Can Bollywood biggies defy the January jinx...?

By Priyanka Khanna, Indo-Asian News Service

imageNew Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) It is New Year and Bollywood, the biggest movie-making industry in the world, is hoping to deliver a robust box-office report card in January breaking an age-old jinx.

Over the years, the first month of the calendar has always proved to be a
cruel month for the tinsel-town. Films released during this month routinely
die at the box-office and trade watchers display an almost weary resignation
to the fact that the January jinx is stronger than any product the industry
comes up with.

Even January 2005 saw a lull after the storm brought on by end-2004 releases
like "Veer-Zaara", "Mughal-e-Azam" and "Hulchul". It took the combined
prowess of Sanjay Leela Bhansali-Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerjee in
"Black" to perk up spirits in last year's first couple of months.

It was the only silver lining for an industry reeling under the shock of a
mega flop by Subhash Ghai, Hindi filmdom's most successful showman, whose
"Kisna" sank without a whimper.

The dream merchants of Mumbai-based film industry are now hoping to get a good start in 2005. Giving credence to their hopes is the fact that the
last big film of 2005 - "Dosti: Friendship Forever" - has set the cash
registers ringing and more action is slated for the days ahead.

The film based on the age-old Indian box-office friendly formula of male
bonding is doing brisk business in theatres starving for good old
melodramatic masala flavour. The film starring Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol
is archetypal Bollywood fare and has crowds cheering in the states of
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Though the other release of the last week of December 2004 was yet another
box-office failure for Mahesh Manjrekar. His fairy tale movie, "Vaah! Life
Ho Toh Aisi", could not find favour with teenyboppers and saw poor openings.

But the industry is more upbeat about Abhishek Bachchan's "Bluffmaster"
which is still packing in crowds, though it was dismissed by critics. In
addition to the growing popularity of "Bluffmaster", the year-end has
brought Abhishek another good news in for of the complete recovery of his
father and megastar Amitabh Bachchan.

The film is doing brisk business in North America as well and much credit is
also due to its other stars Riteish Deshmukh and Nana Patekar. Much like
Abhishek, the year has ended on a good note for Aishwarya Rai who found
herself among the world's top 10 sexy celebrities, listed by a leading
magazine.

Besides the good run of films released at the fag end of 2004, the new ones
slated for January 2005 are equally exciting. "Shikhar" that released Friday
has all the ingredients of making it.

This is the second film by John Mathew Matthan whose debut - "Sarfarosh" -
was one of the best directorial debuts ever. John has teamed up with Ajay
Devgan, Bipasha Basu, Natasha, Shahid Kapoor, Amrita Rao, John Abraham and
Pakistan-based actor Javed Sheikh in the film.

Though film critics have criticised the director for a loose narrative but
the film has all the prerequisites like great star cast, dance numbers and
topicality to make it a hit in single-screen theatres.

Not much is expected from the other release this week - "Anjaane - The
Unknown" and "Mr Prime Minister". While "Anjaane" with fading star Manisha
Koirala in the lead is a remake of Hollywood flick "The Others", "Mr Prime
Minister" is yet another failed attempt by actor-producer-director Dev
Anand.

-*-

The week ahead has a fistful of interesting and varied small and
middle-budget films on offer.

Pooja Bhatt's "Holiday" with Dino Morea, Kashmira Shah and Gulshan Grover
among others could be a money-spinner that the trade circles are craving for
to set the tone for the year ahead. The film is produced by Fish Eye Network
Pvt Ltd.

"15 Park Avenue" by director Aparna Sen and starring Shabana Azmi, Konkona
Sen Sharma, Waheeda Rehman, Rahul Bose, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Kanwaljeet
Singh and Soumitra Chatterjee is the other film slated for release.

The film's credentials are enough to make it a must-watch for multiplex
cine-goers. It could be the "Page 3" of year 2006.

-*-

Biggies expected in January 2006 itself include "Family - Ties of Blood"
produced by DMS Films Pvt. Ltd., and A B Corp. Directed by one of
Bollywood's most respected filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi the film's cast
includes Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Kader Khan, Gulshan Grover and
Bhumika Chawla.

"Family - Ties Of Blood" is likely to clash head-on at the marquees with
another biggie - "Zinda". Produced by Sanjay Gupta, the film stars Sanjay
Dutt, John Abraham, Celina Jaitley, Mahesh Manjrekar and Lara Dutta.

The most anticipated film this month, however, will be Aamir Khan starrer
"Rang De Basanti". The box-office debacle of Aamir's last film - "Mangal
Pandey" - has had no adverse impact of the versatile actor.

The media frenzy over his recent marriage to long-time partner Kiran Rao is
ample evidence of his popularity.

"Rang De Basanti" made under the banner of UTV Motion Pictures is produced
by Rakesh Mehra and Ronnie Screwvala and directed by Rakesh Mehra.

Aamir is accompanied by a battery of seasoned actors like Waheeda Rehman, Om
Puri, Kirron Kher and Anupam Kher. The film also stars Soha Ali Khan.

The film's music by A.R. Rahman is already catching on. Aamir has once
again taken up the microphone in this film much to the pleasure of his fans.

Indeed, the line-up this January is a good indicator of what 2006 has in
store for movie buffs.

The big-ticket, big-budget, mega-starrers will continue to be made, but they
will be matched by small films made on shoestring budgets. Made with taut
and focused plots, here the story and not the star, is king.