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Retrofit: Bollywood on overdrive with new releases, but how many will deliver?

Guest Column
Retrofit: Bollywood on overdrive with new releases, but how many will deliver?

Author | Sandeep Bamzai | Thursday, Sep 10,2009 9:09 AM

Guest Column<br>Retrofit:  Bollywood on overdrive with new releases, but how many will deliver?

Whenever and wherever a crisis ends, a new opportunity beckons. The deadlock between the film producers and multiplex owners resulted in no movies being released and the natural corollary to that was a deep-rooted hunger for new content amongst the hoi polloi at large. Suffering from withdrawal symptoms, they seem to be lapping up new content thrown at them. ‘New York’, a sensitive film about terrorism in the Big Apple, which drew a fine line between a terrorist and a martyr, was followed by a brilliantly crafted flick by Imtiaz Ali. ‘Love Aaj Kal’ was in many ways the coming of age film for Hindi cinema. The opening montage had me foxed, it was like a blur playing out in front of my eyes, I couldn’t get a fix on things. Then as the movie played out, it all came back to me. It was a novel approach, hitherto untapped and unexploited in Hindi cinema.

So, I thought to myself - Wow. Two movies back to back, and both good content, was a bit too much. Are we getting lucky, I asked myself? And then came ‘Kaminey’. I have watched both ‘Maqbool’ and ‘Omkara’, and while they were adaptations of Shakespearean plays, they were outstandingly melded into the Indian context and way of thinking and life. ‘Kaminey’, as they say in B Town, was truly ‘hatke’. It was frenetically paced, with too many characters, too much happening and laced with brilliant music. Dark, but shot using Mumbai’s underbelly as a backdrop.

As Shahid Kapoor said on one of the channels, Vishal Bhardawaj’s brilliance stems from the fact that he plucks an actor out of his cocoon and transports him into a starkly black and white real world. While Pankaj Kapoor was simply classy in ‘Maqbool’, who can forget Tabu or Irfaan Khan or Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah in cameos. ‘Omkara’ was an ensemble cast with a standout gangbuster performance from Langda Tyagi, a.k.a. Saif Ali Khan. Tearing the image off an actor is Vishal’s mantra and going deep into his skin and bringing out the real him or her. Priyanka Chopra is another example of this or Kareena Kapoor in ‘Omkara’. If Ajay Devgan overplayed his part, Saif underplayed his and scored over the rest of the cast in ‘Omkara’. And in all this another man stood tall – Deepak Dobriyal.

Box office results reveal a pretty picture with all three films – ‘New York’ has reportedly done close to Rs 65 crore business; ‘Love Aaj Kal’, a robust Rs 75 crore and still counting; while Kaminey has done Rs 50 crore and change. Even the turkey, ‘Kambakht Ishq’, had a big bang opening, but fizzled out thereafter.

Suddenly one is thinking; forget pulp. Why? Because we are getting first rate scripts and top class direction and acting. Three is too much. And all doing very well on the BO, though ‘Kaminey’ suffered a bit because of the swine flu scare in Mumbai and Pune affecting and delaying its theatrical release. In between all this brouhaha over good cinema, which made its tryst with the Box Office, there was news that Fox Star has coughed up big bucks for Karan Johar helmed SRK starrer ‘My name is Khan’. Fox Star has bought the worldwide rights of ‘My Name is Khan’ for Rs 90 crore, which is still less than what Studio 18/Indian Film Co and Big Pictures forked out for ‘Ghajini’. Studio 18 reportedly paid Rs 90 crore for domestic rights, while Big paid Rs 10 crore for overseas rights of ‘Ghajini’. The film reportedly raked in Rs 275 crore, making it the biggest hit of all time, inflation adjusted over different time periods. Somewhere, the rules of engagement have also changed. The era of silver and golden jubilees is a page in history. Saturation bombing is the new mantra, release 1,500 to 1,800 prints and rake in the moolah in the first week or so. Much like the West, where the opening weekend concept is a determinant. Saif Ali Khan did exactly that with ‘Love Aaj Kal’, releasing 1,800 prints nationwide and hitting the audience right between the eyes.

The point that I am making is that the wait for good content by hungry consumers is paying off in spades now. The recession blues, which had engulfed B Town, are dissipating quickly. Just the other day, Big Pictures snared the domestic rights of Rajkumar Hirani’s next – ‘Three Idiots’ – with Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Industry sources who I spoke to, point to a figure closer to Rs 97 crore for the rights. Big Pictures pulled the deal out of Indian Film Company’s grasp by quoting a higher price. And very quietly followed by closing an even bigger deal with Rakesh Roshan’s Filmkraft for the bilingual ‘Kites’. Big Pictures is believed to have paid Rs 110 for all the rights of ‘Kites’. I must confess that all three – ‘My name is Khan’, ‘Three Idiots’ and ‘Kites’ – are complex deals and all are in the immediate vicinity of Rs 100 crore. Tells you of the star drawing power of SRK, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan.

What is perhaps more pertinent to this revival in the fortunes of B Town after a dry run during the first half of the year is that the somnolent music rights market has also been ignited. ‘Kites’ has gone to T Series, ‘Three Idiots’ again to T Series, while ‘My name is Khan’ has been snapped up by Sony Music. All three have been sold for anything between Rs 10 crore and Rs 12 crore, though everyone strangely seems to be cagey while giving out figures. Which tells you another thing, that the movies and music rights may have gone for more than the prices being quoted. I guess none wants to send out the message that big bucks are back in B Town despite the so-called recession.

As we go into festival season, a slew of high profile movies are up for release – some good, some bad, some big starrers, some with good cinema, some full of laughs, some promising high voltage action. Shree Ashtavinyak’s ‘Blue’ has been sold in different pieces with a combined value of Rs 75 crore and comes in below the big three in the A list. In fact, the scheduling of films is so cramped that one will really have to pick and choose from here on. Yashraj’s ‘Dil Bole Hadippa’ and Salman Khan’s ‘Wanted’ go head to head on September 18, while ‘Jail’ and ‘What’s Your Rashee’ face off on September 25 (still not certain whether ‘Jail’ will be pushed back or not), followed by David Dhawan’s prospective laugh riot ‘Do Knot Disturb’ on October 2. The discerning viewer clearly has a plethora of choices before him. It is a non-stop barrage with ‘Wake Up Sid’ (October 2), ‘Alladin’, ‘Blue’, ‘Main aur Mrs Khanna’ and ‘All The Best’ on October 16 (someone will have to reschedule beyond Diwali as you cannot have so many big films on the same day); ‘London Dreams’ and ‘Rann’ (same sort of question mark) on October 30; to finally end the year with ‘Three Idiots’, ‘Kites’ and ‘Rocket Singh’ in December.

With an overdose of so many movies all bunched up, the earnings potential of many of these releases will be impacted. On several Fridays going forward, there are two and even three big releases slated for simulcast. The audience will obviously sift the wheat from the chaff, it will give a thumbs up to what it thinks connotes the best entertainment. Sometimes, I wonder how a ‘Golmaal Returns’ turned into a blockbuster. The original Kiran Kumar starrer ‘Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar’ was a far better movie, but then who can second guess the audience’s mind? In the meantime, buckle up for an entertainment ride of your life in the next four months. Even as the producers pray…

(Sandeep Bamzai is a well-known journalist, who started his career as a stringer with The Statesman in Kolkata in 1984. He has held senior editorial positions in some of the biggest media houses in three different cities - Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. In late 2008, he joined three old friends to launch a start-up – Sportzpower Network – which combines his two passions of business and sport. Familiar with all four media – print, television, Internet and radio, Bamzai is the author of three different books on cricket and Kashmir.

The views expressed here are of the writer’s and not those of the editors and publisher of

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