The film: Chander Pahar, based on Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s novel of the same name and directed by Kamaleswar Mukherjee, tells the story of village boy Shankar (Dev), who travels to Africa to take up a station master’s job and jumps into one adventure after another in the wild — from lying next to a black mamba to fighting a bunip (an imaginary wild animal created by Bandopadhyay)!
Budget: Rs 15 crore
Releasing in: 180 theatres in Bengal, including multiplexes.
Last big-budget Bengali film: Mishawr Rawhoshyo (Rs 7 crore), the biggest hit of the year.
Chander Pahar has done what no Bengali film had dared to do: invest Rs 15 crore in a jungle adventure starring Dev minus a heroine, release on the same day as a Bolly biggie and dream of beating the box-office odds.
Producer Shrikant Mohta of Shree Venkatesh Films knows the only way his Chander Pahar can recover money is by breaking a mountain of records. The buzz about the “costliest” Bengali film is huge, but the big question is whether it has enough fuel in the tank to blaze a box-office trail like fellow Friday release Dhoom:3 is expected to do.
“It is not at all easy (recovering the cost). Chander Pahar can recover its cost only if it breaks previous box-office records twice over! But we didn’t make this film with money in mind. We made it with a lot of passion. The hype and buzz that is there for Chander Pahar, I have not seen in my 17 years (in film production). If this translates into box-office returns, we will recover the cost,” Mohta said.
For actor Dev, Chander Pahar is the “most important film of my career” after 16 masala projects. But he isn’t worried about how it does at the box office. “Chander Pahar is beyond hits and flops. Every Bengali should see the film. Honestly, I am not worried about the box-office fate of the film. I know it will work. I am getting positive vibes,” he told Metro on the eve of its release.
If Team Chander Pahar is keeping the faith, a section of industry experts fears there’s little chance of breaking even after investing Rs 15 crore in a Bengali film.
“Rs 15 crore means you require box-office collections of close to Rs 40 crore (to be viable after paying theatres/plexes their share). That is huge. Nowadays, the life of a film is two-three weeks. Even Bolly films don’t do business of Rs 15 crore in Bengal,” said Arijit Dutta of Priya Cinema.
Mohta is banking on a record number of screens to help his film climb the money mountain: 180 theatres in Bengal and another 20 in Mumbai and the US next week.
INOX (South City) has lined up 11 shows for Chander Pahar, the same as Mishawr Rawhoshyo that was produced by Shree Venkatesh Films. But unlike Chander Pahar that will be vying for eyeballs with Dhoom:3, Mishawr Rawhoshyo had no big Bolly competition during its Durga Puja release.
Hanuman.Com producer Namit Bajoria isn’t convinced that a big-bang release will translate into big revenue. “It’s impossible to recover the cost (of a Rs 15-crore Bengali film), but I appreciate what Shree Venkatesh Films has done. Backing such films would result in the Bengali audience coming back to theatres,” said Namit, whose latest release has fetched Rs 2.5 crore in two weeks.
Tolly star Prosenjit, the common factor in Mishawr Rawhoshyo and the just-released Hanuman.Com, feels the fate of Chander Pahar will decide how far Tolly can travel.
“I don’t know if Venkatesh will recover the cost, but even if they can break even they will set an example. Why our films can’t be compared to a Chennai Express or a Dhoom:3 is because of language. Even if Chander Pahar releases in Mumbai, few people will watch it. I will be happy if it breaks even because then we will know that at least there’s a market for a Rs 10-15 crore film,” he said.
INOX may have “nominally” increased the prices of tickets for Chander Pahar along with those for Dhoom:3, but advance bookings have been encouraging.
“Chander Pahar is a very significant film from Tollywood and we are definitely expecting its business to be on a par with that of Mishawr Rawhoshyo. A sizeable number of tickets have been sold in advance, something that normally doesn’t happen with a Bengali film. Given the buzz and the appreciation for the promo, it is poised to open very big,” said Subhasis Ganguli, regional director, INOX.
“Shows are booked till December 25,” a spokesperson for Shree Venkatesh Films added.
Director Kamaleswar, who shot 45 days in South Africa, had said during a t2 chat with Dev recently that he would “have to pack up and run away from Bengal” if Chander Pahar sank at the box office.
“Everything is in the hands of the audience,” he said on the eve of the audience test.