The verdict seems to be in on the two blockbuster movies released to catch the audience rush on the Diwali weekend.
Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om — a fantasy remix — has sprinted way ahead of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, a stylised romance inspired by Dostoevsky’s story White Nights.
As soon as the Saawariya premiere was over around 1:30 am at Mumbai’s Imax multiplex, the word was out that it would find the going tough at the national box-office. Meanwhile, OSO shown extensively at previews in Mumbai’s Yashraj studio and then premiered at London’s Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, has evoked a buzz that it is a ‘massy’ commercial entertainer.
Farah Khan, director of OSO, from her home in Mumbai, exulted that she was thrilled with both the public and critical response. “I would have loved to be in London with the cast and crew... but I was forbidden to travel by my doctor.” Khan, who is married to the film’s editor Shirish Kunder, is expecting triplets early next year.
Bhansali was unreachable. His film’s debutant hero, Ranbir Kapoor and his family are keeping a low profile, following the mixed to negative buzz that Saawariya has drawn from the initial day viewers.
However, Kapoor Jr has been appreciated for his performance, as a lovelorn adolescent, in the Bhansali extravaganza — the first Indian film to be bankrolled by the international Sony Pictures.
The film also introduces Anil Kapoor’s daughter, Sonam, who has already bee signed on for Delhi 6, a film opposite Abhishek Bachchan.
Mumbai’s trade pundits aver that Saawariya will find it tough to recover its costs, which is being cited anywhere between Rs 25 to Rs 40 crore.
As for OSO, a mega-crore enterprise produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s company Red Chillies Entertainment, is expected to become the biggest hit of the year if the collections remain steady. Till now, the biggest cash earners of the year have been Chak De! India and Partner. The kick-off two day rush for OSO has been in keeping with the business expected and some more during the Diwali weekend.
Saawariya opened on 1034 screens worldwide, including 754 in India and 280 internationally. On the other hand, OSO, which is distributed by Eros International, played on 1400 screen across the globe. According to RK Malhotra, manager of Delhi’s Delite cinema, “We are booked for all the shows for both the films till Sunday.”
However, the scenario was not as upbeat at some of the suburban multiplexes of Mumbai, where the first day’s morning show of Saawariya attracted a half-full audience. Walk-outs of irked viewers were seen at Fame Adlabs auditorium in Oshiwara.
Monday onwards, both these film will work on their “merit”. After the Diwali holiday weekend, the peak period for the sale of movie tickets, the attendance will depend on the initial response, reviews and word-of-mouth buzz. Trade alarm bells are being rung about Saawariya being unable to keep the audience coming. But it would be unfair to write it off completely till Monday, state trade soothsayers.
Agrees Gautam Dutta, CEO Cinemedia, PVR, “The first weekend cashes on the marketing of the film. Once the reviews are out, the film rides on its own merit.” But Dutta reasons cautiously that in the case of OSO versus Saawariya, the scenario is different.
Vikramjit Roy of Sony Pictures Entertainment shares his viewpoint, “Critics can have their own perspective. But going by the first day collections, which is Rs 19 crore, Saawariya will earn approximately Rs 50 over the first weekend.” Though the cash collections of OSO were not available, industry experts feels that it has been the Diwali champion.
In earlier years, the simultaenous Diwali release of two highly-awaited films, has seen a win-win situation for both. For instance, Lagaan and Gadar were released on the same Diwali weekend but both turned out to be top winners.
This Diwali, though, the story is different. For OSO, signs are that it is Khushi and for Saawariya, at the time of going to print, it is certainly Gham.