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For our eyes only

Today, Indian moviegoers are regulars for Hollywood movies only if they are blended with sex or if the films are creepy, crawly like Anaconda or Godzilla, writes Vajir Singh.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2008 19:11 IST
Vajir Singh

A year ago, Spider-Man 3 smashed records in the realm of the Hollywood box-office in India. After that there has been a lull although there was some spark generated by the Hindi versions of Hancock and Rush Hour 3.

Now James Bond is expected to bring back the Martini mood, shaken not stirred, with Quantum Of Solace. Not an easy title to pronounce or to be understood by the aam janta but still.

Fever abated
Every segment of the audience understands what a Bond flick promises. From rickshawallas to the ritzy set, the addiction to 007 flicks has been more than perceptible since the last 42 years, when Dr No ran to packed houses for nearly 25 weeks, at re-runs at various kinds of cinema halls.

These ranged from the top class ones in South Bombay to the rickety ones like the Central at Girgaum and the Moti near the red-light district of Grant Road.

Over the years, the fever has abated though — simply because of the accessibility of slick thrills and chills in various spin-offs of the spy who first had the licence to kill. Bourne Identity and Ultimatum have had shades of Bond, so does practically every action blockbuster vended out by the Hollywood assembly line.

Today, Indian moviegoers are regulars for Hollywood movies only if they are blended with sex or if the films are creepy, crawly like Anaconda or Godzilla. Incidentally, the Hindi version of Spider-Man 3 sold many more tickets than its original English language version.

Daniel Craig has been established as a Bond worth his booze-and-babes by Casino Royale ( 2006). Now Quantum of Solace is expected to buoy up the scenario of Hollywood products in India.

All the 21 Bond films have been released in India. There was a controversy only about From Russia with Love (1963). The Censor Board objected to its title rather inexplicably, stating that “friendly relations” with the then USSR might be affected.

Consequently, it had to be released as From Bond with Love, in India. Also, several cuts were imposed during the credit title sequence of Goldfinger (1964) which displayed a woman, nude, except for gold paint.

Sony Pictures intends to released Quantum of Solace with a record number of 600 prints, the highest for a
foreign film in India so far. Kersi Daruwala, managing director of Sony Pictures, India, states that these include prints in dubbed Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions as well.

“I’ve been a fan of Bond movies since I was a child. Earlier there was scope of making money with the original versions only but now the dubbed versions in other language, too, make big money,” says Daruwala.

Number game
Spider-Man 3 was released with 590 prints (English 162, Hindi 261, Tamil 78, Telugu 78, Bhojpuri 6 and Imax 3). It was dubbed in four languages — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and for the first time in Bhojpuri.

Sony Pictures hasn’t dubbed Quantum of Solace in Bhojpuri though. It is felt that the Hindi version will bring in the northern-belt audience anyway.

Modified Bond
Daruwala insists that the aim is to cross a box-office gross of Rs 45 crore in the first couple of weeks. Casino Royale had struck up a business of Rs 44 crore in India, the highest for any Bond movie so far. Titanic grossed 55 crore in 1998. Spider-Man 3 broke this record by collecting Rs 60 crore in India. Many of the early Bond movies were meant primarily for an adult audience, but in recent years, their content has been sufficiently modified so that teenaged kids can watch them.
Ashok Ahuja, distribution head of Percept Pictures, remarks, “Film trade has been bad this year.

Hindi films are somewhat managing to recover their cost but the situation for Hollywood movies isn’t all that auspicious.
“The last English language film which did tremendous business was Spider-Man 3. We released it in most of the territories. Now let’s see how the new Mr Bond fares.”