By Jivraj Burman
Mumbai, Jan 11 (IANS) As in any given year, 2008 will see a mixed bag from Bollywood. But the roster of films due for release indicates that action and romance will replace comedy, the hit theme of last year.
Distributors, who are the major stakeholders, are keeping their fingers crossed.
Vinay Choksey of V.I.P Exhibitors, which released last year's hits "Dhamaal" and "Namstey London" in the Mumbai territory, summed up the mood of the trade circles when he said that if the industry could carry over last year's trend, "we would be more than happy".
"Business-wise, last year was not bad for us. We had some major hits, which brought cheer to the industry. Whether we will be able to carry over the cheer, nobody can say for sure. It depends entirely on the mood of the audience who are the best judges," Choksey told IANS.
"One cannot say that if comedies did well one year, action films would take over next. Audiences are open to all genres of films. Only those should appeal to them," he said.
The year's first major release "Halla Bol", which is based on politics, has a fair amount of action. Both director Rajkumar Santoshi and the film's lead star, Ajay Devgan, are known to thrive on action films.
"I have gone all the way to send my message across through this film and this is that social change is not possible unless everybody puts in their bit to bring in the change instead of expecting others to do so. Yes, movie has some action scenes to carry it forward to its logical conclusion," said Santoshi.
Also being released this Friday is the Mithun Chakraborty starrer "My Name is Anthony Gonsalves".
Akshay Kumar, who scored with comedy last year, will don his old action garb in Percept Picture Company's "8X10". The movie, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, is essentially a suspense thriller.
Kukunoor's other movie for Percept Picture Company is also due for release this year. "Aashayein" has John Abraham playing a gambler who is on the verge of death.
A major movie that is eliciting a mixed response in trade circles is UTV Motion Pictures' "Jodhaa-Akbar", due for a Feb 15 release. This Rs.400 million period movie, directed and co-produced by Ashutosh Gowarikar, is based on the romance between Emperor Akbar and Rajput princess Jodhabai and has Hrithik Roshan and Aishwariya Rai playing the protagonists.
The questions being asked is if the audience will accept a period drama in today's times and whether they will accept Hrithik playing a historical character.
But otherwise "Jodhaa-Akbar" is expected to be a sheer spectacle to watch.
UTV also has "Dilli 6" due for release after "Jodhaa-Akbar". Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the movie has Abhishek Bachchan teaming up with Sonam Kapoor for the first time.
Sanjay Gupta's long-delayed "Alibaug", starring Sanjay Dutt and Diya Mirza, will finally be released this year. Sanjay Dutt plays the role of a professor in the movie.
The year will see Amitabh Bachchan featuring in a fantasy movie in Sujoy Ghosh's "Alladin". A modern version of the Arabian Night's tale, the movie also has Sanjay Dutt and Riteish Deshmukh.
Amitabh and Shah Rukh Khan will be seen sharing screen space again in Ravi Chopra's "Bhootnath". The Big B plays a ghost in the movie. Chopra's another film, "Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai", is also scheduled for release this year.
After Sony Pictures, Warner Bros will try to consolidate its presence in India with its co-production venture with producer Ramesh Sippy in "Chandni Chowk to China", an action-adventure film, starring Akshay and directed by Nikhil Advani.
The year will see another fantasy film releasing in Goldie Behl's "Drona" in which Abhishek plays a superhero opposite Priyanka Chopra.
After "Taare Zameen Par", another Amir Khaan starrer to look forward to this year is "Ghajni", a thriller, produced by Allu Arvind and directed by A.R. Murugadoss.
Others major movies lined up for release in 2008 include Rakesh Roshan's "Krazzy 4", director Satish Kaushik's "Karzzzz", Rumi Jaffrey's "God Tussi Great Ho".
Suniel Shetty's co-productions with Balaji Telefilms, "E.M.I" and "Mission Istanbul", Madhur Bhandarkar's "Fashion", Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision's "Golmaal Returns" and "Kidnap", Aziz Mirza's "Kismet Konnection", Harry Baweja's "Love Story 2050", Abbas-Mastan's "Race", Yash Raj Films' animation movie "Roadside Romeo", a co-production with Walt Disney Pictures, and "Tashan", Anil Kapoor's "Shortcut", Akshay-Katrina Kaif starrer action-comedy "Singh is King" and Subhash Ghai's "Yuvraaj".
On an average, Rs.200 million has gone into producing each of these films. How much the market will fetch? Distributors have refused to do any guesswork. Obviously.
"Each producer may say his is the best film of the lot. We know how much each venture is worth. But no distributor can say how much revenue a film may generate at the box-office. There is no foolproof way for value evaluation. But at all times, we hope for the best," said a spokesman of Studio 18.