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Brand SRK’s Diwali double role

Shah Rukh Khan the star has struck pay dirt as Shah Rukh Khan the brand ambassador of Bengal, a privilege that comes with the perk of Mamata Banerjee’s film festival as a platform to promote his latest and Yash Chopra’s last.

Amitabh Bachchan’s may be the towering presence at the opening of the 18th Calcutta International Film Festival on Saturday but the bigger buzz on Friday was about SRK the showman taking the Netaji Indoor Stadium stage with his Jab Tak Hai Jaan ladies Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma.

The official invitation says Amitabh “has kindly consented” to inaugurate the event and brand ambassador Shah Rukh “has kindly agreed” to be the guest of honour.

What the card, which also mentions Mamata will “preside over the ceremony”, doesn’t say is that Shah Rukh’s JTHJ will be as much a part of the first-day-first-show as the inaugural film, A Separation.

Although there is no confirmation yet that SRK’s co-stars Kat and Anushka Sharma will come along, a member of the festival committee said “everyone visiting with Shah Rukh are welcome”.

Shah Rukh with his leading ladies is scheduled to hold a news conference in a star hotel earlier in the day.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan has of course got off to a cracker of a start even before the Diwali bang-bang with Ajay Devgn’s Son of Sardaar.

The plexes have reported good advance bookings for the Yash Chopra-directed romance, the only surprise being that Son of Sardaar has garnered 13 shows to JTHJ’s 14 at a plex like Fame (South City).

Advance bookings for the first day of the Shah Rukh-Katrina-Anushka saga at Fame (South City) is around 25 per cent. The trend is the same in the INOX properties. “JTHJ has got off to a bigger start and the advance bookings are encouraging in all our properties,” said Subhasis Ganguli, regional director of INOX.

In contrast, no distributor in Bengal was willing to buy Son of Sardaar. Rose Valley Distributors picked up the film only on Thursday and advance bookings opened on Friday afternoon. Till late on Friday, SOS hadn’t gathered steam.

“We have sold only about five per cent of the tickets in advance, though we are confident the numbers will rise during the weekend,” a Fame official said.

Fame (South City) has reported higher ticket sales for its pre-noon shows on the first two days, while INOX City Centre’s first-day-first-show at 8.50am was sold out by Friday morning.

SRK and Co are doing well even in the single-screen theatres. At Menoka, all shows from Diwali morning till Thursday were sold out by Friday. “We don’t have a single ticket left for the first three days. Ek Tha Tiger had a similar start but JTHJ has sold out faster,” said Pranab Roy of Menoka.

Jalan Distributors, which is screening Yash Chopra’s swansong in 100 theatres across Bengal, couldn’t be happier. “Advances are very strong and even bigger than Ra.One, which was a Diwali release last year. JTHJ is a plex film but what is encouraging is that even single-screens are sold out for three days,” said Pritam Jalan of Jalan Distributors.

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh sees SOS making a comeback despite the slow opening. “SOS has enough steam to stay the course. This weekend will be crucial in determining the trend of advances,” he told Metro.

As in most spheres, Bengal is a laggard when it comes to contributing to the business of Bolly blockbusters. Mumbai accounts for 40 per cent and the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh zones 25 per cent of the money that a big film makes. Bengal contributes barely 5 to 6 per cent.

The only exception was Ek Tha Tiger with the state contributing approximately 13 per cent of the revenues Salman Khan’s box-office juggernaut raked in.

That Salman makes a special appearance in Son of Sardaar to help friend Devgn hold his own against SRK isn’t a coincidence. But SRK — with AB for company on the festival dais — can be expected to quip Deewar-like that if Devgn has Salman, he has Didi.

Will you follow the film festival opening for Amitabh, Shah Rukh or Mamata? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com