The 90s were a bizarre time in the Hindi film industry. It wasn't as structured as it is now – scripts were still being written moments before the camera rolled, you were probably the only woman on set and actors were shooting for multiple films simultaneously in stressful conditions. We asked filmmakers and actors who did their best work in the 90s what their favourite memory of that crazy period was. Here's what they said:
Kajol looks like a fruitcake in a scene in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. We wanted to make her look over the top and this was our version of over the top. I've seen many girls dress like this normally today, but this was considered funny in the '90s. Also, if you zoom into a signage in the train station sequence pre-interval (in the second photo), it's meant to be in Faridabad. We didn't go to Faridabad, we went to Mauritius to shoot this college. In Mauritius, clearly I didn't think even that was good enough. So one particular scene (the famous bench scene where Shah Rukh and Rani console Kajol) was not shot in Mauritius, certainly not in Faridabad, but this is in Scotland. A college meant to be in Faridabad has travelled everywhere but Faridabad.
MADHURI DIXIT NENE
I sometimes miss the larger-than-life feel of the movies, the dialoguebaazi – 'Aap humare kamre mein nahi aa sakte.' 'Ooooh.' A lot of times, we used to be ready with our makeup and everything and we're sitting, waiting for the scene to be written. And the writer used to be in the corner writing the scene. So we used to get the lines right there and we used to just memorize them and then do the scene. So the spontaneity was terrific at that time. Now when I think of it, it's like, 'Did we really do all that?' Now we have bound scripts, you can read them 20,000 times if you want to.
I look back at most of my work and ask myself what the hell I was thinking. At that time, we used to do nearly 30 films at a time. I have done six films for six different producers in one day. How difficult is it to play the rich spoilt brat in love with a poor guy in every single film? I only had to change my clothes and shoes. I was saying dialogues like 'Nahin papa nahin! Goli isse mat mariye mujhe mariye.' At one point, the schedules of three of my film shoots were clashing. So I told all three producers that I will be in a particular studio and they could all come there to shoot with me. My make up artist Cory Walia used to walk into my vanity van where I used to be sitting on a sofa with my head thrown back, asleep and he would change my makeup while I was sleeping.
SAIF ALI KHAN
Not that Mamta Kulkarni's hair is any better (than mine in Aashik Aawara). Mamta Kulkarni was taking these pills – these white pills. And I said, "What are you taking?" She said, "They stop me from sweating." So I said, "Is it good to not sweat? It's so hot!" There were no air-conditioners in those days. I was dancing on my knees later and they were bleeding. And Saroj Khan was saying these filmy things like "Dekho yeh khoon tumhe kahaan pahuchata hai!" It was really hot and I had a tough time doing these steps. When it aired, it was a hit song. Akshay Kumar called me and he was just laughing non-stop on the phone. He called it a masterpiece. We still laugh about this actually.
I was doing Ghulam and my hair had to be straight in the film because that was my look. And I realised when I went on set that the hairdresser brought actually an iron – to iron clothes. That was brought into my vanity van and they made me lie down and they ironed my hair. So we've come a long way to actually having straighteners today, which is a little less scary.
I was doing this film with T Rama Rao, a big filmmaker from the South. I think it was called Hathkadi. He came with a song called 'LML' and I was like, 'Yeh LML kya hai?' and it said, 'Let's Make Love, baby. LML baba, LML.' And it was a superhit. And I went on set, fresh off 'Chura Ke Dil Mera' and I said, 'Yeh let's make love main nahi bolungi.' So I have dubbed the entire song as 'Love Me Love baby' and then they had to redub it.
You're probably the only woman on set and the only other person was your hairdresser. That was the way it was unless your mother came along, and my mother didn't. And then you had these strange men – they were wearing all white and you're looking at them, saying, 'Inki safedi meri safedi se jyaada kaise?' every day. And you're talking to people who've never read a book in their life. Luckily, there was no internet and you didn't have a smartphone and I just read throughout. I was sitting on the set and I was knitting and I remember my spot boy Anthony – he used to be my mum's, which is why he felt he had a sort of hold over me – coming and saying, "Can you not do this on the set? Everybody will think ki Tina baba, you're an aunty. That's not nice because you can't be a heroine and an aunty." You have to be this desirable woman.
Before my first film released I was doing five films at a time. I had done 80 per cent of Kartavya, 60 per cent of Chhupa Rustam. So even before my debut I was doing double shifts. I was shooting for Beqabu – a song with Saroj Khan. I used to pack up at 7 and go to Filmalya from Filmistan to shoot for Chhupa Rustam with Manisha Koirala for a song with Chinni Prakash. Chinni would be like, 'Abhi yeh Saroj ke saath gaana kar ke aaya hain!' In one song I'm a magician, the next was a romantic song and the heroine is all over me.
I was shooting in Seattle for Prem and N Chandra's shoot was starting. We were supposed to shoot in America for three days but it became five. It was a long journey back. When I came to N Chandra's set, I was a newcomer who was 48 hours late. I was feeling like a worm. I wanted to hide my face and they made me feel like that also. It was not like koi baat nahin. The whole day was a nightmare.
'Duniya Haseeno Ka Mela' from Gupt was shot in Mehboob studios. I remember I had to buy at least six pairs of black jeans. By the time I would rehearse and go for the shot, my jeans used to be drenched with sweat. There's a sequence where the rain comes but I used to always be wet because I was rehearsing. I think that energy shows in that song. When I was shooting for the film, I broke my leg and so there are certain songs like 'Uchaiya Gehraiyaan' for which I couldn't move. I had to still get another surgery done. That's why the steps were just putting my hand up and down. But that became the style, people thought it was cool.
For my first film Bekhudi, everybody, from the cameraman to Rahul (Rawail) uncle to Mickey (Contractor) to Gautam (Rajadhyaksha), Vijendra Ghatge who was playing my father, just decided that I had to be taken care of. I was about 16-and-a-half so it was just like, 'Baby ko bulao shot ke liye.' and 'No no no, you sit, baby.' My mother handed me over with a tear in her eye to say, 'Please take care of my baby.' So it was worse than boarding school. That was what I was treated like and that's the kind of family feel that most of my earlier films had.
David (Dhawan) always had a sense of complete trust and blind faith in me. He always knew that I would work with complete honesty if he gave me a role. Therefore, I was never anxious about anything. He told me on our way to the set that the title of the movie was Coolie No. 1 and the shooting would not begin until six to seven hours later. David said, 'Chichi bhaiyya, don't jinx it.' I went to the set and felt that I had already done this. It was the same cast – Kadir Khan, Shakti Kapoor and I. Everything was the same. Everything was set. So what could I do? I reminisced about a character I had met before, so I decided I would play him. I briefed Kadir Khan about the character and he really liked it.