Time Magnetics, who figure amongst the most prolific filmmakers in the industry, plan to release its action film, The Hero: A Love Story Of A Spy, starring Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra, Kabir Bedi and Amrish Puri.
Produced by Pravin Shah and directed by Anil Sharma (Gadar -- Ek Prem Katha), the film is slated to release on April 11.
The Hero has cost Shah about Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) spent, among other things, on the erection of colossal sets and the services of international action experts to coordinate the stunts. Shah hired professional wrestler Mike Lorio for an action sequence; the six feet eight inches tall, 350-pounder plays Kabir Bedi's bodyguard.
Will such an extravagant project work today when most films, even the rare good ones, are turning turtle at the box-office?
Both Shah and Sharma think so.
"I have produced a special film," Shah says. "Since I have spent such a huge sum, you must think I am plagued by sleepless nights. But I am relaxed. I have shown the film to nearly 400 people and almost all of them have liked it. I am 100 per cent sure I will make profits. If I were not sure, would I have released its music under my own banner, Time Magnetics? I am also releasing the film in the Mumbai and overseas circuits under the Time Magnetics banner."
"The film looks amazing," he continues. "Sunny Deol, Priyanka Chopra and Amrish Puri's get-ups will take the cake. Also, since the subject deals with a spy, the viewer will be constantly excited and curious to know what next."
"I am not at all worried about The Hero," beams Sharma. "I made Hukumat [starring Dharmendra and Rati Agnihotri], which was a highly successful film during the video and satellite boom. I know what the audience wants. I know how to touch their innermost feelings. If you see post-Gadar, no film has clicked in a big way. That is simply because today's filmmakers are busy doing remakes from the South/Hollywood or making films which appeal only to the urban audience. It is very essential to identify with and understand the masses, which I feel form the cream segment of our audience."
"I don't know why everyone is making an issue of the fact that we have spent Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million)," he adds. "I made Hukumat with Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million). If I were to make the same project today, it would have cost me Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million). We have indulged in some excesses, but as I said, I know what the audience wants."
The trade has mixed views. Remarks Rajesh Thadani, "If you are asking me to put money in favour of or against The Hero's prospects, I would prefer to keep it in my pocket. Today, the need of the hour is to restrain one's budget. The economics of filmmaking has changed. Things do look positive for this film, but will it be able to sustain the audience interest for weeks? The film needs to be mind-blowing in look and content, if the makers are to reap any profits. Today, people want meat, not fluff."
Taran Adarsh, editor, Trade Guide, says, "It will definitely bail the film industry out of the red. I have followed Anil Sharma's career very closely and he has always made sense, be it his early films Shraddhanjali [Raakhee, Suresh Oberoi] or Bandhan Kachche Dhagon Ka [Shashi Kapoor, Zeenat Aman] or his last release, Gadar -- Ek Prem Katha. The Sunny Deol-Anil Sharma combination will work again. The film will have a historical opening. Mark my words."
Amod Mehra, Entertainment Business Network, says, "Today's films have to be realistic like Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar [Tabu, Atul Kulkarni] or lavish like Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, [Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai]. Middle-of-the-road stuff does not work. The trade buzz about The Hero is enormous. There is hope the film will revive the industry, which has virtually gone dead. The public is anticipating something as thrilling and fast-paced as Gadar. If he has kept the pulse of the public in mind, I see no reason why it won't run well."
Vinod Mirani, editor, Box Office, asserts, "Films like The Hero, which are shot on an extra-large canvas, are primarily designed to recover their cost from the overseas market. No movie can recover over Rs 150 million from the Indian market. Each circuit offers a maximum of Rs 25 million. That makes it Rs 125 million from five circuits, plus about Rs 25 million from the satellite and television circuit. Recovering money from the overseas market might be difficult because it does not offer anything new to people in foreign lands. It is an out-and-out James Bond type of movie -- this has been done abroad several times. It will have to be as good as Ramesh Sippy's Sholay [Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri, Amjad Khan] if it has to gallop at the box-office."
Says distributor Nandu Ahuja, "The buzz about this film in the trade is pretty positive. But what about the buzz among the public? So far the promos look good, but today's audience is extremely unpredictable. To make such a costly film today is not a viable proposition. Devdas, with all its hype, barely managed to recover its cost. For The Hero to succeed, it will have to do better than Devdas. Sunny Deol still commands a good opening. So the movie will certainly run for the first three days. After that? Didn't Harry Baweja's Karz: The Burden Of Truth [Sunny Deol, Shilpa Shetty] crash on the fourth day of its release?"