How they got naughty in the 90s

The number of boring films produced in the 1990s is staggering, but they let one get frisky

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Like in Bedardi, backup dancers were dressed in Diwali crackers and they gyrated like a bunch of zombies

Every idea has its time. No matter how bad, lame, clichéd or lazy it might be – it will have its time. And strictly on the basis of this logic that sounds like Eastern wisdom – the decade of ’90s was the best time to make bad movies.

Have you heard of these movies – Chor Pe Mor (1990), Aadmi Aur Apsara (1991), Bedardi (1993) or Tum Mere Ho (1990)? Nope. No problem. Allow me to add some drama – these films starred Aamir Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Ajay Devgn and a vengeful King Cobra. Still doesn’t ring a bell? No worries.
So, before you go out looking for those memory enhancing pills, let me tell you this – these are just a few box-office duds handpicked from a decade of disastrous duds that no one bothered watching in the ’90s. The ’90s were the Woodstock of boring movies. If you could conjure up a story in which the hero gets falsely implicated, the mother is a housemaid who is perpetually rubbing soiled utensils, the sister gets molested while coming back from college (which also gives the hero a legitimate reason to seek revenge), then, my friends, you could have directed at least two dozen movies back then.

But before we board the nostalgia train, let me clarify two things. First of all, these movies weren’t B-grade sleaze, thunder thigh fests. They were just boring and bad movies. Secondly, and ironically, the ’90s also gave us a slew of ultra-entertaining landmark movies. The ’80s were bad, yes, but it’s just that the quantity of bad movies released was so gigantic that by the fag end of the decade, Raja Hindustani was a blockbuster and wearing a white salwaar kameez in the rain had become fashionable.

Now getting back to the ’90s good and proper … other than the predictable plot, what is it that made these films a pile of bore? To answer the question, one has to sit through a dozen of them and try and not be appalled by the quality of the supporting cast, dialogues, music and lastly, the backup dancers.

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Like Prem Chopra in Raja Babu, it was mandatory for a family friend or relative to turn into a back-stabber

Let’s start with the supporting cast – it was mandatory in these movies for a close family friend, younger brother or a trusted employee, to turn into a back-stabber. (Think Prem Chopra in Raja Babu (1994) and Anant Mahadevan in Khiladi (1992).) This volte-face was a must. And the reason for doing so was to gobble up the family fortune or thriving business. That’s precisely why we had movies upon movies in which evil chachas, mamas and Gupta uncles forge signatures, hire contract killers, mix poison in milk or plan surprise attacks with double barren guns in the middle of the night and thus give a genuine reason for the hero to seek revenge. The formula never failed. The film might, but who cared. It was the nineties.

For Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri, Kader Khan wrote the dialogue,
For Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri, Kader Khan wrote, “Dukh jab humari kahani sunta hai toh dukh ko dukh ho jata hai”

Moving on to the dialogue – imagination was not needed in this department. Absolute exaggeration mixed with mindless metaphor was good enough. Here’s some proof from Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri (1990), but read this Kader Khan aphorism at your own imaginative peril –

Dukh jab hamari kahani sunta hai toh dukh ko dukh ho jata hai.”
(When sadness hears my story, then even sadness feels sad.)

And I can go on as long as a Word document allows, but you get the drift.

Dilip Sen (of
Dilip Sen (of the Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen duo) did much to popularise the harmonium-dholak jugalbandi

Moving on, the next stop is music and here there were just two prerequisites – harmonium and dholak. This was the decade of the deadly duo and as most of the good things in life, like lungs, socks and car wipers, they came in pairs. So did music directors. No one has quite mastered the harmonium-dholak jugalbandi like Anand-Milind. Dilip Sen and Sameer Sen came close, but eventually Nadeem-Shravan took it to stratospheric heights. The dholak-harmonium jodi was so potent that it moved everything – from the actor’s pelvic thrust to the heroine’s bulging cleavage. Everything bowed in front of them.

If all this wasn’t painful enough, and just out of curiosity you decide to check out the backup dancers, then all you are left is that plain dukh (sadness). Because nowhere else would have you seen a bunch of absolutely disinterested dancers, dressed in Diwali crackers, gyrating like a bunch of brain dead zombies.

Add all this up and you have a typical 90s classic boring movie.

But in this boring movie brouhaha, one question still begs an answer. Which is, if these movies were so bad, then why were they still getting produced or better still, why did the cinema owners screen them? The answer, my dears, lies in one word – Oxytocin. Scientists call it the cuddle hormone and the brain releases it in oodles when you are freshly in love.

Youngsters didn't care
Youngsters didn’t care if Juhi Chawla was in love with Aamir Khan or a King Cobra in Tum Mere Ho

You see, dating in small towns in India was a risky affair. More so, if you were in college, and especially if you had an angry elder brother. Restaurants, parks, markets were all open traps. But there was one place which was hidden and dark. Where no one went, was air-cooled and was easy on the pocket. You guessed it right – the cinema hall screening a boring movie. All you had to do was book an entire row of the movie-hall and allow Oxytocin to take over. No one would disturb you, because honestly no one else was there. For three dark hours, you had all the privacy in the world. The cinema owners didn’t mind it because the halls were running full and they made lots of money. The youngsters on their part didn’t care whether Juhi Chawla was in love with Aamir Khan or a King Cobra (Tum Mere Ho) or both – till they had a place to date.

So in a nutshell, those boring movies weren’t that bad. They kept a lot of people employed, sold tons of samosa and popcorn and gave yesteryear lovers a cozy place to cuddle up. In the end, it all happened for good – even those boring 90s movies.

(Fritz has a German sounding name and Malayalam speaking parents. And just to make life more interesting – he grew up in a small town called Bhopal – famous for leaking methyl isocyanide. Other than that, he writes.)

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