It was the year of unsuccessful first-time directors

Mumbai, Dec 27 (IANS) The year 2003 will be remembered for the maximum number of directorial debuts, with as many as 42 new directors making their entry and bowing out just as quickly without making any impact on either the box office or the critics.

In the list of wannashines in 2003 were film editors Raj Kumar Hirani ("Munnabhai MBBS") and Apurva Asrani ("Out Of Control"), screenwriter Honey Irani ("Armaan") and Saurabh Shukla ("Mudda: The Issue").

Also making their director debut were stunt coordinator Tinu Verma ("Baaz: A Bird In Danger"), choreographer Tharun Kumar ("Nayee Padosan"), music-video maker Ken Ghosh ("Ishq Vishq") and the progeny of a star director, Ramesh Sippy's son Rohan Sippy ("Kuch Na Kaho").

Many of the first-time directors were successful serial-makers such as Parvathi Balagopolan ("Rules: Pyar Ka Superhit Formula"), Kushan Nandy ("88 Antop Hill"), Anurag Basu ("Saaya") and Tigmanshu Dhulia ("Haasil").

Barring Ken Ghosh ("Ishq Vishq"), Nikhil Advani (producer Karan Johar's prot?g? who scored high marks in "Kal Ho Naa Ho"), Sujoy Ghosh ("Jhankar Beats") and Raj Kumar Hirani (whose year-ending comedy "Munnabhai MBBS" is the season's surprise success), none of the new talent made the impact of, say, Madhur Bhandarkar in 2001 or Arjun Sablok in 2002.

What went wrong?

"It's hard to say why new talent fails to click. Maybe the directors in 2003 couldn't connect with audiences. But that doesn't make them bad filmmakers," said Sablok, whose "Na Tum Jano Na Hum" in 2002 created a romantic flutter across the screen.

"The good sign is that Ken Ghosh, Nikhil Advani and Raj Kumar Hirani have come up with an entirely new vision, and they've been accepted."

The most shocking rejection of the year was of the south Indian mavericks.

Directors K. Bhaskar Reddy, S.J. Surya and Tejaa are superstars in Tamil and Telugu cinema commanding staggering fees running to Rs. 50 million to Rs. 80 million per film.

Surya's "Khushi", which was a blockbuster in Tamil and Telugu, bombed in Hindi in spite of being one of the most hyped films of the year. Nothing was heard of his second Hindi project with Fardeen Khan and Kareena Kapoor in the lead.

Tejaa is considered the emperor of the box office in the south. The Telugu version of "Yeh Dil" was a record-breaking hit. But the Hindi version was largely a flop and so was Bhaskar Reddy's "Tujhe Meri Kasam" (another remake of a south Indian blockbuster) which clicked only in Bihar and sections of Maharashtra.

Tejaa has vowed never to make another Hindi film while south India's top ranking director Poori Jagannath is struggling to get his first Hindi film "Shart" into theatres.

Clearly, the days of south Indian filmmakers remaking their own Tamil/Telugu hits is over. Bollywood's remake specialist Boney Kapoor is now remaking another southern hit "No Entry", but with a new director.

Most of the 2003's debut makers are far removed from their second projects.

There are exceptions like Sujoy Ghosh (who after "Jhankar Beats" is now making a thriller with Amitabh Bachchan) and Mahesh Dattani (who's gone on to "Morning Raga" though his debut "Mango Souffle" didn't get noticed).

Also in the list are Tigmanshu Dhulia (who, in spite of "Haasil", has wrapped up his second film "Charas"), Anurag Basu (who after "Saaya" has just wrapped up "Murder") and Apoorva Lakhia (leaving behind "Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost", he's all set to start two prestigious projects).

It isn't as though they lacked talent. Chandrapraksh Dwiwedi's "Pinjar" and Ashwini Chowdhury's "Dhoop" were extraordinary debuts. But who was looking?