Bollywood movie, beyond box office

Bollywood movie, beyond box office

DDLJ: 14 years and still going strong

Bollywood movie, beyond box office

It is truly incredible, and defies logic or reason. Yet another Sunday morning after the Muslim festival of Id and there was a massive crowd outside the popular cinema theatre Maratha Mandir, near the Mumbai Central railway terminus in South Central Mumbai on November 19.

For Amol and Aparna, a young couple was really thrilled to finally be able to watch the popular Hindi movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Ley Jayenge (DDLJ), starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in lead roles.

Both of them thought that the single-screen hall, with a capacity to seat 1107 viewers, would be almost empty and they would be able to laugh and enjoy this classic without any disturbance. To their disbelief and shock, there was a house full board!!!  The couple was forced to buy tickets in black -- at one and a half times the regular price. The theatre management has priced the balcony tickets at Rs 25, dress circle Rs 22 and stalls at Rs 20 for DDLJ.

Tickets sold in black

After Amol paid Rs 30 per ticket for balcony seats both of them enjoyed watching the movie. The balcony was packed with young boys and girls who  cheered and whistled during the movie along with other  viewers,  whether it was the legendary train scene or the unexpected delivery of that old classic song Oh meri johara jabi by the late  Amrish Puri, who played the role of Kajol's stubborn yet highly respected and commanding father.

On October 20, 2009, DDLJ completed 14 years of screening at the Maratha Mandir, breaking many records and aiming for a new world record. Earlier the cinema hall had ran thespian Dilip Kumar's film Mughal-E-Azam for over six years.

The film itself is a typical Bollywood one where a boy meets girl, sparks fly, love blossoms, parents disapprove but finally true love triumphs. In Aditya Chopra's hands that very predictable plot transformed into the magical DDLJ, with Shah Rukh and Kajol in the lead, a crackling script and the rolling hills of Switzerland competing with the green mustard fields of rural Punjab, made DDLJ a box office hit.

What really worked for the film was that for the first time, two NRI youngsters who fall in love decide not to rebel -- but to get married only with their parental blessings. And audiences lapped up that mix of traditionalism and modernism given to them by the debutant 23-year-old director -- that's just what they would like their children to be, well educated but 'Indian' to the core.

Parental consent

"It touched a chord in Indians the world over. It prompted them to go back to their country, traditions and roots. DDLJ was the first romance where the boy takes the girl away only with the parental consent. The whole process of winning over the girl's family was unique," Yash Chopra was quoted as saying about the film's success.

The film launched Aditya Chopra, who constructed his own studio on the outskirts of Mumbai, and also gave Shah Rukh the platform to leap into big time showbiz, from a struggling actor with his unconventional looks to a one man show, becoming the King Khan. DDLJ bagged all the popular awards of the year including a national award for the best film -- for popular and wholesome entertainment. And it kept bringing the audiences to Maratha Mandir, again and again.

The cinema hall is run by a trust. The theatre's manager Pravin Rane told Deccan Herald that the film completed 14 years recently but "we still get at least 60 to 70 per cent occupancy on weekdays and a houseful board on weekend and bank holidays. During Id, DDLJ was running house-full for three consecutive days.  It is perhaps because the area has a large Muslim population. Whoever claims that it is not doing well can come and check our cinema hall."

"Nowadays, the matinee show at 11.30 am attracts very few movie-goers. The DDLJ continues to attract viewers and we are earning revenues. It is a no loss no profit venture for us. If we screen another movie, we may suffer a loss," he argued. For instance, he said the DDLJ sold 211 tickets last Thursday on December 10 for the matinee show, but the first show of De Dana Dan starring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif sold 203 tickets, which was less than DDLJ. "Why should we discontinue when it is still enjoys 60-70 percent booking?" said Rane.

One of the main reasons that DDLJ still gets an audience is the ticket pricing. Yashraj, the makers of the film, pay the rental. Ramesh Sippy's Sholay ran at Minerva theatre for more than five years. Sholay was the first film to celebrate silver jubilee at over 100 theatres. But the DDLJ broke even that record since its release on October 20, 1995, and the crowds are still coming in, notwithstanding the many DVDs and VCDs floating around.

The DDLJ may have broken the record that Sholay established by running continuously for five years at the Minerva theatre, but it still has some time to go before it enters the Guinness Book of World Records, which is now  held by a Chinese film running continuously for  20 years.