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'It is an ET with songs'
Arthur J Pais | August 06, 2003 17:14 IST
My neighbours Annam and her friends never seem to get enough of Hrithik Roshan.
They are convinced he is not just the sexiest star alive but also a sensitive actor and superb dancer. "Watch how he made Shah Rukh Khan look like a put-on actor in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham," she said. "If he fixes his English a bit, he will be in Hollywood even before Aishwarya Rai can locate it on the map."
But like many desis in my neighborhood close to Journal Square, New York, Annam and her friends are not sure they want to see Rakesh Roshan's Koi... Mil Gaya, starring Hrithik, Preity Zinta and Rekha, at least not in the opening week. If the general feeling is the film is worth seeing, they will see it in the second weekend.
"I believe it is E.T. [Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial] with songs," one of them said. "But isn't E.T. about this cute little girl who falls for the alien?" She heard Hrithik plays an 11-year-old in some scenes. She is not convinced he can pull it off. Her friends tell her the film is also a bit of Forrest Gump with songs.
"I am very afraid," she says with a sigh. "If they are trying to do too many things, it may not work."
Her husband, who like her is in his early 30s, is a bit skeptical of watching a desi sci-fi film. He also objects to Koi� Mil Gaya being promoted as India's first sci-fi film, arguing that Shekar Kapur's Mr India should get that honour.
But some scenes in the promos for the new film left him and several other acquaintances a bit cold. Many have decided to see the film in the opening week, preparing to be surprised. They expect the film to open very big and beat recent hits like Chalte Chalte, which reportedly grossed $1.5 million and Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, which has about $1.3 million.
But those who want to wait and see say they are least impressed by the film's sci-fi claims. "Here I can see the biggest sci-fi film like Matrix Reloaded on the opening day in the biggest theatre," says Srihari. "I go to a Hindi film because I want raw emotions, I want nice dance and music. If people tell me Koi... Mil Gaya is making them laugh and cry, I will definitely see it, but for special effects, I have seen too many summer Hollywood hits."
Like many friends, he is not impressed that someone like Marc Kolbe and Craig Mumma, who have worked with Hollywood hits such as Independence Day, Godzilla and Spy Kids were commissioned for Koi... Mil Gaya. "There are certain things Hollywood does and it does them very well," said another friend. "Bollywood should stick to what it does very well. Give me some fantastic songs and awesome romance."
If Koi�Mil Gaya becomes a substantial hit it will be the first time Rakesh Roshan will get name recognition in North America.
In the past decade-and-a-half, Rakesh, whose acting career did not take off despite having cast opposite with the likes of Hema Malini, proved to be a reliable and often highly successful director in India.
But in America he is far removed from the list of those who make must-see films: Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Subhash Ghai and Sooraj R Barjatya.
Rakesh is on the list of directors who, while being very successful in India could not assure a solid draw for films abroad. David Dhawan used to belong to the list. Now, his films do not do well in India too. American and British markets have their own heartbeats. While they made Dil Se.., a flop in India, a huge hit here, they mostly ignored Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, which has become one of the five highest grossing films in Indian movie history.
Hrithik has had a curious success story in America and England.
When his debut Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai made awesome money across India, the movie refused to open huge abroad. Most movies shown abroad make most money in the first two weeks of release. While many exit by the fourth week, the more successful linger for a few more weeks. But Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, the biggest hit in Rakesh Roshan's career, was not around too long. Had it followed the tradition of other super-hits abroad like Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, it should have run for over two months in a handful of cities, including New York.
When Hrithik's films floundered in India, he was seen in two hits abroad. Yaadein grossed over $1 million and recently Main Prem Ke Diwani Hoon grossed $1.3 million. He was also an integral part of the phenomenally successful K3G but he was not its sole male star.
Part of the success of Yaadein and MPKDH - in fact a major part of the success - people in the exhibition business say was due to the draw Ghai and Barjatya have on both sides of the Atlantic.
The realisation that Hrithik was in those movies came later, some may argue. By the same token, they may conclude that since Rakesh is not yet a big name here, Koi�Mil Gaya may not open big.
But then, did not Deepa Mehta quote her father, a film exhibitor, who used to say there are two things in life that you cannot be sure of: how a film does at the box-office and when death comes.
Koi�Mil Gaya could make Rakesh a celebrity director in England, America and Canada. The audiences could adopt him in a big way.