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It's raining releases

Why the year that began with a whimper is about to end with a bang...

One month. Five Fridays. Fourteen big releases. And a slew of lesser ones... In what is being billed as the big year-end Bollywood blast, hordes of stars are descending on the big screen every week this December.

After all, it's not every month that you have a double bill of Amitabh Bachchan, when the man himself is confined to a hospital bed.

Add to that, twin December treats from Bipasha Basu, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar, Nana Patekar, Shahid Kapur, Emraan Hashmi and Amrita Rao, and single appearances from Vivek Oberoi and Abhishek Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra.

But why this sudden flurry in the last month of the year when only six Bollywood films released in December 2004 and almost all bombed'

Multiplexes in town are unanimous in their reasoning: 'The producers cannot delay their releases because if they come any later they won't get the requisite number of screens.'

Pratim D. Gupta traces a slice of the silver lining on the silver screen, as you plot your month's programme at the plexes.

Arrived on December 2

Apaharan. Director: Prakash Jha. Starring: Ajay Devgan, Nana Patekar, Bipasha Basu. Plot: Set against the backdrop of the thriving abduction industry in Bihar, the hard-hitting film is a look at ideologies gone wrong in the face of violence. USP: 'It's something socially bad, but creatively good,' says Jha.

We predict: ***

Home Delivery. Director: Sujoy Ghosh. Starring: Vivek Oberoi, Mahima Choudhary, Ayesha Takia, Boman Irani. Plot: How a man's life changes in just 24 hours when he orders for a pizza. USP: 'When one goes through life, he or she meets a lot of people and chooses whether or not to learn something from those people,' says Sujoy.

We predict: ***

Mr Ya Miss. Director: Antara Mali, Sachit Puranik. Starring: Antara Mali, Aftab Shivdasani, Riteish. Plot: It ain't that easy to be a woman. That's the funda God wants to teach a Casanova and so sends a dead womaniser back on earth as a woman. USP: 'It's a fantasy set in reality. We are not preaching here, it's just a comedy,' says Antara.

We predict: *

Coming on December 9

Ek Ajnabee. Director: Apoorva Lakhia. Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Perizaad Zorabian. Plot: A retired commando gets a new lease of life when he becomes the bodyguard of a young girl. USP: 'It's a stylish action film with a whole lot of emotions and, of course, Mr Bachchan,' says Lakhia.

We predict: **** (and some!)

Kalyug. Director: Mohit Suri. Starring: Kunal Khemu, Emraan Hashmi, Deepal Shaw. Plot: A look at the rampant pornography industry and how it traps innocent souls. USP: 'It's a disturbing film that explores ways to handle the bizarre pervasive world of porn,' says Mahesh Bhatt, the ideator.

We predict: **

Neal 'N' Nikki. Director: Arjun Sablok. Starring: Uday Chopra, Tanishaa. Plot: Set in Canada, a city girl helps out a country boy in grabbing 21 girls in his remaining 21 days of bachelorhood. USP: 'The film is anything but what conventional hero-heroines do in movies. It's not nice, it's naughty,' says Sablok.

We predict: **

Coming on December 16

Bluffmaster. Director: Rohan Sippy. Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Riteish, Priyanka Chopra. Plot: An expert conman is put to test when he has to teach an amateur the tricks of the bluffing business. USP: 'The film is contemporary yet has all the massy elements of an Indian movie,' says Riteish.

We predict: ***

Shikhar. Director: John Matthew Matthan. Starring: Ajay Devgan, Shahid Kapur, Bipasha Basu. Plot: A take-off on Oliver Stone's Wall Street, it's about how an innocent young man is led into the murky world of money by a business tycoon. USP: 'It is about glamour, ambition and wealth, yet it's a family social,' says Matthan.

We predict: ***

Coming on December 23

Dosti ' Friends Forever. Director: Suneel Darshan. Starring: Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Kareena Kapoor, Lara Dutta. Plot: Two men, as different as they get, become the closest of friends only to be separated by society. USP: 'Akshay has put in a remarkable performance; it should easily be his best ever,' says Darshan.

We predict: *

Family ' Ties Of Blood. Director: Raj Kumar Santoshi. Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Aryaman. Plot: How an ordinary man takes on the mafia to avenge the death of his elder brother. USP: 'The gangster is one of the most challenging roles Amitji has ever played,' says Santoshi.

We predict: **** (and some!)

Holiday. Director: Pooja Bhatt. Starring: Dino Morea, Onjolee Nair, Kashmira Shah. Plot: Desi version of Dirty Dancing, the film explores how a girl's life changes on a vacation to Goa. USP: 'It's the classic story of an ugly duckling becoming a swan. But the transformation is not cosmetic,' says Pooja.

We predict: **

Coming on December 30

Jawani Diwani. Director: Manish Gupta. Starring: Emraan Hashmi, Celina Jaitley, Hrishita Bhatt. Plot: A fun love triangle set in the scenic city of Mauritius. USP: 'It's a romantic comedy shot beautifully,' says Emraan.

We predict: *

Mr Prime Minister. Director: Dev Anand. Starring: Dev Anand, Tara Sharma, Boman Irani. Plot: Set against the backdrop of the Gujarat earthquake, the film looks at the impact of natural disaster on politics. USP: 'What the film tries to say is that politics is not anybody's game,' says Devsaab.

We predict: (no star in sight)

Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi. Director: Mahesh Manjrekar. Starring: Shahid Kapur, Amrita Rao, Sanjay Dutt. Plot: Yamraj is on earth to get hold of some souls. USP: 'It's a fantasy comedy film with a whole lot of special effects,' says Manjrekar.

We predict: **

also, this month...

15, Park Avenue. Director: Aparna Sen. Starring: Konkona Sen Sharma, Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rehman, Soumitra Chatterjee. Plot: A schizophrenic woman’s world, her failed love and her relationship with an older half-sister. USP: “It’s about people who have been marginalised in society,” says Sen.

King Kong. Director: Peter Jackson. Starring: Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black. Plot: A remake of the 1933 classic, the new version is a character-driven psychological study of a monster and, of course, a love story. USP: “It’s a film which I’ve loved ever since I was a child. It really inspired me to want to become a film-maker,” says Peter Jackson.

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