Puri’s bauji, exotic European locales and of course, Karan Johar. Out went single screens and the multiplex era was ushered in. In the aftermath of the Bombay riots and blast, this interfaith love story was yet another example of Ratnam’s ability to blend social realism with original songs in an attractive commercial packaging. Govinda was a special breed, with his own cottage industry of the silly and the slapstick. Yes, we could tell our Nadeem-Shravans from Jatin-Lalits and Mahesh Bhatts from David Dhawans (no right-minded 90s guy can ever confuse Mahesh Bhatt’s cinema with David Dhawan’s). 2018-02-01T18:26:35+00:00″>
Updated: February 1, 2018 6:26 pm

The Khans emerged as the romantic stars of the 90s but the decade equally belonged to action stars like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol and Suniel Shetty. (1994)

Some scoffed at this Barjatya outing, slamming it as the “longest wedding video.” For the BuzzFeed generation, the film is a Burger King of memes. Yes, before Netflix, there were the video parlours (early training ground for filmmakers as varied as Anurag Kashyap and Madhur Bhandarkar). Every character feels authentic and so do the lyrics. Thousands of diehard Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit fans emulated the wedding look of Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!, some compulsively wearing it as a uniform. “You have Chaplin walking away into the horizon – there’s always hope, but there’s sadness,” author Jai Arjun Singh quotes Kundan Shah in his Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro book, in response to a question as to why the underdog quality is intrinsic to comedy. Serial experimenter, RGV invented a new language with this underdog of a film, set in Mumbai’s gritty gangland. But the Salman Khan-Madhuri Dixit starrer (along with a formidable supporting cast) remains iconic for its stupendous ticket sales (it rewrote box-office history), an unlimited supply of songs and for being the ultimate family saga where you don’t need an occasion to break into a song or go on an extended vacay – Tuffy in tow. (Shaikh Ayaz is a writer and journalist based in Mumbai)
Read: Hindi classics that defined the decade: Shree 420 to Pyaasa, 10 immortal gems from 1950s Bollywood
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© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd Gulzar, who penned the songs including the whimsical Kallu Mama, once explained, “You can’t have a gangster sing Ghalib. The Govinda and Kader Khan pairing became a recurring standard since but you can’t deny that it all began with Aankhen. Rahman’s songs were the film’s burning heart. Another important lesson in here is for Bollywood: rich people problems spell money. A radical, RGV conquered Mumbai with Rangeela. Aankhen (1993)

Comedy has always been David Dhawan’s forte but take his pre-Aankhen phase and you will notice his strength for melodrama and action. Read: 1970s revisited: A decade that belonged to Amitabh Bachchan but equally to Rishi Kapoor, Dharmendra, Shabana Azmi, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha and Salim-Javed
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994)

One of Shah Rukh Khan’s most endearing performances (a cult has been steadily growing around it), Kundan Shah’s Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa is an ode to Chaplin and Raj Kapoor. These two films also ushered in the A R Rahman era, making the Mozart from Madras a pan-India phenomenon. The goodhearted hero is a loser who won’t get the girl nor conventional success, a curse inflicted on a Hindi film leading man since eternity. Yes, we waited for weeks to catch movies of our favourite stars, in many cases pre-booking it by physically paying a visit to the theater. Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! But most importantly, it gave us a formula of how all Bollywood films of the future would look like, courtesy Mr Johar’s chance involvement in its making. In the fifth of our on-going ‘Hindi classics that defined the decade’ essay series, we examine ten Bollywood hits from the 90s. Bhatt’s musical hits set and changed, at once, the rules of the game. But nothing quite like Satya. Memes about Bharatiya sanskriti, family values, weddings and Alok Nath are invariably linked to HAHK – a troll favourite. Read: Hindi classics that defined the decade: 1960s Bollywood was frothy, perfectly in tune with the high spirits of the swinging times
Rangeela (1995)

Another South Indian was slowly challenging the grammar of Bollywood and that was Ram Gopal Varma. And yes, there was the fashion, as epitomised by larger-than-life hits such as Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! Bhatt came to the commercial mode of filmmaking as a wounded tiger, having burnt his fingers with the sensitive Arth and Saaransh. His idea of poetry will include words like bheja and goli.” A real game-changer and unlikely hit, Satya’s influence can be felt most on two key technicians involved in the film – Vishal Bhardwaj (music composer) and Anurag Kashyap (Satya’s co-writer). Yes, Doordarshan was a bestseller and we flocked to that one family in the building that owned a TV set for our weekly fix (in our case, we were that family unfortunately). It doesn’t matter if you look at the 90s as awful or awesome because the impact (for better or for worse) of that decade is so deep-rooted within us – especially the 30-somethings reading this – that we remain very much a product of that decade even though many world cinema-exposed cineastes and urban sophiscates now seem to be in utter denial about the 90s. The rich kids went designer post Kuch Kuch Hota Hai while those enjoying the thug life, one supposes, found solace in the candy-coloured Rangeela. Was the 1990s kitsch or pop? He still does! Public’s spending power shot up and Bollywood became one of the biggest beneficiaries. What followed was a slow fade – and, needless to say, a remarkable revival circa-2000s. Once again, Rahman’s experimental soundtrack was the soul. So did star salaries and ticket and popcorn prices. Yes, it did. Yes, there were no cell phones and only landlines with their heart patient-killing ring tones. It was in Aankhen that he first revealed a head for comedy. Read: 1980s in Bollywood: The decade offered a dizzying array of cinematic delights
Aashiqui (1990)

Mahesh Bhatt is to the 1990s what Manmohan Desai was to the 1970s. DDLJ taught Karan Johar an important lesson, which he puts to good use in his debut: no matter what, Shah Rukh Khan’s Raj/Rahul has to walk away with the heroine in the end. But it was Bombay, with its communal angle, that felt urgent. It was conservative enough to appeal to the hidebound middle-class India and catchy enough for the young audiences.