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Bollywood goes retro to boost sales

mumbai Updated: Dec 06, 2010 09:28 IST

Bollywood is harking back to the 1970s and the days of stylised movie dialogues, cliched plots and elaborate dance sequences in an attempt to boost box office takings after a disappointing 2010.

Despite its prodigious output, the Hindi-language movie industry has had a torrid time this year, with only a dozen out of more than 200 films made finding favour with fans.

"The 1970s and 80s were amongst the golden eras of the Indian film industry," said Bollywood director Sajid Khan, whose successes include Heyy Babyy and the recent comedy Housefull.

"We need to give a taste of old music to the new generation," he said.

Housefull found box-office success with a remix of a popular hit song from a 1981 Amitabh Bachchan movie, Laawaris.

Most of Bollywood's popular hit songs of the 1970s and 80s when Bachchan -- known as the Big B -- ruled the movie scene have been remixed and are played in many of Mumbai's best-known nightclubs.

"Bollywood is in search of its roots. Looking to the past is a way of looking to the future but not when it is used as an easy way out," said film critic Shubhra Gupta in the Indian Express newspaper.

Bollywood director Milan Luthria's thriller Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai, set in the 1970s, about a power struggle between two gangsters -- complete with big hair, bigger moustaches, wing-collar shirts and flares -- was a hit.

It took 580 million rupees (13.2 million dollars) at the box office after its release in July this year.

Golmaal 3, a hit comedy released for the recent Diwali holiday about the capers of a group of young friends, was itself based on the 1970s film Khatta Meetha.

But another 1970s themed-movie, the time-travel romance movie starring Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai Action Replayy -- which was loosely influenced by the 1985 hit Back to the Future -- bombed.

Superstar actor-producer-director Shah Rukh Khan, who featured in the 2006 release Don: The Chase Begins Again, a remake of the 1978 Bachchan hit Don, has plans for a follow-up to that.

Another Bachchan cult classic of the 1980s Satte Pe Satta, the Indian adaptation of Hollywood musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is to be remade, starring Bollywood's original bad-boy Sanjay Dutt.

In recent years, Indian filmmakers have started making movies with contemporary themes, for a youthful, more well-travelled and knowledgeable audience, away from traditional, formulaic themes of stylised romantic love.

Issues like Islamist extremism, the life of call centre workers and rock bands, weakening relationships among city-dwellers and central characters with a disability or illness, have all been tackled.

But while some modern, real-life themes have worked, others have not, pushing movie-makers to return to tried and tested formulae.

A successful year-end would raise spirits in Bollywood, which was hit last year by a producers' boycott of multiplex cinemas, swine flu fears and a string of big budget failures. The economic downturn also affected overseas takings.

Overall revenues fell 14 per cent to 89.3 billion rupees in 2009, consultancy KPMG said in a report for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry released earlier this year.