Once upon 2002 in Bollywood
Recession hampers Hindi film industry
In the world of show business, one hit in the first quarter is just another word for disaster.
Raaz, Vikram Bhatt's modestly budgeted film, is the 2002 first quarter trump card, thanks to some good music by Nadeem Shravan, an unusual storyline and an inspired performance by relative newcomer Bipasha Basu.
Three other filmmakers can rest happy, too, this year: Ram Gopal Varma (Company); Vipul Amrutlal Shah (Aankhen), and Rajkumar Santoshi (The Legend Of Bhagat Singh).
The last might still take everyone by surprise and pip the post.
For the industry, the fate of the big-budget films comes as a disappointment. Most of them have flopped at the box-office. Consider: this year, 122 films have been released, of which 119 have bitten the dust. Which means a mortality rate of 98 per cent. "It simply means," says Taran Adarsh, editor of Trade Guide, "nine out of the ten films released have flopped at the box-office."
Trade analysts like Vinod Mirani and Taran Adarsh, estimate the April-May 2002 loss at about Rs 300 million.
A few instances:
* David Dhawan's Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai, took an 80 per cent opening in the Mumbai circuit in the first week.
By the third week, collections fell to 55 per cent. Even the charisma of the star cast could not prevent it from sliding downwards. Its 60 per cent opening in Delhi, Punjab and Lucknow fell to 51 per cent over the last three weeks. In Chennai, its 75 per cent opening dipped to almost 55 per cent in the second week. In Nagpur, Indore and Hyderabad, second week collections were as low as 18 per cent.
* Pantaloon, the fabric-turned-lifestyle people tried to venture into filmmaking with Na Tum Jaano Na Hum, starring Hrithik Roshan and Esha Deol. The film's positive 84 per cent collection opening dropped to almost 37 per cent in Mumbai. In Delhi and Punjab circuits, its second week collections were as low as 15 per cent, while in Hyderabad, it dipped to 18 per cent.
* Vikram Bhatt will probably hold the honour of being the only director to have released this half-year's only hit Raaz as well as its biggest flop Aap Mujhe Acche Lagne Lage. The film merited a 60 per cent opening in Mumbai; and 40 per cent in Delhi, Punjab as well as the Chennai circuit, despite the presence of Hrithik Roshan and Amisha Patel, whose Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai was a superhit.
Nagpur and Hyderabad recorded a low 41 per cent first week collection. Its second week collection in Mumbai was 42 per cent. In Baroda, Punjab and Delhi, the film was out of the theatres by the second week. In the third week, it was pulled out of most theatres across the country.
Says journalist-turned-director Khalid Mohamed, "The film not only had a bad storyline, it didn't score even on the music or production fronts. Stars cannot hold movies together anymore. We need good scripts and good direction."
As filmmaker Karan Johar points out, 'Audiences refuse to accept anything below international standards, in terms of making.' Lavish sets, beautiful locales, great music are an added advantage, but are not the only things essential for success.
"Most directors believe packaging is most important," contends analyst and Box Office editor Vinod Mirani. "But that is just one aspect of a film. The script is its backbone. Most films released this year have had very weak scripts."
A couple of Hrithik Roshan starrers, for instance, tried to capitalise on the star's charisma, but have neither the gloss of Kaho Naa
Pyaar Hai, nor the strong storyline of his second film Fiza, or even his third, Mission Kashmir.
Says Mirani, "No star can carry a film completely on his shoulder anymore. You need either good costars or a film strong in content and technical aspect."
* Take K C Bokadia's Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, which starred some of the biggest names in Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit. The film sunk at the box-office without a trace in the first week. Long in the making, the film, its sets and costumes looked old and jaded.
* In comparison, Raaz worked because of its above-average technical values, an innovative subject of a woman haunted by her husband's past and Bipasha Basu's inspired performance and sultry good looks. Made at Rs 40 million, the film has raked in over Rs 100 million in profits. "It opened to about 75 per cent collection in Mumbai, in the first week, and about 60 per cent in circuits like Delhi, Punjab, Nagpur, Baroda and Hyderabad," confirms director Vikram Bhatt.
"In the second week, it picked up about 94 per cent in Mumbai, and about 85 per cent in circuits like Delhi, Nagpur and Punjab." Since then, it has stayed steady in most circuits, and is still running, three months after its release.
Its scriptwriter, Mahesh Bhatt believes, "The suspense element combined with the age-old attraction towards women who do anything for their husbands, almost like the mythical character Savitri, good music and some nice performances made Raaz such a success."
* Unlike Raaz, Aankhen and Company are hits only in some circuits. Vipul Shah's Aankhen, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Sushmita Sen, Paresh Rawal and Arjun Rampal, opened to 100 per cent collection in Mumbai, Vapi (Gujarat) and Delhi. In Punjab, Hyderabad and Nagpur, its first week collection was 75 per cent.
Aankhen's second week collection in Mumbai and Delhi fell to 94 per cent, but has steadied since. In circuits like Hyderabad, it dipped to 54 per cent. Admits Shah, "The subject of Aankhen appeals only to urban audiences of Mumbai and maybe Delhi. I knew it would have an urban appeal. How many in Punjab or even Nagpur would identify with an elite bank officer who plots revenge after he is thrown out of his job? It is an urban subject."
Much like Ram Gopal Varma's well crafted Company which boasted of a very good script, taut direction and great performances by Ajay Devgan and debutant Vivek Oberoi. This tale of Mumbai's underworld opened 100 per cent collections in Mumbai, fell to 87 per cent in the second week, and has been steady since. In Delhi, Punjab, Hyderabad and Nagpur, its first week collections were 86 per cent, which dropped to 63 per cent.
* Of the films released in the last two weeks, Vijeta Films' 23rd March 1931 -- Shaheed has already been declared a flop in some circuits like Mumbai, with a 48 per cent first week collection. In Bhuj, Gujarat, it was 22 per cent; in Nagpur, 37 per cent; and in Jaipur, 35 per cent.
Even in Northern sectors like Delhi, where Sunny Deol is considered very popular, it opened to 86 per cent. In Lucknow, it won a 76 per cent opening, and in Amritsar, 84 per cent. Collections fell in the second week: Amritsar reported a 64 per cent collection, while Lucknow posted 52 per cent. Says Mirani, "Both Sunny Deol and Bobby have a big and loyal market and following in Punjab and Delhi. But the weak script and bad direction hampered their film."
* Yash Chopra's Sanjay Gadhavi-directed young film, Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai opened to 94 per cent collection in the first week in Mumbai, and 74 per cent in the Delhi circuit.
In Ahmedabad, it raked in 86 per cent in the first week, while in Nagpur, its collection was about 90 per cent. Collections are now steady in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi in the second week. In Hyderabad, where it opened to 87 per cent, collections dipped to 74 per cent in the second week. It may not be a colossal hit that Chopra films generally are, but Adarsh says, "It is a small film, made at Rs 50 to Rs 60 million and will recover its cost, as well as make profits."
Hope for the industry
Hopes of the beleaguered industry have risen over the last two weeks, thanks to the good performance by Rajkumar Santoshi's The Legend Of Bhagat Singh and Satish Kaushik's Badhaai Ho Badhaai, at the box-office. The former, starring the understated and mature Ajay Devgan, picked up after a slow opening of about 86 per cent in Mumbai, and about 76 per cent in Ahmedabad.
Its second week collection in Mumbai rose to 90 per cent; in Ahmedabad, it is steady at 78 per cent. In other circuits like Lucknow, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Indore, second week collections are a low 37 per cent. "It has very good production values, good performances and Rajkumar Santoshi's sensibility," says Adarsh, "so we expect it to do well, but only in a few circuits like Mumbai and Ahmedabad."
Despite references to current problems like fundamentalism and caste differences, the film has not struck a chord with rural audiences in circuits like Punjab and Delhi, which prefers the Jat brothers, the Deols.
Badhaai Ho Badhaai's (starring the dependable Anil Kapoor), first day collection in Mumbai was 100 per cent, while in Delhi it was 94 per cent. In Ahmedabad, it recorded 72 per cent, Hyderabad 86 per cent, and in Indore it is about 74 per cent.
A take-off on Eddie Murphy starrer, The Nutty Professor, Anil Kapoor, who produced the film, brought down make up artistes from Hollywood to do the prosthetics required to transform him into a fat man. The makeup allegedly cost Rs 20 million.
Says Kapoor, 'I have always experimented with my roles. I had to put on weight for this one, but I enjoyed doing it.'
The industry believes this will be the second all-India hit in 2002. "There was a buzz around this film," says Mahesh Bhatt. "The promos were interesting and brought out the fact that it is not some old naach-gaana-shaadi-baraat kind of stuff the industry has been producing for the past few years. By playing a fat man, Anil has taken a risk with his career. That works now."
Fast forward to a hopeful future?
June and July promise exciting releases, raising hopes of a turnaround for the industry. Some of these are:
Devdas: At Rs 500 million, this Sanjay Leela Bhansali film is the first Indian commercial film to be shown at the Cannes International Film Festival. This love-and-loss saga, a mix between fantasy and fiction, based on Bengali writer Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's novel, the film stars Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. 'It is the biggest film ever made in Bollywood,' says Bhansali. 'It is my dream project. I don't know if I will make anything bigger than this.'
Incidentally, there is no other Shah Rukh film releasing in the next two years, nor has he signed on any film.
Kaante: The first offering from White Feather Films, Sanjay Dutt and Sanjay Gupta's production company, Kaante is a rip-off of the Hollywood cult movie, Reservoir Dogs. Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Mahesh Manjrekar, Lucky Ali, Kumar Gaurav and Sunil Shetty, it is about how a robbery, carried out by these six guys, goes horribly wrong.
Technically brilliant, most of the film has been shot in the US, with an American technical crew.
Om Jai Jagadish: Anupam Kher's directorial debut revolves around the quintessential Indian family. Its highlight is its big star cast, including the (dependable) Anil Kapoor, Mahima Chaudhry, Fardeen Khan, Urmila Matondkar, Abhishek Bachchan and Waheeda Rehman, who returns to the big screen after years. With the ubiquitous mother and three sons, the film will depend on its packaging and star power to carry it through.
Humraaz: Directors Abbas-Mastan return to the silver screen after Ajnabee. Starring Bobby Deol, flavour of the season Amisha Patel, and a dapper looking Akshaye Khanna, the film is about a jealous husband who hires his wife's ex-lover to kill her.
Each of these films has the capacity to hit big time. But for Bollywood, post June or July tends to be a lean phase, with no major or big budget film releasing even during the festival time that falls between October and December.
India News Feature Service