Action movies return to Bollywood boulevard

By Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Move over comic capers. With Abbas-Mustan's "Race" hitting the marquee, adrenaline-pumping action flicks with jaw-dropping stunts are back at the Indian box-office and the film industry is betting big on it.

It is not just the gentlemen who are rolling up their sleeves and taking the plunge from skyscrapers but the ladies too are following suit.

Whether it is home grown Mumbai-based studio producers or their Hollywood counterparts trying to find a foothold in India, action thrillers are the latest fad. And for the mobile gaming industry, Bollywood's re-awakened interest in the genre is godsend.

"Race", this year's first true-blue action thriller that released Friday, got off to a flying start with collections soaring in multiplexes. The archetypical Abbas-Mustan movie was a welcome change for an audience that has been thirsting for adrenaline rush.

Starring Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Anil Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif and Sameera Reddy, the movie is an action thriller and murder mystery.

"Race" has heroes jumping from air balloons, well-toned female actors running besides cars that are going up in flames and state-of-the-art pyrotechnics by action director Allan Amin.

The grapevine is that Saif went up to the height of 200 feet in an air balloon and did bungee jumping for a scene in the film. The ladies in the film also had their piece of action.

Soon Saif will be seen in another action-packed film - "Tashan" - that is equally high on style.

"Action is an intricate genre now. It is meant for the audience who appreciate 'Die Hard 4' and enjoy the Bond flicks. Though Indian films are yet to match the international budgets, we had to start from somewhere," said Anubhav Sinha, who was the man behind last year's action thriller "Cash".

For long Bollywood did not have the concept of genre films. Most films were family dramas with other elements like romance, action, comedy, etc, thrown in. Genres like sci-fi, horror, mystery, war, espionage did not exist in Bollywood. As a result we have not had too many nail-biting suspense flicks, or thrillers that truly thrill.

A sea change has happened with audiences willing to see genre films and not the something-for-everyone omnibus films that Bollywood generally makes. And action is one genre that is fast catching on.

Even actors who started off as action heroes and later deviated into comedy and family dramas are coming back for more plain and simple action. One such example is industry's original action hero - Akshay Kumar - who after a string of comedies will be seen in hardcore action-packed thrillers.

The actor, who started his career as a Karate teacher, plays a Hollywood stuntman in Sajid Nadiadwala's "Kambakth Ishq" which is being shot in Universal Studios. It is the first Indian film to be shot within Universal Studios.

Apart from that, Akshay will be seen in Nikhil Advani's action flick "Chandni Chowk to China" that is funded by a Hollywood studio. It remains to be seen whether these will be a concoction of all of Bollywood favourite elements or belong to action genre alone.

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Not to be left behind, the ladies are taking to action like never before. Aishwarya Rai showed off her sword-wielding skills in a Hollywood film, "The Last Legion", and in "Jodhaa Akbar". Now, it is the turn of other Bollywood belles to call the shots.

Bipasha Basu, Esha Deol, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Tanushree Dutta and Koena Mitra are all rearing to fight it out.

After Priyanka stood her ground against Shah Rukh Khan in "Don", she will be seen in a daredevil act in upcoming "Love Story: 2050" as well as "Drona" in which she plays Abhishek Bachchan's bodyguard.

Not to be left behind, Kareena too will be seen as a butt-kicking babe in soon-to-be-released "Tashan".

Director duo Abbas-Mustan is planning a heroine-based action film to be directed by Rohit Jugraj. There's a growing market for action-packed roles for ladies now and the audience has become more open and encouraging to such varied roles for girls.

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Shilpa Shetty has gone many steps further and announced her foray into production with a big budget action-comedy. The winner of last year's Britain reality TV show - "Celebrity Big Brother" - is investing her riches in a two-heroine project.

While Shilpa will be playing one part, she is in the process of signing on another big Bollywood heroine for the other. The film will be produced under Shilpa's production house S2 Global Productions with some top-of-the-line international technicians as part of her crew.

This may just turn out to be the desi version of "Charlie's Angels".

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