First film: wow! The next few: phew!
We pick eight directors who haven’t been able to replicate the success of their best-known film
- Published 1.04.20, 9:58 PM
- Updated 1.04.20, 9:58 PM
- 5 mins read
First film: Don
You would be excused if you thought that the 1978 blockbuster — that had Amitabh Bachchan in the dual roles of a don and a do-gooder — was directed by the more prolific Prakash Mehra or Manmohan Desai (incidentally both Bachchan favourites). But Don, that’s become a cult film of sorts — in song, line, action, drama — was helmed by a man called Chandra Barot, a former banker from Tanzania who landed up in Mumbai with the ambition of making it as a filmmaker. After assisting Manoj Kumar in films like Purab Aur Pachhim and Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Barot landed the plum job of directing Bachchan, then the reigning superstar, in Don. The film went on to become a huge hit, but Barot could never follow up on the success of his first film. He went on to direct a few B-grade films — “After Don, I had 52 offers from producers. I selected two films,” he once said in an interview — and eventually disappeared from the scene.
Abhinav Singh Kashyap
First film: Dabangg
Chulbul Pandey — the irreverent cop with a quick quip, a bunch of quirks and a heart of gold — remains Salman Khan’s most memorable role till date. The man credited with writing this iconic character is Abhinav Singh Kashyap, who made his directorial debut with the blockbuster Dabangg a decade ago. The desi spaghetti Western took the Bollywood action caper a notch higher, with Abhinav raking in accolades. A lot was expected out of Anurag Kashyap’s brother in his second film. But Besharam — starring Ranbir Kapoor as a tapori, supported by real-life parents Rishi and Neetu Kapoor — was a cringe-fest that crash-landed at the box office. A fallout with the Khan brothers ensured that Abhinav found himself out of the next two Dabangg films (directed by Arbaaz Khan and Prabhudheva respectively). He hasn’t picked up the directorial baton since.
John Mathew Matthan
First film: Sarfarosh
It may not quite be in the league of Lagaan or 3 Idiots but Sarfarosh will always be hailed as one of Aamir Khan’s best films. The 1999 film that starred Aamir as a tough cop investigating an arms trafficking racket, was unanimously praised for its plot and performances, with debutant director John Mathew Matthan — who researched and wrote the script over a period of seven years — being hailed as a filmmaker to watch out for. The former adman took another six years to direct his next film, with Shikhar — starring Ajay Devgn and Shahid Kapoor — turning out to be a critical and commercial failure. Matthan’s filmmaking career reached its nadir when he signed up to direct Himesh Reshammiya in A New Love Ishtory in 2013. Since then, he’s been saying he’s prepping to direct a sequel to Sarfarosh but one hasn’t heard much about it in a long time.
Best-known film: Delhi Belly
Abhinay Deo’s directorial debut Game released three months before Delhi Belly, the film that he’s best known for. The Aamir Khan production — nephew Imran front lined it, with Aamir himself featuring in a delightful cameo — marked a grown-up Bollywood, bringing in crowds in droves with its irrepressible humour, adult jokes, crazy gags and an insane and irreverent tone. Deo, the son of yesteryear actor Ramesh Deo, used his years in advertising to craft a film that heralded a new era in Hindi films. However, nine years since Delhi Belly, he hasn’t been able to live up to his promise, save showing a flash of the dark humour he’s known for in the 2018 Irrfan Khan-starrer Blackmail, that met with middling success at the box office.
First film: Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na
When the writer of films like Maqbool and Munna Bhai MBBS decided to make his debut as director, one knew that Abbas Tyrewala would come up with something special. Tyrewala brought in both froth and freshness to Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, a light-hearted take on platonic friendships and romance that marked the acting debut of Imran Khan and also starred the vivacious Genelia D’Souza. Mirroring the lives and loves of Gen-Y, Jaane Tu... — aided by a spectacular soundtrack by A.R. Rahman — is a film that we rewatch even a dozen years after it released. But Tyrewala couldn’t really get his career as a director going, only managing to helm one film since — the 2010 flop Jhootha Hi Sahi, with John Abraham. Even as a writer, his career since then hasn’t really been worth talking about, barring the Hrithik Roshan-Tiger Shroff action blockbuster War last year for which he wrote the dialogues.
First film: Dostana
After assisting Karan Johar from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai all the way through to Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, Tarun Mansukhani took the plunge in 2008 with Dostana, produced by KJo’s Dharma Productions. Dostana — a film about two straight men pretending to be gay to woo their glam houseowner — had its share of problems in the way it trivialised and stereotyped homosexuality, but there was no denying that it was a fun film that gave us a sexy John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan at the top of his comedy game and a smokin’ hot ‘desi girl’ Priyanka Chopra. Inexplicably, Tarun didn’t direct a film in a decade after that, content to nurture new talent at Dharma Productions. Last year, he gave us Drive, an excruciatingly bad film starring Sushant Singh Rajput and Jacqueline Fernandez, that proved to be a huge embarrassment both for Dharma Productions and Netflix, that it streamed on. How bad was it? Well, let’s just say Drive was last year’s Race 3. ’Nuff said.
First film: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
For many, this may seem to be a controversial pick. But how does one top a first film that not only breaks the box office and runs in theatres for decades, but also reinvents the paradigm of romance in Bollywood? Yash Chopra’s son stormed into Bollywood with DDLJ that made Shah Rukh Khan the poster boy of romance and gave generations then and after a love story to live by. Aditya Chopra has directed only three more films in the last 25 years, and though both Mohabbatein and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi had their moments, Befikre was a colossal disappointment. But Adi — the man we never get to see or hear — is content putting money and muscle on others’ films as the head honcho of Yash Raj Films.
Best-known films: Dhoom & Dhoom: 2
Sanjay Gadhvi’s directorial debut was Tere Liye (yes, a film that no one remembers), followed by Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai — a rather ho-hum take on My Best Friend’s Wedding. But the man shot into the big league overnight after directing Dhoom, Bollywood’s own boys-on-bikes caper — starring Abhishek Bachchan as a cop and John Abraham as the baddie — that spiralled off a smash-hit action franchise. Two years later, Gadhvi went on to direct the sequel — Dhoom: 2 — upping the ante in style and substance, with Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai adding to the film’s star power. But Gadhvi, who scored some missteps with films like Kidnap and Ajab Gazabb Love, found himself out of Dhoom:3, with Vijay Krishna Acharya being brought in to direct Aamir Khan as the baddie. The Dhoom franchise is still alive and kicking — the casting buzz about the fourth film gains momentum every now and then — but Gadhvi hasn’t directed a film in many years now.