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Bollywood churns action flicks

Action films as a genre can't be Bollywood's staple fare to the masses, despite the success of Qayamat, says Saibal Chatterjee.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 31, 2003 06:26 PM IST

Is the action movie genre all set to bring Bollywood's ongoing tryst with thematic experiments and unusual subjects to an end? The answer would perhaps be an emphatic yes if one were to look at the mega box-office success achieved by Harry Baweja's slick flick about biological weapons and female anatomy lessons, Qayamat.

The response would, however, be a resounding no if Jaal-The Trap, released after languishing in the cans for many months, and Padam Kumar's Supari, which sank without a trace at the box office a few weeks back, were taken into account. The writing is on the wall: unlike in the past, an action film can no longer take the masses for granted. 

Action films have always had a following in the interiors of India. That is why trade analysts are stopping short of dismissing Jaal - The Trap, starring Sunny Deol and Tabu, as a complete washout. But it is pretty clear that urban audiences have rejected the film outright.  

On the other hand, Qayamat, featuring Ajay Devgan, has made rapid strides in urban pockets owing to its contemporary, if somewhat incendiary, storyline, which revolves around a one heroic man's war on weapons of mass destruction.

Weapons of mass destruction in a Hindi action flick? Well, Qayamat  actually marks the urbanisation of the action movie genre in a manner that The Hero, which dealt with Pakistan's supposed attempts to build a nuclear device, did not. Both the films wave the flag of patriotism with great enthusiasm; the difference between Qayamat  and The Hero lies in the packaging.    

While the resurgence of the action film may have come as a huge fillip for the likes of Harry Baweja, Anil Sharma and Guddu Dhanoa, it spells bad news for many others. Prakash Jha, for one, is unhappy with the fact that some distributors still look for big action sequences in a film before they deciding to pick it up. "I had a tough time with Gangaajal," says Jha. For many distributors, a film that does not have action sequences from beginning to end isn't a commercially viable product, he adds.

But seen in the context of the films that have done well so far this year - Jism, Bhoot, Chalte Chalte and Jhankaar Beats - and of the strong opening that Prawaal Raman's experimental thriller Darna Mana Hai has managed, it would be reasonable to suggest that Qayamat  is, at best, only a flash in the pan.

If anything, what the Harry Baweja film has proved is that action alone isn't enough to propel a film along at the box office, it needs oodles of oomph as well, besides a competent level of packaging of the various narrative elements.

The line-up of upcoming films, too, contains no suggestion that action films are back in vogue big time. Besides Prakash Jha's Gangaajal, which explores the roots of violence inherent in India's social dynamics, among the big films ready for release are Rakesh Roshan's Koi Mil Gaya, a love story and sci-fi drama rolled into one, and two comedies, Priyadarshan's Hungama  and Milan Luthria's Chori Chori.

Qayamat  may have got away but it isn't quite action season in Bollywood yet.

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