FLASHBACK | 24 November, 2023
(From our issue dated 28th November, 1998)


Santoshi Productions’ China Gate (UA) is the story of ten honest armymen who were dismissed for an error they had committed. They meet after 17 years of their dismissal and set out on a mission — to rid a village of the clutches of a sadistic dacoit who has made the life of the villagers hell. The story is heavily inspired from Sholay and the Japanese film, Seven Samurai. Yet, the novelty of ten old men on a mission is interesting and even enjoyable in the first half. The drama takes a serious turn after interval and that’s when the film loses grip. The incidents from the personal lives of the oldies don’t have the desired emotional effect. The Hindu-Muslim sentiments also look contrived. The interaction of some of the armymen with the little girl in the village also looks forced and has no impact on the viewer. In short, several portions of the second half look fake. The climax, abounding in action, is once again impressive. Even other than the climax, the film has plenty of action. But it moves on a single track with hardly any interesting diversions. As a result, ladies patronage will be limited. Devoid of star value and romance, the film relies on light moments and gags in the first half and drama in the second. Dialogues are good but only at places.

Performances of almost everybody are wonderful. Naseeruddin Shah does a marvellous job and shines as one of the most important members of the team. Om Puri is also fantastic as the leader of the group. Danny Denzongpa is superbly restrained. Amrish Puri is lovable and deserves kudos for a brilliant job done naturally. Jagdeep’s comedy is very good. Anjan Srivastava is effective. Viju Khote is quite good. Kulbhushan Kharbanda lives his role. Tinnu Anand acts ably. K.D. Chandran gets the least scope but is good. New villain Mukesh Tiwari does well but is definitely not brilliant enough to match the force of the ten-man army. His voice is not up to the mark for the character he plays. He is bound to be compared to Amjad Khan of Sholay and that won’t be good for him. Mamta Kulkarni does fairly well in a brief role. New hero Samir Soni impresses with a confident debut. Paresh Rawal infuses life in the second half with a performance that’s extraordinary. Ila Arun, Harish Patel, Jeetu Verma, Anupam Kher, Shivaji Satam and Girish Karnad (in a special appearance) lend the desired support. Urmila Matondkar’s dance is a highlight.

Rajkumar Santoshi’s shot takings are splendid and he has been able to keep the audience’s interest alive even without stars. His direction is excellent, but the same cannot be said of his choice of the subject. Although the screenplay (Rajkumar Santoshi, Anjum Rajabali and K.K. Raina) is well-written, the heavy inspiration from a classic like Sholay for a big canvas film as this is unpardonable and it will limit the prospects greatly. More so, because the film lacks star power. The expenditure incurred on the film warranted (i) a more promising subject with scope for romance, music etc. and (ii) star value. Besides, the writers have not been able to come up with a single novelty in the entire film!

The theme song is passable but ‘Chhamma Chhamma’ is very well-turned and has a lovely picturisation. The background score is effective. Tinnu Verma deserves high praise for his stunts; the action scenes are fantastic and those involving horses are mind-boggling. Camerawork (Piyush Shah) is fabulous. Production values are grand. Technically, brilliant. The titles in the film are not only novel but they are also beautifully done.

On the whole, China Gate is a well-made action film but suffers on account of its similarity to Sholay. Besides, there’s too heavy a price which doesn’t quite go well with the lack of star names and also a below-the-mark opening. Even if it picks up, its heavy price will spell danger for its distributors. It will prove to be a loser in most circuits, with some chances in Bombay and Maharashtra.

Released on 26-11-’98 at Metro and on 27-11-’98 at 19 other cinemas of Bombay thru V.I.P. Enterprises. Publicity & opening: good. …….Also released all over. Opening was dull in some circuits and poor in some others.


Ram Creations’ Doli Saja Ke Rakhna is a love story with a difference. As in many previous love tales, in this film too, the girl and the boy in love elope because both their families are against the marriage. But, unlike in other romance dramas, the boy and the girl in this case decide (just when they are about to get married) that they would be cheating on their families if they got married against their wishes, and, consequently, they sacrifice their love for each other because of the love for their parents. The families of the two start searching for matches for their respective children, but in the end, they realise that the two lovers are the best match for each other. They then get the two of them married.

The concept of the families uniting the two lovers is novel in thought as well as execution. The whole unity drama has been executed with such aplomb and sensitiveness that it would make people cry. The first half is a bit slow but what makes up for the slow pace is the genuineness of the hero. His character is that of an honest and forthright young boy, something that endears him to the audience instantly. A few reels after interval (the portion involving the fisherfolk of Goa) are boring. But once that chapter of the drama comes to almost its end, the pace picks up and so does the emotional content. The story (Fazil) is new and par excellence, but the screenplay is weak and loose at places. The girl’s family opposing her relationship with the boy does not appeal because the reason for the opposition has not even been attempted to be explained. Further, the Malayalam film remake has too much of a South flavour. In the initial reels, the behaviour of two (Paresh Rawal and Tej Sapru) of the three brothers of the heroine is irritating because their deeds do not befit their social status. Dialogues are appropriate.

Akshaye Khanna endears himself to the audience not only because of his characterisation but also because of his brilliant performance. But the masses will miss his heroism because there is not much scope for heroism in the usual sense of the word. Jyotika Sadanah lacks glamour and considering that the film is a love story, this turns out to be a major drawback; she, however, performs naturally in her maiden venture. Moushumi Chatterjee and Aroona Irani are excellent. Their scene in the climax is fantastic. Anupam Kher also delivers a good performance. Paresh Rawal is impressive in emotional scenes. Tej Sapru also acts well. Mohnish Bahl makes a mark. Innocent’s comedy is ordinary. Amrish Puri is alright but his portion of the drama needs to be edited; the editing will help, and if the producer and director don’t reduce his scenes, distributors/exhibitors are bound to do so. Ninad Kamat and Umesh Shukla, as Akshaye’s friends, are lovable. Suresh Menon is average as the third friend. Mink’s dance is sexy. Viju Khote, Darshan Bagga and Nandu lend the desired support.

Priyadarshan’s direction is good but he does falter at places and has not been able to make the narration racy enough for a love story. In fact, the slow pace is the film’s undoing. A.R. Rahman’s music is a letdown as the love story needed a hit or super-hit score. ‘O kissa hum likhenge’, ‘Chal khewa re khewa’ and ‘Yeh khoya khoya rahta hai’ are fair numbers. The ‘Bol sajni mori sajni’ number needs to be deleted. Song picturisations are a treat for the eyes. Camerawork is masterly. Sabu Cyril’s art direction is terrific. Action scenes are lovely, especially the one in the campus.

On the whole, Doli Saja Ke Rakhna has a slow pace, an unglamorous heroine, ordinary music and a shockingly slow start as its biggest drawbacks, and emotions as the only strong plus point. It will, therefore, entail losses to its distributors. It will do somewhat better in Bombay and Maharashtra.

Released on 27-11-’98 at Central Plaza and 8 other cinemas of Bombay by Mark Films International thru Balaji Enterprises. Publicity: very good. Opening: fair. …….Also released all over. The opening was very poor everywhere (in the region of 15%-20%!) except Bombay.


SOLDIER has done pretty well everywhere and is the best in Delhi-U.P., Punjab, Bihar, Rajasthan and Nizam.

Soldier 1st week Bombay 48,95,824 (88.55%) from 13 cinemas (10 on F.H.); Ahmedabad 11,44,114 from 5 cinemas, Padra 2,14,206, Rajkot 1,85,205; Pune 12,66,446 from 4 cinemas, Kolhapur  2,37,909, Solapur 3,41,501 from 2 cinemas; Belgaum 1,27,890 (100%); Delhi 61,00,133 (94.39%) from 13 cinemas (2 on F.H.); Kanpur 7,57,039 from 2 cinemas, Lucknow 4,59,368, Agra 3,91,889, Allahabad 2,04,932, Meerut 2,33,002 (100%), Bareilly 2,61,892, Hardwar 1,15,544; Amristar 55,270; Calcutta 27,15,055 from 15 cinemas (11 on F.H.); Nagpur 8,20,453 from 4 cinemas, Jabalpur 2,24,865, Amravati (6 days) 1,75,624, Raipur (6 days) 2,22,586, Bhilai 2,68,664 from 2 cinemas, Durg 1,53,299; Indore 2,09,623 (85.90%, 4 on F.H.), Bhopal 4,70,426 from 2 cinemas; Hyderabad 44,89,210 from 14 cinemas, highest ever.


Mehndi is doing well in C.I. 2nd week Bombay 4,01,538 (65.91%) from 2 cinemas (3 on F.H.); Ahmedabad 79,129, Baroda 60,641, Rajkot (matinee) 7,070, Jamnagar 44,985 from 2 cinemas (1 in matinee); Pune 61,610, Solapur (matinee) 21,384; Delhi 2,81,260 from 3 cinemas; Kanpur 72,776, Lucknow 46,530, Allahabad 30,000, Meerut 44,996, Bareilly 23,495; Calcutta 4,42,713 from 4 cinemas; Nagpur 37,489, Jabalpur 41,447, total 1,00,345, Amravati 76,996, Dhule 22,195, Raipur 41,410, 1st week Bhilai 41,107, 2nd Bilaspur (6 days) 26,403; Bhopal 45,433; Jaipur 1,93,998 from 2 cinemas, Jodhpur 85,000; Hyderabad 1,37,910.

Fire (dubbed) is excellent in Bombay city. 2nd week Bombay 10,18,882 (97.25%) from 2 cinemas, English version 3,49,197 (100%) from 2 cinemas; Ahmedabad 1,11,245; Pune 2,60,055; Delhi 3,55,361, English version 2,62,624; Lucknow 93,249, Agra 55,000, Allahabad 34,132; Calcutta 1,15,382; Nagpur 1,36,146; Hyderabad 1,39,190 from 2 cinemas.


The disastrous opening of this week’s Doli Saja Ke Rakhna has stunned the entire trade. One had expected it to open to ordinary houses but an initial of just 15% to 20% (except in Bombay) was unthinkable. What seem to have gone against the film (for initial) are its weak music, cold title and heroine who is not glamorous. Even hero Akshaye Khanna has yet to prove his mettle in a solo starrer and, therefore, does not, perhaps, have the initial pulling power although he is liked by youngsters.

The dull opening of China Gate has also saddened the trade people. Lack of star value (the film has 10 oldies, one new hero, Mamta Kulkarni, and Urmila Matondkar in a special appearance) is the biggest culprit. Besides, publicity was not up to the mark, in the sense that it was started too late. Just one Chhamma Chhamma cannot do the trick. Nor can 20 hoardings put up hurriedly on the streets of Bombay without matching back-up publicity in the rest of the country ensure a bumper opening to a film with a super-bumper price.

Moral of the story: Don’t under-estimate the power of music and marketing. In their absence, you need at least saleable stars!


Members of the Jain Vahini Samiti, an organisation of the Jain community in Bombay, met Maharashtra’s minister of state for cultural affairs and education, Anil Deshmukh, on 25th November and demanded a ban of Deepa Mehta’s Fire, now running in the city. The minister promised to see the film and said that if he found it objectionable, he would recommend the central government to ban it. The Jain Samiti alleged that the film was a blot on traditional Indian values.


Seven new cinemas are coming up in Indore and they all should be operational in the next two years. Of these, five will be deluxe cinemas — three in the Geeta Bhawan area and two in the mill area. Two more cinemas are under construction and nearing completion in the west side of the city.


A film industry delegation, led by Film Federation of India president Santosh Singh Jain, called on CBFC chairperson Asha Parekh on 25th November and discussed a number of key issues pertaining to censorship of films in India. The delegation comprised producer-distributor N.N. Sippy, FFI vice president K.G. Dossani, FFI general secretary K.D. Shorey, producer Raj Tilak, Marathi film producer Satish Kulkarni, Uday Singh of Columbia Tristar, Blaise Fernandes of Warner Bros., and FFI secretary S. Sen. At the meeting, it was decided that a number of workshops, consisting of representatives of the film industry as well as CBFC members, would be organised to discuss CBFC guidelines with an aim to arrive at a more uniform and logical interpretation of the same. The first workshop would be held some time in late January after the conclusion of the IFFI.


Mohit and Hemant, sons of Manohar Shetty of Quality Cine Labs, will wed Mona (daughter of dubbing co-ordinator Leela Ghosh) and Smita respectively on 13th December at Tutkuk’s Lilac Garden, near Chandan cinema, off Lokhandwala Circle and Juhu bus depot, Juhu, Bombay.


One Print, Two Cinemas, Three Intervals

How print shuttling can become a bane instead of a boon was brought out on Friday last week when Soldier opened at Satyam cinema alongwith others in Bombay and the rest of the country. The 6 p.m. show at Satyam started around 6.45 p.m. because the print, which was being shuttled between Satyam and Ganesh (Lalbaug), reached Satyam late. Instead of one, there were three intervals — one, the regular interval, another before it and the third, after it. While the regular interval was understandable, what agitated the audience were the other two breaks — one of about 10 minutes, and the other, of nearly 20 minutes. By the time the show got over, it was some minutes past 10 p.m. A couple of people, irritated by the triple intervals, even left before the film got over. One can well imagine when the last show would have started and when it must’ve got over, hopefully without extra intervals. A house-full capacity crowd had been waiting outside the cinema from 9.15 p.m. — waiting to be let in. The cinema management couldn’t let them in for no fault to theirs (cinema management’s) or the audience’s! Distributors need to take care that such lapses do not occur. For, the gain by way of saving on print cost could sometimes be less than the loss due to adverse public reaction and negative publicity.

Govinda, Gags & Gimmicks

As if one needed proof that Govinda’s films run more because of the star’s unique brand of humour than because of a sound story-line! Govinda’s track record in the last five years or so is evidence enough, for, it clearly reveals the fact that the only Govinda-starrers to succeed during the period are the ones which stressed on the typical Govinda gags and gimmicks rather than on a strong story. Each of Raja Babu, Coolie No. 1, Saajan Chale Sasural, Deewana Mastana, Hero No. 1, Aunty No. 1, Dulhe Raja and, more recently, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan were a success not because they had great stories, but because they were all made in — what may now be safely called — the true ‘Govinda mould’. On the other hand, during the same period, Govinda-starrers like Achanak, Do Ankhen Barah Haath, Maharaja, Pardesi Babu and some others, which were touted as having strong or, at least, reasonably good stories, fared badly. It seems, the audience wouldn’t care two hoots whether Govinda’s films have stories or not as long as they hold Govinda’s usual brand of comedy (even when dragged to a nonsensical extreme) as a primary ingredient.

It is pertinent to note here that out of the abovementioned eight Govinda successes, as many as six have been directed by David Dhawan! You may draw your own conclusions….

Suranas’ Modern Cinemas

The Suranas of Pushpa Pictures, Bhusawal have the largest chain of cinemas in the Khandesh region — 18, to be precise (6 owned by them and 12 controlled). And they’ve managed such an enviably large chain in a relatively short span of seven-eight years. Thy have cinemas in Dhule (3 cinemas), Amalner (3), Chopda (2), Bhusawal (2), Malkapur (2), Bodhwad (1), Edlabad (1), Khedjigar (1), among others. Of the 18 cinemas, three have been newly constructed while 12 have been fully renovated. Moreover, three more cinemas are already under construction, one each at Edlabad, Bodhwad and Faizpur. Several of these cinemas boast of modern urinals with an automatic handwash, Spartek flooring and cushioned chairs in the balcony class. A highlight of some of these cinemas is their unique music-light systems which enhance the viewing pleasure during song and dance sequences. A single-channel active DTS sound system has been installed at Prabhakar, Dhule (700 seats, minimum admission rate: Rs. 10), Tamboli, Amalner (160 seats, Rs. 6) and Shri Hanuman, Malkapur (700 seats, Rs. 6).

Sleeping His Blues Away

So depressed has the Delhi-U.P. distributor of a recent debacle become after burning his fingers in the disaster that he is seen sleeping most of the time, in his office. One has heard of success going to one’s head. But what do you say to this? Failure taking one to bed?!?

For Your Kind Information

Going by the recent utterances of the minister of state for information and broadcasting, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the film industry must be regretting why it hosted a party in his honour a few months back in Bombay. Naqvi is so disturbed by the portrayal of politicians as vicious men in films that he has threatened to even review the Cinematograph Act in such a way that filmmakers are suitably persuaded to clean up their act and project politicians in a better light. Phew! Should film makers be cleaning up their act or should Naqvi be concerned about having politicians clean up their act? Every Indian knows that politics is the last resort of scoundrels, and the newspapers give enough evidence of what levels politicians these days have stooped down to. Then why does Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi want filmmakers to show politicians and netas as nayaks and not khal-nayaks? The industry has far too often been accused of influencing impressionable minds into doing wrong things. Shouldn’t the I & B minister have the courage to admit that it is real life that has influenced reel life this time? Come on, Naqvi, be a sport — and an honest one at that!