Spoilt for choice

Spoilt for choice

Diwali bonanza

Diwali this year is set to be a one-horse race for Shah Rukh Khan after a gap of four years. His home production Ra.One is releasing on October 26 with a five-day opening weekend. A superhero film, replete with special effects and being released (limited prints) in 3-D, Ra.One also stars Kareena Kapoor, adding to its brand value. Pitted against it is Hema Malini’s Tell Me O Kkhuda and Himesh Reshammiya’s comedy, Damadamm — his fifth film as an actor — on October 27. The composer-singer, after his acting debut in Aap Kaa Surroor in 2007, has reeled under three flops and this film is crucial to his acting career.

Himesh, however, is super-confident that his film is the proverbial David opposite the Goliath and has stated, “The fact that I am releasing my film with Ra.One shows my confidence in the project.” He has even compared the film’s director, Swapna Waghmare-Joshi, to Anurag Basu and Imtiaz Ali. Interestingly, Anubhav Sinha, director of Ra.One, comes from a music video background while Joshi has directed a number of television shows.

If Ra.One is a hit, people who do not get tickets for the movie during the festive season might choose other options. Secondly, if Ra.One proves to be a dud for any reason during the first or second weekend, and Damadamm and Tell Me O Kkhuda are even average films, they might just earn a decent profit at the box-office as compared to Ra.One. The third reason, as mentioned by a trade analyst not enamoured by Himesh, the actor, is that “Himesh will have a ready excuse if his film flops. He will just say that his film bombed because it released against two bigger movies. Because the third film, Tell Me O Kkhuda, the relaunch of Esha Deol, will clearly have an edge over Damadamm.”

Veteran trade analyst Vinod Mirani adds bluntly, “Viewers don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to film releases this Diwali. Shah Rukh is going overboard in promoting Ra.One. He is clearly selling it as a children’s film rather than a SRK biggie. That can go against it.

Also, he is propping it up with Rajanikanth’s cameo and Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover.

Chhammak chhallo is weak as an item song and has no film-boosting power like Munni or Sheela.” But as another trade analyst, N P Yadav, points out, “What needs to be noted is that even if films starring Salman, Shah Rukh or Aamir are flops at the box-office, they make much more money than a small-budget film that has been declared a hit. Therefore, it is the budget and the return of investment that decides the film’s status at the box-office.”

An interesting point is that Ra.One is releasing exactly 10 years after SRK’s home production and debacle Asoka The Great (October 26, 2001), also starring Kareena Kapoor. Cynics will have a thing or two to say about that, but all we can do is wait and watch Ra.One’s fate at the box-office.

Winds of change

An exception like Asoka (a pre-Diwali release actually) proves that the festival of lights has always proved lucky for King Khan. The pre-Diwali Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) actually began the phenomenon of ‘Diwali hits’ that was consolidated by Aamir Khan’s Raja Hindustani (1996) and the SRK-fest of Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Mohabbatein (2000), Veer-Zaara (2004), Don (2006) and Om Shanti Om (2007).

Interestingly, 1999, 2002 and 2003 were years when no Diwali releases worked, and Hum Saath Saath Hain tasted moderate success.

Salman Khan, who has given three back-to-back 100-crore-plus smash-hits with Dabangg, Ready and Bodyguard, has been singularly unlucky in Diwali after his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai cameo, Hum Saath Saath Hain, Kyon Ki... (2005), Jaan-E-Mann (2006), Saawariya (2007/cameo) and Main Aur Mrs Khanna (2009) were flops. With Wanted (2009) and Dabangg (2010), Salman discovered a ‘lucky period’ in eid. Ironically, eid is usually considered a dull phase for movies. With Bodyguard (2011) too doing exceedingly well, Salman’s first film with Yash Raj Films, Ek Tha Tiger, will now release during eid in 2012.

Aamir Khan too was overwhelmed by his hat-trick streak of Taare Zameen Par (2008), Ghajini (2009) and 3 Idiots (2009). He did try to release Dhoom:3 in Christmas 2012, but the film will now release in early 2013.

The Ajay Devgn-Rohit Shetty combination also scored a Diwali hat-trick with Golmaal Returns (2008), All The Best (2009) and Golmaal 3 (2010). Comedies, which as a genre are doing extremely well today, have always had an edge over serious films during the festive season. The only rider is that the films have to be well-made. As trade analyst Amod Mehra warns, “Releasing a film during Diwali does not mean that it will surely be a hit.”

Over the years, it has been proved that a good film’s business can be boosted but a bad film can be a bigger disaster than anticipated. Akshay Kumar had a hit in Garam Masala (2005) in Diwali, as against disasters like Jaan-E-Mann (2006), Blue (2009) and Action Replayy (2010). Main Aur Mrs Khanna holds the dubious record of starring the biggest names in the business and yet getting the lowest opening ever in Diwali. However, Mirani states, “There is always room for two good films, at least on Diwali. After the craze for the bigger film ebbs, another good film can score.” Way back in 2004,  Aitraaz, the colorised version of Mughal-E-Azam and Veer-Zaara, all did well. The only flop was the badly-made Naach.

With Ra.One facing a five-day opening and the other films — Tell Me O Khuda and Damadamm — getting four days in the all-vital first week, things, business-wise, seem promising. Hopefully, content wise, the films deliver. Fingers crossed.

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