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Dismal show by Bollywood in mid-year report card

Star appeal, big budgets and swanky foreign locales have all failed to bring cheer to Bollywood as it struggled to make a profit in the first half of 2007.

entertainment Updated: Jun 28, 2007 19:17 IST

Star appeal, big budgets and swanky foreign locations have all failed to bring cheer to Bollywood as the world's biggest film industry struggled to make a profit in the first half of 2007.

Most entertainment analysts agreed it was almost impossible for Bollywood to repeat the success of 2006 -- its best year ever -- but the failure to deliver even one blockbuster so far in 2007 has surprised all.

While some films aimed at niche audiences made profits and a few others won only acclaim, the big-ticket Hindi-language films with top stars failed to set the cashbox jingling.

Analysts blamed weak scripts for the failures.

"Where are the good stories? You can't get away with only star appeal and foreign locales," said Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta.

"If you have a good script, chances are you will have a hit, stars or no stars."

Original scripts and sequels like those involving a flying superhero, a lovable hoodlum and the story of a suave thief, gave Bollywood a rare, super-hit filled year in 2006.

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.

But in comparison, analysts said, the turnover in the first six months of 2007 was just a fourth of about $55 million collected during the same period in 2006.

The 2007 box office front-runners are "Guru", said to be inspired by the life of entrepreneur Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance group, and "Namastey London", a romantic comedy partly shot in London.

Threat from Hollywood
But the list of doomed big-budget films with top stars is long: Salaam-e-Ishq, Eklavya, Nishabd, Ta ra Rum Pum and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, among others.

"Once again, it has been proved that big names will not guarantee a hit," said trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

But the industry, the biggest in the world in terms of the number of tickets sold, saw moderate success in niche ventures such as the comedy Bheja Fry, slice of life films Metro and Traffic Signal, romantic comedy Cheeni Kum and gangster flick Shootout at Lokhandwala.

This summer, Bollywood is also feeling the heat from Hollywood blockbusters.

A measure of Hollywood's growing impact in India was seen when five Bollywood films released this month were trumped by Ocean's 13 with George Clooney again taking the lead in the latest in the series.

No Bollywood film was released on May 4, the day Spiderman 3 hit the screens, suggesting Indian filmmakers did not wish to take a chance against the Hollywood blockbuster.

Spiderman 3 has become the highest-grossing Hollywood film in India, overtaking Titanic, as its Indian language versions gained widespread popularity in non-English speaking regions.

Analysts said Hollywood studios were now dubbing their films into regional languages to expand their appeal beyond the country's small English-speaking population.

"This has meant a new market for Hollywood films, sometimes at the cost of Bollywood which until now enjoyed a virtual monopoly over this audience," said Adarsh.