This monsoon, audiences are going to see more stars on screen than the ones obfuscated in the sky by the clouds.
Indeed, those whopping star-crammed multistarrers that were the order of the Friday in the 1970s are back in vogue.
And leading the bright pack is Vishal Bharadwaj's Omkara, which stars Ajay Devgan, Kareena Kapoor, Viveik Oberoi, Bipasha Basu, Konkona SenSharma, Naseeruddin Shah and Saif Ali Khan.
This has got to be the biggest multistarrer since Ramesh Sippy's Sholay in 1975.
Nikhil Advani's Salaam-e-Ishq has a lot of big names to boast of
"And let's hope my
is as big a hit as
," said Bharadwaj.
"The profusion of stars in my film was completely dictated by the script. Every actor justifies his or her character," Bharadwaj said.
But the fact remains Bharadwaj made his previous film Maqbool with no stars except Tabu. If Maqbool hadn't worked so wonderfully, Bharadwaj would have cast art-house actors once again in Omkara.
In fact, Akshay Kumar had turned down Maqbool saying he didn't find the desi version of Macbeth heroic enough.
"That's very true. I still haven't forgotten. I guess my script justifies the stars only because I could get them," said Bharadwaj.
One director who has never had a problem getting stars is Karan Johar. And boy, does he cram them in!
If his last film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham reads like a who's who of the film industry, Johar's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (KANK), releasing on August 11, has everyone from Amitabh to Abhishek Bachchan in its roomy frames.
Commenting on the big stars in KANK, Johar said: "I don't deny that my film has the biggest stars in the industry. Not just the two biggest stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, but also Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta and Abhishek Bachchan.
"The fact of the matter is that everyone goes to the cinema to see their favourite stars - the more the merrier. I guess I am lucky to have so many friends who are major stars."
Amusing as it may sound, Johar's former associate Nikhil Advani has even more stars in his new directorial undertaking Salaam-e-Ishq than Bharadwaj's and Johar's film put together.
"See, my film weaves a large number of different love stories together in one package. For every love story I needed a different couple. Whether it is Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra, or John Abraham and Vidya Balan -- each pair is perfectly placed in the pastiche."
If Salaam-e-Ishq salaams star power, Sanjay Gadhvi's Dhoom 2 and Farhan Akhtar's Don do even better.
Dhoom 2 has Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai as the villain and the moll, besides Abhishek, Bipasha and others.
Farhan's Don features stars like Kareena and Arjun Rampal in roles that were originally played by character actors.
"There are no character actors any longer, only actors and stars wanting to prove they can act. That's how we find a Tabu doing a peripheral part in Fanaa, or an Anil Kapoor in Humko Deewana Kar Gaye playing what looks like an offshoot of Amrish Puri's tyrannical husband's act from Koyla," explained Hansal Mehta who prefers to work with newcomers at this point of his career.
"I think the star system has had its day," said Mehta.
Not if you go by the films that are ready to be unleashed in the second half of 2006. They are so crammed with stars you'd need calculators to keep track of them in the credit titles.
Not that stars ensure success. If they did, Ram Gopal Varma's Darna Zaroori Hai would have been the biggest hit of the year and Anurag Basu's Gangster would've sunk without a trace.
"What stars do is to bring audiences in. After that it's up to the director to hold audiences' attention," said Bharadwaj.
Apart from Omkara other star-studded extravaganzas are:
1. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Amitabh, Shah Rukh, Rani, Preity, Abhishek, Arjun Rampal)
2. Eklavya (Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan)
3. Umrao Jaan (Aishwarya, Abhishek, Shabana, Suniel Shetty)
4. Salaam-e-Ishq (Salman, Priyanka, Govinda, Anil Kapoor, Juhi, John, Vidya Balan)
5. Jaan-e-Man (Akshay Kumar, Salman, Preity, Anupam)
6. Dhoom 2 (Abhishek, Bipasha, Aishwarya, Hrithik)
7. Lage Raho Munnabhai (Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, Vidya Balan, Boman Irani)