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Hard sell for soft film
celebrity circus

With Abhinav Bindra’s feat at the Olympics, the Singh Is Kinng chant just got louder. After the UPA victory in Parliament, the Olympic win set off another lucky round of free publicity for Akshay Kumar’s latest film.

Singh Is Kinng had the luck of four people at work — writer-director Anees Bazmee came with the cash-rich No Entry and Welcome behind him; producer Vipul Shah brought with him the success of Waqt and Namastey London and leading lady Katrina Kaif rode in on a golden streak — she had Partner, Namastey London, Apne, Welcome and Race twinkling behind her. Singh Is Kinng just had to mint money, it was led in by not one but four workhorses!

And yet the truth is, Singh Is Kinng is, commercially speaking, the gang’s weakest film in recent times.

Figures being whispered are that only Akshay (who reportedly took home about Rs 20 crore, 12 as his fee and 8 as one-third partner in the production), Vipul and Adlabs (the other two partners) made a table profit. It is said that Studio 18, who are rumoured to have bought Singh Is King for approximately Rs 80 crore, will make barely Rs 2 to 3 crore from it. And the distributors to whom the film was sold by Studio 18 are going to tote up a loss of about Rs 8 crore. So, it is the last man in the chain, the individual distributor who is going to bear the brunt of the not-so-successful Singh Is Kinng.

However, don’t be surprised if you are hit by a publicity blitz from the actor and his partners claiming that Singh Is Kinng is making bagsful of money. It is all a part of the machinery that is out to push up Akshay Kumar’s market value. Just yesterday, the unbelievable figure of Rs 72 crore for one film was unofficially put out after the actor reportedly inked a deal with UTV.

The amusing part of this money game is that Katrina Kaif is not the bone of contention between Akshay Kumar and Salman — the guys are fighting over pure lucre. “They are the two actors who are obsessed with one-upmanship to prove who gets the fattest fee. They are the culprits who’re pushing up star prices by putting out unrealistically inflated figures as their market price,” acknowledged a director who has worked with both heroes.

In their quest to establish their marketability, films that have not really made money are being celebrated so that the gullible media (especially TV channels) projects it as a huge money-earner. Last week, Akshay Kumar even flew down from Goa where he was holidaying with wife and son, for a quick dinner at Taj Land’s End to ‘celebrate’ the success of Singh Is King. “No, not Goa, he was holidaying in Monte Carlo,” said an acolyte in a bid to make the actor’s stardom look larger-than-life.

To prove just how superhuman Akshay has become, there is also a little tale going around that to get his visa stamped for an outdoor shoot, his producers have to stand in queue because they can’t get hold of his passport —he’s so busy travelling.

Whether it’s Goa, Monte Carlo or Juhu, it is a fact that Akshay has put in overtime hours to bombard the public with Singh Is Kinng, a strategy that Shah Rukh Khan tried with overwhelming success during Om Shanti Om. Akki took a leaf out of SRK’s book by aggressively promoting his film and bringing in the audience at least for the opening weekend. When he was parked in LA for Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kambakht Ishq, Akki gave a spate of interviews over the phone to the media here. He even flew down to Toronto for a quick press conference, using the private jet that was at his disposal.

“Oh no, don’t let Sunny Deol hear about Akshay’s private jet,” groaned a producer. Even though Akshay and Sunny are not in the same league, the Deol continues to demand the starriest treatment available. Right now, Sunny is shooting a film in Goa but the Merc he rides in has to be sourced only from a particular cab company in Delhi. So, wherever Sunny shoots, the Merc has to be driven down from Delhi and the fat bill for it has to be coughed up by the producer.

Why are producers debasing themselves and indulging their heroes to such a ridiculous extent? It’s the age-old wail of plenty of money available and too many films being made, but only a handful of known actors to work in them. Give us a dozen new faces, please.

Bharathi S.Pradhan is managing editor Movie Mag International

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