By Priyanka Khanna, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, (IANS) It rained hits like "Rang De Basanti", "Krrish" and "Vivah" in 2006, and the coming year holds as much promise, if not more, with a slew of interesting movies lined up for release.
2006 has been the best year that Bollywood has had in a long time. With more than 20 hits and even non-performers breaking even financially, the Hindi film trade boomed.
But will it be able to meet heightened audience expectations in the year ahead? Will it be able to keep the momentum going?
On the face of it, 2007 has an interesting and varied menu on offer.
Kickstarting the year is celebrated filmmaker Mani Ratnam's "Guru". The film stars Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, who have been the media darlings ever since rumours of their impending marriage surfaced.
The film is also in news because it is apparently based on the life of an Indian tycoon, who is worshiped as well as loathed by many. "Guru" portrays the protagonist as a person who amasses wealth through dubious means.
The media attention surrounding "Guru" is clearly tremendous and the film is likely to set the cash registers ringing from the first month of 2007 itself.
Before the month-end, director Nikhil Advani's "Salaam-E-Ishq", which is a big budget, mega star cast ode to love, will hit the marquees.
The film features six couples and traces their lives. The star cast includes none other than Salman Khan opposite Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor with Juhi Chawla, John Abraham with Vidya Balan, Akshaye Khanna opposite Ayesha Takia, Sohail Khan and Isha Koppikar and last but not the least our own Govinda, romancing foreigner Shannon Esrechowitz.
A clearer picture of 2007 releases will emerge only when we step into the New Year, but a few producers have finalised the release dates of their films.
Some of the other biggies to watch out for include Yash Raj Films' (YRF) "Tara Rum Pum" starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerji and directed by Siddharth Anand of "Salaam Namaste" fame.
YRF, in fact, is planning to release at least six to seven films next year. Besides "Tara Rum Pum", there will be "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom", "Chak De India" and "Chudiyan" (working title).
Madhuri Dixit's comeback movie is also likely to be ready in 2007. News reports say YRF plans to start work on another two movies, also to be released next year.
While "Jhoom..." is a Shaad Ali film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek, Preity Zinta, Bobby Deol and Lara Dutta, "Chak De" will feature Shah Rukh Khan in a never before seen avatar of a coach of girls hockey team. YRF have given the responsibility of the film to Shimnit Amin of the "Ab Tak Chhappan" fame.
Yet another film from that same stable that will keep the newswires buzzing will be Pradeep Sarkar's tentatively "Churiyan". The film reportedly brings together Jaya Bachchan, Abhishek, Rani, Konkona Sen Sharma, Anupam Kher and Kunal Kapoor.
Besides YRF, well-known financer Firoz Nadiadwala will back director Ahmed Khan in "Fool N Final" that stars Sunny Deol, Shahid Kapur, Suniel Shetty, Jackie Shroff, Javed Jaffrey, Paresh Rawal, Om Puri, Rajpal Yadav, Vijay Raaz, Razzak Khan, Viveik Oberoi, Bipasha Basu, Arbaaz Khan, Ayesha, Sameera Reddy and
Vidhu Vinod Chopra will return with another magnum opus "Eklavya - The Royal Guard". The promos of the film have been running in theatre halls for a while now and have everyone excited.
Amitabh essays the title role and is supported by Sanjay Dutt, Jackie, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya, Sharmila Tagore, Boman Irani, Jimmy Shergill and Raima Sen.
Director Anurag Basu will tell a tale about "Life In A Metro" along with actors Shiney Ahuja, Shilpa Shetty, Kay Kay Menon, Sharman Joshi, Konkona, Kangana Ranaut and Irrfan Khan in a film produced by UTV.
UTV is also backing "Hat Trick" by Milan Luthria and will release Mira Nair's "The Namesake". The later promises to be treat for movie connoisseurs.
Another small budget but eagerly awaited film will be director Vishal Bharadwaj's "Blue Umbrella" with Pankaj Kapur and Shreya Sharma in the lead roles. The film's promos are already out and garnering interest.
Politically charged director Anurag Kashyap's "Black Friday" may also finally see the light of the day in the year ahead.
Among the other biggies will be Sanjay Leela Bhansalis's "Saawariya", a launch pad of Rishi Kapoor's son Ranbir and Anil Kapoor's daughter Sonam. Apart from that the celebrated director has roped in Rani and Salman for the film, which is being backed by Sony.
If the lip-lock between Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya in "Dhoom 2" left audience wanting for more, then the film to watch out for will be Ashutosh Gowariker's historical "Akbar Jodha".
Munnabhai aka Sanjay Dutta will return to the silver screen in "Mr. Fraud" next year, which is directed by Abbas and Mustan Burmawall. The film also stars Ajay Devgan, Bipasha Basu, Tanushree Datta, Anuj Sawhney and Satish Shah.
The platter already seems overloaded. And as far as what will work and what will not one only needs to look at the trend this year.
Be it a big budget movie, a multi-starrer, a big banner or a small time production house - almost every good movie managed to mint money in 2006.
In 2007 the hottest contested territory will be overseas and everyone will be in for better quality productions. And last but not the least, anything entertaining will be a winner.