Mausam… September 23, there will be no further delay now,” promises debutant director Pankaj Kapur. His film that was to open today has been postponed by a week following objections from the Indian Air Force (IAF) to a 30-second action sequence.
Lead actor Shahid Kapoor points out that while the script, his uniform and even the scenes shot at the Gwalior air force base that constitute almost an hour of the film, were vetted by the IAF, the computer graphics that were objected to on ‘technical’ grounds could be inserted only after the final copy came out. “From that copy, the overseas prints are made and given the threat of piracy, this happens only a week before the release. That’s why the last-minute hitch,” he explains.
The IAF finally gave the film a conditional No Objection Certificate on Wednesday after the Censor Board cleared it with a ‘U’ certificate on Tuesday following a review. But the cuts demanded have not only resulted in the cancellation of its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, but also put its overseas release in jeopardy. “We would have made it to the theatres in India today, but there was no way we could have met the September 16 deadline overseas, because prints have to be dispatched with a censor certificate and then be re-censored in countries like the UK, Australia, Dubai and Singapore,” points out Shahid.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra believes that the abrupt change in plans will affect the buzz around the film and create confusion amongst viewers about when it’s coming. Pankaj insists that won’t happen: “Shahid and I are going to use the extra week to jointly promote the film through more city tours and interviews. We will announce its arrival with two premieres in Mumbai and London.”
Exams and ‘shraddh’ (a mourning period) would be on next week, but are not cause for concern because, as Shahid says, Munnabhai MBBS (2003) and Namastey London (2007) that released during this ‘inauspicious’ period were blockbusters. “In fact, with two previous releases, Bodyguard and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, having run out of steam by then, we will get more screens and shows,” he avers.
Komal Nahta, editor-publisher of Film Street Journal, pegs the losses at around Rs 1 crore and insists that more money will have to be pumped into promotions to keep the hype going. But he doesn’t believe that the delay will hit Mausaum’s box-office prospects. He says, “Even though it will now come up against Speedy Singhs, it will still be everyone’s first choice.”