After a dismal 2008, fresh beginnings in 2009. Buoyed by the success of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Ghajini in the dying days of the year, Bollywood is looking forward to a year of quality cinema that will bring audiences in their hordes to theatres.
From small-budget endeavours and a horror sequel to a period drama and several big-budget potboilers, India's Hindi film industry has an assorted platter on offer this year.
The fiery initials from the December releases by the two Khan biggies - Shah Rukh Khan with Rab Ne Bana De Jodi and Aamir Khan with Ghajini - have put Bollywood on the revival path. And filmmakers are hoping to put the trauma of the global meltdown and the Mumbai terror attack behind with a package of almost 30 films in just the first quarter of the year.
Although no film is scheduled for release in the first week, the second week will see a burst of six low-budget films releasing simultaneously -- Bad Luck Govind, Horn Ok Pleassss, Kaashh... Mere Hote, Khallballi - Fun Unlimited, 42 Kms... and The President Is Coming.
Trade experts predict the market will catch momentum with the release of Nikhil Advani's much-hyped action comedy Chandni Chowk to China Jan 16.
"Bollywood was going through a tough time but Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Ghajini infused new life in the film industry. These movies have also raised hopes for providing continuous quality and quantity every week that can be seen in the different releases in 2009," Joginder Mahajan, a Delhi-based distributor, told IANS.
This is also the year of firsts for many like India-born American filmmaker Varun Khanna who makes his Bollywood directorial debut with Bad Luck..., filmmaker Kunal Roy Kapur with The President Is Coming, actress Nandita Das with Firaaq and Zoya Akhtar with Luck By Chance.
The year will also see the release of Raaz - The Mystery Continues, the much-talked about sequel to the 2002 hit horror film Raaz. The internationally acclaimed and multiple award winning film Slumdog Millionaire, based on a book by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup, will also be seen in India this year.
Anurag Kashyap's Dev D, releasing Feb 6, will present a modern take on Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay's acclaimed novel Devdas, while Feb 13 will see Shah Rukh Khan sharing screen space with actor Irrfan Khan in Priyadarshan's Billo Barber.
This will be followed by the much-awaited on-screen autobiography of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Delhi-6, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor. Also releasing is Salman Khan-Kareena Kapoor- starrer Main Aur Mrs Khanna.
Ketan Mehta's period drama Rang Rasiya (Colours of Passion) based on the life of epochal painter Raja Ravi Varma will splash colours on screen Feb 27.
March end will see a string of movies with Shortcut - The Con Is On, Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge, Kaminey, Karma Aur Holi, Gullal, Kissan and New York.
Last year saw only six genuine hits out of 127 releases and the $2 billion industry incurring staggering losses worth Rs.5 billion (over $100 million). Trade experts are pinning their hopes on the releases scheduled for 2009 and predict that the forthcoming releases will entertain domestic as well as international audiences.
"Films are now being made keeping the international audience in mind; considering that a multiplex needs a big-budget movie every week to sustain its business, 2009 will see filmmakers coming out with quality movies at low-production costs," said a trade analyst.