No Bollywood heroine can hold a candle to Madhubala, declares chartered accountant Purvi Vyas, 24, who watched K Asif's Mughal-e-Azam at IMAX Adlabs, a multiplex in Mumbai.
She is planning to watch the movie again with her friends. Mughal-e-Azam, the first period black-and-white movie released in colour, has been a surprise hit with the young, and has set the cash registers ringing.
In the first two weeks after the movie opened, box office collections in Mumbai and Delhi alone have topped Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million). According to 'Trade Guide', a film magazine that tracks box office collections, the movie grossed Rs 79.26 lakh (Rs 7.9 million) in Mumbai, while in Delhi it was a more modest Rs 30.66 lakh (Rs 3.1 million).
To put that into perspective, Ram Gopal Verma's Naach raked in Rs 76.16 lakh (Rs 7.6 million) in Mumbai and Rs 26.55 lakh (Rs 2.6 million) in Delhi in the first two weeks.
Theatres in Mumbai reported over 90 per cent ticket sales in the first week of the movie and 80 per cent sales in the second week. Backed by such collections, more Mughal-e-Azam prints had to be released. In the opening week, 150 prints were released. In the second week, the number went up to 176.
The Shapoorji Pallonji & Co-owned Sterling Investments Corporation spent Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) on restoring the movie in colour. Says Dipesh Salgia, project director at Sterling: "We did not expect the young to watch the movie in large numbers."
Still, some industry people contend that trade publication box office figures are not entirely accurate, but are merely indicative, because they overlook non-theatre revenue, which accounts for 30-50 per cent of the money a film earns.
That's true -- Sterling will now hawk movie merchandise such as Mughal-e-Azam playing cards and T-shirts through CafeCoffee Day outlets. The company has also received requests for international distribution rights from the Gulf, the US, the UK and Europe.
Mughal-e-Azam's success has triggered a rush to dust old black and white movies off the shelves and release them in colour. BR Chopra's 1957 classic Naya Daur is next in line.
The Indian Academy of Arts and Animation, which restored the Mughal epic in colour, will be applying its skills to Chopra's movie, too. Also in the pipeline are Chetan Anand's Haqeekat, Bimal Roy's Madhumati and Kishore Kumar's Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi.
Still, some film industry men have a point when they argue that Mughal-e-Azam is an all-time classic and so has a lot of curiosity attached to it. Whether the other oldies will draw the crowds remains to be seen.
Box boss: In the first 2 weeks, collections in Mumbai and Delhi alone have topped Rs 1 crore
Didn't come cheap: Rs 5 crore was spent on restoring the movie in colour
Spinoffs: Movie merchandise such as Mughal-e-Azam playing cards and T-shirts are planned
- Copycats: The film's success has triggered a rush to dust old black and white movies off the shelves and release them in colour