Last Friday was a crowded week with as many as 16 films jostling for eyeballs at the box-office windows. These included five Hindi films - Aashayein, Hello Darling, Antardwand, Soch Lo, Madholal Keep Walking and Gumshuda- and two English re-releases James Cameron’s 3D Avatar with nine minutes of never-seen footage and Vertigo and its dubbed Hindi version, Khoon Ka Khel.
Add to the list one English sequel, Crank 2 (dubbed in Hindi as Kaminey, Company), an English flick Bitch Slap - and a Malaysian animated flick, Geng. Followed by a bouquet of regional films - the Bengali Aarohan, three Marathi films, Navra Ali Bayko Lovely, Sa.. Sasucha and Pardh, one Gujarati film Preet Piyu Ne Parnetar and even a rare Sindhi film, Tappad Tension Tey. And what we had was a veritable potpourri that, with the exception of Avatar, which grossed Rs 1.60 crore over the weekend in India, was largely unpalatable.
"Isn’t it ridiculous!’ says an aggrieved trade analyst Taran Adarsh. "Even during Eid or Diwali, the market cannot take more than two-three films. And this is the lean Ramzan and Shraddh period. Every producer believes that his film is Sholay and samnewale cholay and releases his film to 5-10 per cent collections. Some of the films even had to cancel shows because there were no takers."
Distributor Ramesh Sippy doesn’t find anything shocking about this annual flop parade. "It’s the only time small films can get an opening at multiplexes. If they wait till mid-September and October, they will be bulldozed by the biggies. So they brave the numbers and come out in the hope that they will strike a chord," he points out.
Sushil Rajpal, producer-director of the National Award-winning Antardwand, echoes his view. “September 27 was the only Friday I was getting theatres, so my
distributors, PVR, decided to go ahead with the release,” he sighs.
Strong film, no impact
Antardwand got decent reviews, but couldn’t make an impact commercially. “You need a strong film to work at this time. Last year, I released Wanted in the Bombay territory three days before Eid. It was a crowdpuller from the first show. This year, even though it’s not as big a hit, Lafangey Parindey has been holding on,” reasons Sippy.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra pegs last week’s loss at between Rs 20-40 crore for the industry and believes that it’s time our filmmakers learnt from others’ fall and do not go down the same path. “Of course, in some cases, the producers have no choices. I hadn’t even heard of films like Gumshuda and Soch Lo before,” he says.
Malplix Films Hello Darling was just one of the many films that didn’t get a release overseas, while Percept’s 18-month delayed Aashayein, was a washout abroad. “No NRI would pay in dollars and pounds to watch a comedian (Javed Jaffrey) play hero to three non-happening actresses or watch another hero (John Abraham) die,” Mehra argues.
This week, the industry’s hopes are pinned on Dharma Productions’ We Are Family that Mehra describes as a “decent family film”. But the one everyone is looking forward to is Salman Khan’s Eid release Dabangg.
“It’s got the Wanted feel, Salman’s looking hot and the music too has caught on. It will be a plus film for the producer from day one,” predicts Mehra. “Even after paying fancy terms, distributors have managed to woo the exhibitors with the promise of houseful shows and recover their costs. And that is a rarity today.”