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Ready, Steady, Slow

Vajir Singh does a quarterly check of which movies sizzled and which fizzled at the box-office.

entertainment Updated: Apr 05, 2007 17:41 IST

Three months down, 24 movies and there’s been only one hit so far..that’s what the statistics say loud and clear about the Mumbai movies 2007.

Only Mani Ratnam’s Guru clicked at the box-office. Of course, the end of the first quartet did bring some cheer with two moderate successes – Vipul Amritlal Shah’s Namastey London and surprise, surprise, Mira Nair’s The Namesake.

Last year was an entirely different story with movies hitting big time during the same period. Twenty-one films were released in the opening quartet..and the mood among the movie merchants was far more upbeat.

The first quarter of 2006 had already yielded the cash stormer, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti, followed by ticklish Priyadarshan’s crowd–pleaser Malamaal Weekly and the two cash earners – Ananth Mahadevan’s Aksar and Milan Luthria’s Taxi No 9211.

Major setback
<b1>To come back to the situation right here, right now, the major setback of the year so far has been Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq. Projected as the most lavish ensemble of star names, this omnibus flick didn’t even attract initial curiosity.

Alarmingly, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Eklavya – The Royal Guard and Ram Gopal Varma’s Nishabd went into reverse gear. The graffiti on the wall was readable: media hype and a star-studded cast don’t spell “house full” collections during the first weekend.

Last year, the story was on the other end of the commercial spectrum. Perhaps it was a more eager audience, higher spending power or more eyeball-grabbing movies – or a combination of all three – which accounted for a jhakaas kick-off quarter last year.

A mind-swerving trend is apparent. Media hype and frontline starcrammed films can help to a degree but cannot compel the audience to flock to the auditoria.

Red alert
What else can one deduce when many extravagantly-budgeted films opened to barely 30 to 40 per cent seat-occupancy from JanuaryMarch? At this moment, the Hindi film industry – exhibitors, distributors and financiers – are largely in the red, with a 95 per cent ratio of flops.

Downbeat collections have been reported week after week..an overwhelming section of audiences now wait either for reviews or a word-of-mouth buzz. Last year was a rich harvest for comedies. Light-heartedness was the mantra.. some laughs, some glamour, some music hooks added up to heartening queues at the ticket windows. But now it seems ha-ha can be ho-hum.

Purported comedies like Hattrick and Nehlle Pe Dehlla crashed. As for the formula of several stories wrapped into one, Reema Kagti’s Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, totted average business in Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad, but fared miserably elsewhere.

In effect,

tradewallas

are still to find out what’s ‘in’..what’s going on?.. what does the audience want for goodness sake? If this is not a state of flux, what is?

Of late, medium-budget films by directors with an estimable track record were considered to be worth a dekko. Like it or not, this theory has been debunked. Punchy but.. Ticket-buyers avoided Deepa Mehta’s Oscar-nominated Water and Madhur Bhandarkar’s wannabe streetwise Traffic Signal (it fared averagely, only in Mumbai where its plot was located).

One-man factory Vikram Bhatt’s crime thriller Red, with the mandatory mix of smooches and skin display, was a spectacular turn-off. The no-show of debutant Amrit Sagar’s well-intentioned and often punchy 1971 indicated that the market for war movies has decimated..J P Dutta’s LOC paved the way for the lean attendance.

<b3>Two inordinately-delayed Sanjay Dutt movies – Sarhad Paar and Nehlle Pe Dehlla – saw the proverbial light of day. Although Dutt Jr sparked headlines for his reported marriage to one Manyaata and for his on-going court case, the anti-terrorism saga was seen mostly, if at all, by the mice in the auditoria.

Yet the show must go on and it does.. and how. Tradewallas are optimistic that the coming months, with a line-up of big, beaty and bouncy films, the year will pick up.

Five upcoming movies from the riding-high Yashraj banner – Ta Ra Rum Pum, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Aaja Nachley, Chak De India and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag – as well as Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya and Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar are expected to make tidal waves in terms of audience interest..and attendance. Touchwood.

Go figure
Mani Ratnam’s Guru was produced on an approximate budget of Rs 20 crore. It is estimated to have col lected over Rs 100 crore.
Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq produced by Sunil Manchanda and Mukesh Talreja was made on an approximate budget of Rs 35 crore. It is believed to have lost half of its investments.
Vipul Amritlal Shah’s Namastey London, made on an approximate budget of Rs 25 crore collected Rs 40 crore gross in its first week.

vajir.singh@hindustantimes.com