Is Bollywood's dry run over?

Jun 8, 2008 Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) Even as the entire Hindi film industry has gone into its ritualistic self-congratulatory mode at the much-hyped International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards gala, back home the six-month box-office report is not too rosy but all signs suggest things can only get better from here on.

There is no denying that the entire entertainment industry caught a cold on account of the popularity of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament and the movies were certainly not immune. Even films that were strong on content and shouldered by reliable stars suffered while the games were on.

As it is, Bollywood spends only a meagre fraction of its budget on promotion when compared with its more all-pervasive cousin - Hollywood. In addition, no extra efforts were undertaken to counter the blitz unleashed by IPL which ultimately overshadowed all else.

The industry's troubles began at the start of the year itself. The first big release - "Halla Bol" - was made with all sincerity but it did not have the desired effect at the box-office and was at best an average performer. For its star, Ajay Devgan, the second disappointment came in the form of audience rejection of his "Sunday".

Ashutosh Gowariker's Mughal Era extravaganza, "Jodhaa Akbar", that told a compelling love story of well-etched and strong characters, came as a saviour and proved to be a hit. The film had many parallels with last year's Mani Ratnam's "Guru". The film about the rise of India's most successful industrialist had, similarly, kicked off 2007 and was both critically applauded and rewarded at the turnstiles.

There were no big releases after "Jodhaa Akbar" on account of the examination season across the country during which audience turnout is traditionally very low. But what kept the cash registers ticking was in fact small budget film - "Mithya" - by Rajat Kapoor. Though the film belonged to the so-called "different cinema" genre, it was a success because the people who saw it once were compelled to come back again to unravel its many layers.

At the same time, an equally sincerely made film - "Black & White" - could not grab viewers' interest and sank without a trace. A major upset was the failure of the much-publicized "Krazzy 4" that had none other than Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan propping it.

The Rakesh Roshan film was out-rightly rejected by viewers in spite of best efforts by its makers. No stone was left unturned to generate hype around the film with Shah Rukh, Hrithik and Rakhi Sawant putting in their bit. Alas, nothing worked and even the controversial music track failed to get viewers' hooked.

Distributors would have gone into the red had Abbas-Mustan not returned to form and deliver a hit in the form of stylishly made sleek thriller - "Race" starring Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Bipasha Basu and Katrina Kaif. They concocted a heady mix of cool guys, hot babes, flashy cars and roughed horses and the hit music was the perfect icing.

After "Race" and a very public romance with Kareena Kapoor, all eyes were on "Tashan" that had Saif Ali paired with Kareena and also with Akshay Kumar, the reigning king of the box-office. Most unexpectedly the film sank at the box-office. Its debacle was also immediately followed by the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer "Bhoothnath" biting the dust.

Analysts say "Bhoothnath" had all the ingredients to be a hit but was the biggest casualty of the IPL fever while smaller endeavours like "Hope and a Little Sugar" and "Jimmy" had no fighting chance.

Halfway through the year, with "Jannat" starring Emran Hashmi turning out to be a hit it is largely believed that it will only be uphill for Bollywood from here on. Going by the above average opening of Ram Gopal Varma's much-awaited sequel "Sarkar Raj" the exceptionally rave reviews for small-budget film "Aamir", it seems that the turnaround time has come.

Movie lovers can look forward to upcoming biggies like "Love Story 2050" introducing Harman Baweja, "Jaane Tu... Ya Janne Na" starring newcomer Imraan Khan, Akshay Kumar's "Singh is Kinng", "Bachna Ae Haseenon" with Ranbir Kapoor, and finally the two Khans - Aamir and Shah Rukh - in "Ghajini" and "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi", respectively. Clearly, the good times have just begun.

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