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Real-life films fail to click

Bollywood’s past experiments with incident-based films haven’t been all that successful at the box office, reveals Diganta Guha.

india Updated: May 21, 2007 16:49 IST
Diganta Guha

Apoorva Lakhia’s big-budget multi-starrer, Shootout At Lokhandwala, is set to hit theatres this month. Apart from boasting big names, the film is creating hype because it is based on a real shootout that took place in Mumbai. Going by past record, however, the director might just have to pin his hopes on the star cast and the slick presentation rather than the story.

Bollywood’s past experiments with incident-based films haven’t been all that successful at the box office. Examples abound.

Manisha Koirala-starrer Escape from Taliban, which was about a Bengali woman who faced Taliban wrath after she married an Afghan national or Raveena Tandon’s Jaago, the true story of an underage girl who was raped in a Mumbai train, were flops.

More recently, the much-talked about Black Friday (on the 1993 Mumbai blasts) or Parzania (on the Gujarat riots) failed to make much impact at the box office despite being critically acclaimed. Even Aishwarya Rai-starrer Provoked (the tale of abused wife Kiranjit Ahluwalia) didn’t generate much response at the box office. Earlier, Dhoop (a soldier’s story post Kargil War), Undertrial (based on a crime that could not be proved) and The Godmother (the story of Santokh Ben Jadeja) flopped.

The domestic collections say it all. Black Friday’s Rs 3,56,78,939 is somewhat better than Provoked’s Rs 77,04,774 and Parzania’s Rs 46,30,155. Films like Jaago made a miserable Rs 26,47,054. Dhoop managed to collect only Rs 13,57,194.

The only exception is probably Prakash Jha’s Gangaajal, which collected around Rs 3 crore. Why did it work? Probably because of it’s star cast — Ajay Devgan — and that it had enough oomph by the way of songs and presentation.

What does it boil down to? The treatment. Without the required dose of drama, it’s unlikely to sell, feels trade expert Taran Adarsh. “The content is very important and if you falter, you fail,” he says.

Filmmaker Ujjwal Chatterjee feels that people refuse to go and watch a film that talks about an issue that they have already read about or watched in the news. “The masala is essential because the story is known. You have to spice it up,” says Chatterjee.

Director Madhur Bhandarker, whose Page 3 and Chandni Bar were fictional accounts of real situations, believes in creating drama. “My job is to entertain. Films have to be fast-paced too,” says Bhandarkar, who refuses to believe that hard-hitting films don’t have an audience. But entertainment cannot be written off. As Lakhia says, “The audience still loves to watch masala films and that’s why I am keeping the entertainment value of my film intact.”

Hope that works.