By Joginder Tuteja, Bollywood Hungama News Network
2007 was a great year for Bollywood as it saw maximum blockbusters and super hits coming together in a shot span of time, especially towards the latter part of the year. Om Shanti Om and Welcome were the biggest money-spinners and Taare Zameen Par is still counting 'moolah' after being a big winner at the Box Office. Amongst the actors, Akshay Kumar had Heyy Babyy, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, and Namastey London as three more biggies in his kitty while Shahrukh Khan had all the right reasons to celebrate with Chak De India.
Films like Partner, Guru, Jab We Met, Shoot Out At Lokhandwala, Life In A Metro, Dhamaal, Ta Ra Rum Pum, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd, Traffic Signal and last but not the least Bheja Fry kept the investors happy as well and it seemed that Bollywood had finally woken up to being much more consistent and prolific in ascertaining the way box office behaves. Factors like intelligent market placements, PR strategy, and identification of target audience, focused promotion and the entire gamut of bringing in audience for an all important first weekend were hailed for a renewed box office behavior.
Unfortunately, 2008 is telling an altogether different story with a pale of gloom shadowing the current state of affairs. First month of the year is through and Bollywood is yet to see a bonafide Box Office success. Even after four notable film releases, Halla Bol, My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves, Bombay To Bangkok and Sunday, there are not many signs of a positive movement when it comes to Box Office fortunes.
While My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves and Bombay To Bangkok have been out rightly rejected and have turned out to be massive failures with a mere two week run, Halla Bol is a flop too. The only silver lining for this Rajkumar Santoshi and Ajay Devgan collaboration is good reviews. Also, the audience feedback from numerous quarters has brought certain respectability to the state of affairs. However, even though the film did give it a fight to stay on at the theaters, distributors and exhibitors couldn't sustain the film for long.
On the other hand Sunday has its hopes strongly lying on the word of the mouth. Taking a rather disheartening opening, the film is going all out to make for a safe passage before Jodhaa Akbar strikes on 15th February. Though the comedy portions of this film starring Ajay Devgan, Arshad Warsi, Irrfan Khan and Ayesha Takia have been loved, it is the lukewarm climax, a la 36 China Town which has come in for some scrutiny.
However director Rohit Shetty is positive as he says, Sunday is one of those safe films. The film wasn't meant to be a blockbuster; still I am sure that the 'masala' element will pull it through past the safety park as audience feedback has been good. As the first week has come to an end, Rohit's eyes would be set on an all crucial second week now.
With extremely low inflow of movies during next few weeks, all eyes are now set on Jodhaa Akbar (15th February) and Race (21st March), which are the only two notable films slated for release before first quarter of 2008 comes to an end. Mithya, Superstar and Black & White are the other films in the pipeline too but none of them are expected to be heavy contributors towards making the Bollywood balance sheet turn green soon.
Now compare this situation with 2007 when around a dozen notable films released between January and March. Films like Guru, Salaam-E- Ishq, Parzania, Traffic Signal, Black Friday, Eklavya - The Royal Guard, Water, Hat Trick, Just Married, Namastey London and The Namesake came in quick succession and though the success ratio was low here as well, at least there were some hits at the least.
Nevertheless, an overall lukewarm January has succeeded in ringing the alarm bells already. There are whispers in the industry circles if the bubble has already burst and whether Bollywood would be able to revive itself from the initial setback. Madhur Bhandarkar is optimistic though as he says, Jodhaa Akbar is big and it would be too quick to dismiss 2008 based on a few early setbacks.
Vishal Dadlani agrees as he says positively, “The least Jodhaa Akbar would do is take a solid initial. Come on man, we are talking about Ashutosh Gowarikar, Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai here. I am sure cash registers would start ringing again." Pritam who has composed the music of Race is putting his bets on this Abbas Mustan film. He says, "I have read the script, it is mind blowing. If the director duo has managed to put even 50% of what is written on paper, we have a winner in hands."
Sure, we will see. Let the 'race' begin!