Be it a smash hit or a miserable flop, the credit or discredit of a film always goes to the director. And why not? After all, it is he who moulds the film, right from its scripting stage to choosing the artistes, and assisting and guiding the departments of cinematography, sound and editing. Shyam Benegal, David Dhawan, Ramanand Sagar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Vikram Bhatt, Mohit Suri are just a few names who have concentrated only on direction. On the other hand, down the years, several actors have turned to direction in spite of a winning stint in acting. Some with success, some without.
The success of a movie can be interpreted in two ways --- commercial viability and critical acclaim. We have classified well-known actors-turned-directors on the basis of these categories.
Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor and Manoj Kumar were some of Bollywood's jewels of the yesteryear. Not only were their films critically acclaimed, but they were also commercial hits. Guru Dutt's Baazi, Jaal, Baaz, Aar-Par, Mr. & Mrs.55 and Pyaasa did well at the box-office, while Kaagaz Ke Phool was critically acclaimed. Raj Kapoor's movies have created benchmarks that film-makers follow even today. The patriotic tinge in Manoj Kumar's films Upkar, Purab Aur Pachhim, Shor, Roti Kapda Aur Makaan, Kranti, Clerk and Jai Hind touched a million hearts.
Dev Anand brought along Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Heera Panna and Des Pardes, some of the hits amongst his numerous flops.
Then came a time when few hit films were churned out by actor-turned-directors. Feroz Khan's Apradh, Dharmatma, Qurbani, Jaanbaaz, Dayawan, Yalgaar and Prem Aggan and Rakesh Roshan's Khudgarz, Khoon Bhari Maang, Kala Bazaar, Karan Arjun, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish were some of the exceptions.
Seeing the success of these actors in the field of direction, many others took a plunge but not with as much success. Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah, Atul Agnihotri, Kabir Sadana, Dipak Tijori, Abhishek Kapoor, Sohail Khan, Pooja Bhatt, Sunny Deol, Kabir Sadanand, Rajat Kopoor and Amol Palekar failed to recreate the magic that Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt had created.
At the same time, the likes of Aparna Sen (36 Chowringhee Lane, 15 Park Avenue and Mr. and Mrs. Iyer) and Ashutosh Gowarikar (Swades and Lagaan) received critic accolades more than heavy monetary returns. The trend of actors turning directors continues. Aamir Khan, Sajid Khan, Kamal Sadana and most recently, Ajay Devgan are all eyeing the director's seat.
But why direction of all things? Trade analyst Mayank Shekhar explains: "Some actors want to contribute to the film industry. Others want to be known in the film fraternity even though they could not do well in acting. Still others take up direction just to make money."
However, it is quite visible that the probability of actors making good directors was more in the past than is now. Mayank disagrees: "It would be unjust to say so. I feel actors who have played good roles got to pick up more directorial techniques when on the sets. Being actors, they had full access to the process of movie-making. Thus, they learnt a lot and when they got a chance, they used their creativity and talent to the utmost. Today, there are many directors who make lousy movies and many actor-turned-directors who do good work."
Mayank, however, points out that today's actors still have a long way to go. Hence, making comparisons with stars of yesteryear won't be just. All we can hope is that there are more directors like Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor in the making.
-Jayant Mishra and Mili Swarnakar (SAMPURN)