The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mid-year review: B for Bachchan & box-office hit

Mumbai, July 3: When they visited the Siddhivinayak Temple at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, the Bachchans must have thanked the city’s most revered deity a good number of times.

Viewers may be tired of watching back-to-back promos of Amitabh Bachchan flicks, but at the half-yearly review, Bollywood is riding the success of half-a-dozen movies, almost all of them featuring Amitabh and a couple, his son.

Bunty Aur Babli ' a light-hearted caper on the small-town-in-the-grip-of-globalisation phenomenon, featuring Amitabh, Abhishek and Rani Mukherjee ' looks set to be a runaway winner. The film, released on May 27, has already grossed over Rs 36 crore in the domestic market, more than Rs 8 crore overseas, and has been awarded the box office certificate of “superhit”.

Close to Bunty Aur Babli is the Sanjay Leela Bhansali masterpiece Black. Many viewers mistook its location ' a north Indian hill station ' to be somewhere in a foreign land and kept wondering why Rani walked like that till Bhansali enlightened us, saying it was his tribute to Charlie Chaplin. Yet, the film has grossed over Rs 30 crore in the Indian market.

The third spot, too, is occupied by an Amitabh-starrer, Waqt. It featured Akhsay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra as well and made more than Rs 23 crore in India.

That does not exhaust the list of box-office blessings for Bachchan. The latest Shahrukh Khan-Rani Mukherjee starrer, Paheli, also has Amitabh, if only in one scene, and it opened to “enthusiastic response” last week, says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

“In its opening weekend, Paheli grossed approximately Rs 2.25 crore in the Mumbai circuit alone,” says Adarsh. According to him, the movie has opened to an overwhelming response in the US, too. It grossed approximately Rs 4.25 crore in its first three days in America and Britain, “which is fantastic”, Adarsh says.

But the Bachchan wave shows no sign of ebbing.

On Friday, Sarkar, the Ram Gopal Varma movie whose godfather figure, played by Bachchan, has striking similarities with Bal Thackeray on the one hand and the Mario Puzo creation on the other, opened to 100 per cent collections in Mumbai. The jury is out on the film but the initial feedback is positive on father and son.

Does that mean the audience will be subjected to more of Amitabh (who is also to appear soon on the small screen with KBC Part II)' For the minority who are not Bachchan addicts, there is some hope. There were three other winners this year.

The Vidhu Vinod Chopra production, Parineeta, is on its way to doing very well. Bollywoodisation of Bengali literature, especially Saratchandra, works.

The film may not be too similar to the Saratchandra Chattopadhyay original, with the heroine wearing halter necks (ok, it is the sixties, but still). Yet, only in its third week, it has crossed Rs 13 crore in India. Overseas, it has grossed over Rs 4 crore.

The low-budget Page Three by Madhur Bhandarkar, too, did well. But apart from Bunty Aur Babli, only one more film technically earned the “superhit” tag based on the profit margin: Ekta Kapoor’s Kyaa Kool Hai Hum, a comedy featuring her brother Tusshar Kapoor. It has made over Rs 15 crore in India.

The way to success for Hindi films now seems to be innovation. Another major factor is the multiplex boom, which has contributed to the appeal of Parineeta and Paheli.

But how many of these films have made it without songs and dances' In how many did the women smoke freely' In how many did they have short hair' How many showed interior India, or the big city, as it really is' Or even a deaf-and-blind girl'

Long live the formula. And the Bachchans.

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