The days of actor-directors Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor and Manoj Kumar are set to return with Aamir Khan making a big mark as a storyteller in his debut directorial venture "Taare Zameen Par" and another popular actor, Ajay Devgan, getting ready to follow suit.
"Taare Zameen Par" has fetched critical acclaim and the expensive docu-drama on the real-life story of a nine-year-old dyslexic child is still running to packed houses. The actor, known to be a perfectionist, had landed in the director's chair quite by accident.
But the endeavour has now made him the top contender for the best director trophies, which of course he will not collect given his long-standing "declared" aversion to film award functions. When Aamir had first heard the script of "Taare...", he instantly wanted to produce and act in it with Amol Gupte as director.
But one week into the shooting of the film, Aamir felt that the director was not translating on screen what he had written on paper and decided to exit from the film. At which point, Amol came back to him and said he had decided to step back as the director and asked Aamir to go behind the camera.
He is certainly not the only actor to have gone behind the camera, but he is the most talked about progression in recent times. In the bygone era, actors-cum-directors like Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor and Manoj Kumar had given Hindi cinema some of its finest films.
Guru Dutt's "Baazi", "Jaal", "Baaz", "Aar-Par", "Mr. & Mrs.55" and "Pyaasa" were commercial successes as well as critically applauded while critics toasted his "Kaagaz Ke Phool".
Raj Kapoor's films touched a million hearts not only in India, but also in other parts of the world. By acting and directing films like "Upkar", "Purab Aur Pachhim", "Shor", "Roti Kapda Aur Makaan", "Kranti", "Clerk" and "Jai Hind", Manoj Kumar carved a niche for himself. And even today, actor Dev Anand is acting and directing though his films like "Hare Rama Hare Krishna", "Heera Panna" and "Des Pardes" still remain the best.
Among the reigning successful directors, Rakesh Roshan is a good example of an actor who has made a complete transition from acting to direction. Starting with "Khudgarz", "Khoon Bhari Maang", "Kala Bazaar", "Karan Arjun", "Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai", "Koi Mil Gaya" and the recent "Krrish", he has preferred to stay behind the camera.
His contemporary, Feroz Khan likes to put in appearances in films directed by him but he has not been able to match the success of his earlier films like "Apradh", "Dharmatma", "Qurbani", "Jaanbaaz", "Dayawan", "Yalgaar" and "Prem Aggan".
Then there are actors who were bitten by the direction bug but were not so successful. The long list includes Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Atul Agnihotri, Kabir Sadana, Dipak Tijori, Abhishek Kapoor, Sohail Khan, Pooja Bhatt, Sunny Deol, Kabir Sadanand, Rajat Kapoor and Amol Palekar.
Among the female actors, Aparna Sen stands out as a former actor who is reaping rich dividends after going behind the lens. Her films like "36 Chowringhee Lane", "15 Park Avenue" and "Mr. and Mrs. Iyer" have represented India in many international film festivals.
Actress Sushmita Sen is so obsessed with her dream project based on the life of warrior princess Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi that she is completely involved in all aspects of the film. She is likely to follow Aparna's lead.
Following in Aamir Khan's footsteps is Ajay Devgan, whose directorial venture "U, Me Aur Hum" will release in April. The other USP of the film is that it features the intense Ajay opposite real life wife Kajol. The promos of the film are already on air. The film also stars Karan Khanna, Isha Sharwani, Sumeet Raghavan, Rituparna Sengupta, Sarika and Divya Dutta.
The film's music has been composed by Vishal Bharadwaj, who had set the score for his own "Omkara" - the Ajay Devgan starrer which took off on Shakespeare's "Othello".
Ajay had a great 2006, but 2007 was a bad year. Both his releases - "Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag" and "Cash" - were box-office duds and did nothing for him as an actor. This year he has opened his account early with the release of Rajkumar Santoshi's "Halla Bol".
The film is getting mixed reviews with some critics comparing it with "Rang De Basanti" and others calling it too preachy. Raj Kumar Santoshi is known for making films that have all the elements of a typical Bollywood masala flick, but are also thought provoking. He has once again come up with a thinking man's fare that borrows heavily from real life. "Halla Bol" is definitely worth a 'good' watch and a great start to year 2008.