Aadhe idhar jao, aadhe udhar jao, baki Ram Gopal ki Aag ke saath jao. Call it deja vu minus all the good parts. That’s the risk one takes while updating a legend like Sholay. Ram Gopal Varma took that risk and it’s official now: Aag is a flop with expected losses to the tune of a whopping Rs. 40 crore. With everybody and their Thakur measuring up Aag with Ramesh Sippy ke Sholay, it was always going to be an armless battle at the box-office. Working the phone for an RGV reaction was useless. The director went incommunicado after the scorching reviews that followed Friday’s release. But the news is that one call did go through, with Ramu answering the question, “How do you feel?” with a monosyllabic “Dead” before hanging up.
Varma first talked about trying his hand at remaking the 1975 epic in the last quarter of 2005. Soon after the announcement, Amitabh Bachchan, who was roped in to play Babban (read: Gabbar) Singh had a surgery, which stalled the film for almost three months. When Varma did pick up the project in mid-2006, Sascha Sippy, the grandson of GP Sippy, who produced the original, legally restrained the director from using ‘Sholay’ in the title of the ‘remake’, claiming that it would be an infringement of trademark and copyright. But even after the film was renamed Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag, you didn’t have to be a genius to realise what the film was about.
A total of 101 prints have been distributed across Delhi, the NCR region and UP. But with not one of the single-screen theatres buying the print, it will be the multiplexes — apart from RGV, that is — who will get badly hit. “It’s a huge disappointment,” said Deepak Saluja, VP-Operations, Delhi and NCR, Fun Cinemas. “To begin with, there was no advance booking. On the first two days of its release, it could only register an occupancy of less than 20 per cent.”
That’s a fate as bad as Kaliya.
PVR and Satyam Cinemas confirm the bad news. “The film had an average opening,” says Ashish Saxena, chief operation officer, film cell, PVR Cinemas. According to Munish Sharma, Satyam Cinemas marketing head, the coming week will be crucial for the film. “With Chak De…India (tax-free) and Heyy Babyy going strong, Aag will have a major fall.” Saluja also hopes for a mid-week turnaround. “Going by the current response, chances are Monday onwards, Aag will be shown on even fewer screens.”
Manmohan Shetty, Adlabs Managing Director and the presenter of Aag is more dire in his predictions. “Audiences have declined the film. As a viewer, even I am with them. The verdict is clear and there’s nothing to look forward to.” He added he has learnt a lesson: “Don’t copy a classic. Period.”
Ab tera kya hoga, Ramu?