The year was 2001 and "Lagaan" and "Dil Chahta Hai" landed in the theatres like a breath of fresh air. The forces behind the two path-breaking cinematic offerings - Aamir Khan and Farhan Akhtar respectively - are still spinning magic, with their creativity and innovativeness intact.
"Lagaan" virtually changed film theatres into stadiums. As the movie moved towards the climax, audience claps and shouts got louder and louder. Scripted and directed by Ashuthosh Gowariker, the epic drama, set in pre-independence India about tax (lagaan) and cricket, not only gave a new perspective to Bollywood, but also marked a turning point in Aamir Khan's career.
Aamir, who decided to produce and act in the Oscar- nominated epic despite knowing that some big names like Shah Rukh Khan had already rejected it, had been facing a lull at that time with flops like "Mela" and "Mann".
There was a lot of buzz around "Lagaan" and when it finally came June 15, 2001, it surpassed not only the makers' expectations but also wowed cinema lovers and critics. Though it clashed at the box office with Sunny Deol starrer, the historical romantic drama "Gadar: Ek Prem Katha", which released on the same day, both films turned out to be money spinners.
After that actor-producer-director Aamir marched ahead with accolades. If as an actor he raised the bar with hits like "Rang De Basanti", "Fanaa", "Ghajini" and "3 Idiots", he set new standards for filmmakers by directing/producing and acting in "Taare Zameen Par".
If that was not enough, he suprised everyone by choosing unconventional scripts like "Peepli Live" and "Delhi" as producer.
On the other hand, Sunny Deol couldn't match steps with him in this creative journey, although he recently gave hits like "Apne" and "Yamla Pagla Deewana".
Two months after "Lagaan", Farhan Akhtar introduced a new filmmaking style with his directorial debut "Dil Chahta Hai" and Aamir happened to play one of the main leads.
The film, portraying contemporary Indian youth and their life, also won a national award.
Farhan's success was not a flash in the pan. In the past decade, the young filmmaker proved his mettle by wielding the megaphone for "Lakshya" and "Don - The Chase Begins Again" - the former was not a box office success, but the latter, a remake of the Amitabh Bachchan starrer "Don", was lapped up for its sleekness, style and state-of-the-art technology.
When he debuted as an actor with "Rock On!!", he carved a niche for himself and when Farhan teamed up with the two wonderful and experienced actors, Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol, in his recent release "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara", none could overshadow his presence on screen.
He has sustained his creativity so far by producing films like "Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd" and "Luck by Chance".
Madhur Bhandarkar's national award-winning drama revolving around the life of a bar dancer, "Chandni Bar", also came the same year. The off-beat film received both critical appreciation and commercial success. The film's success in fact marked the end of his struggle as a director.
In the years to come, Bhandarkar tried to maintain his creativity with "Satta", "Page 3", "Corporate" and "Fashion" but many feel he has became repetitive in his approach while dealing with realistic issues.
Karan Johar's directorial venture "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham", a blockbuster, had also come in 2001. He was known as a trendsetter for making youth-centric contemporary love story "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", but his "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" and "My Name Is Khan" couldn't match his earlier success.
Sure enough, Aamir and Farhan are leading the pack of innovative filmmakers.
(Arpana can be contacted at email@example.com)