KANK gets lukewarm response in Nepal

Aug 14, 2006 Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, Aug 14 (IANS) Hoping to make a big kill with Bollywood director Karan Johar's new star-studded release "Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna" (Never Say Goodbye), Nepal's distributors now fear it's farewell to profits.

Coinciding with the India release of the film starring Amitabh Bachchan, his son Abhishek and the reigning Bollywood numero uno Shah Rukh Khan along with Preity Zinta and Rani Mukherji, Nepal's theatres also began screening it from Friday.

Besides Kathmandu, other key cities like Pokhara, Birgunj, Biratnagar and Janakpur, are also showing Johar's much-hyped film about NRIs and extra-marital affairs.

However, less than a week into the shows, distributors of the film are alarmed by the flagging interest among Nepali viewers.

"We paid Johar's Dharma Productions a record amount for the Nepal distribution rights of the film," says Bharat Dhungana, managing director of Vision Quest Private Ltd.

Vision owns two of Kathmandu's best theatres - Jai Nepal and Kumari - with both running four daily shows of "Kabhi Alvida...". However, the thinning crowds have made Kumari decide to resume screening "Omkara" from Monday.

Dhungana says while the high-end cinemas may still do decent business, in the cities outside Kathmandu and in theatres frequented by the middle and lower middle class viewers, business is lacklustre.

"In some of the halls where the film is doing badly, we may have to switch to other films after a couple of days," he says.

The lukewarm response comes as a big surprise to the distributors after the stupendous success of Hrithik Roshan's "Krrish" that played to packed theatres for over a month. So great was the spell cast by Hrithik's version of the Indian Superman that the granddaughter of King Gyanendra, seven-year-old Princess Purnika, abandoned her grandfather on his birthday last month to watch the film at a cinema with her class mates as part of a school trip.

Johar's earlier creation, "Kal Ho Na Ho", also shown in Jai Nepal, had done good business while Rani Mukherji and Amitabh-starrer "Black", again shown exclusively in Jai Nepal, had seen record turnover.

Dhungana attributes the dismal audience response to the plot.

"We are a conservative society," he says. "People do not care for such ultra-modern stuff. Maybe viewers from the high-end segment of society appreciate the story but the theatres where the masses go are not doing well."

Dhungana is keeping his fingers crossed for the small distributors.

"We may break even," he says, "but the small distributors may suffer a bad loss."

Perhaps the timing is also to blame. Though it falls during the long weekend in India, including a national holiday on Aug 15 because of Indian Independence Day, in Nepal, this is the time of a cultural extravaganza, Gai Jatra. Several auditoriums are running traditional Gai Jatra programmes - a mix of the burlesque, satire and slapstick comedy and audience loyalty is divided.

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