Big-ticket films are biting the dust at the Bollywood box office this year, but a slew of low budget comedies is bringing some cheer to the industry in an otherwise gloomy season.
Analysts say repeating the success of 2006 - its best year ever - was impossible for the Hindi-language industry. But many are surprised by the failure of most big budget films in 2007.
Only four of about 10 big-ticket films released this year have posted profits, proving that star appeal or swanky locations were not enough to move audiences.
In comparison, several low budget comedy and niche films aimed at urban audiences have produced handsome returns for an industry that operates on low profit margins.
"Looks like family socials and serious drama are out," film analyst Indu Morani said.
"In the humdrum of a stressful life people want a quick fix of entertainment that will make them smile."
Among the few big budget winners were Chak De India, starring Bollywood's most bankable star Shah Rukh Khan who plays a women's hockey coach who beats the odds to find glory.
Other big budget films that have done well are Guru, loosely based on the life of the rise of an Indian industrial magnate, and Partner and Heyy Babyy, both slapstick comedies.
But revealing new audience taste and possibly a new formula for success are niche comedies like Bheja Fry, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and Dhamaal, which were made with modest budgets and no bankable stars but still earned money and acclaim.
Small is profitable
Films like Cheeni Kum, Life in a Metro and Traffic Signal that banked upon a good script and good performances found favour with audiences.
"But because they are low budget films even if they make handsome profits they wouldn't affect the industry turnover much," said trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
The industry lost heavily on much-publicised films like Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Ta Ra Rum Pum, Shakalaka Boom Boom, Eklavya - The Royal Guard, Salaam-e-Ishq, RGV ki Aag and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag which were washouts despite stars like Amitabh Bachchan.
In contrast, most big-ticket films last year delivered at the box office, helping Bollywood record its best-ever year.
The good times had actually rolled over from 2005 which was until then the best year in terms of revenues, with new marketing strategies, opportunities offered by the Internet, mobile phones, gaming and merchandising helping boost profits.
"This year is going to be nowhere near that," Morani said.
The industry is pinning its hopes on two big budget films - Om Shanti Om and Saawariya - opening next month to offset some of the losses for the year.