| Pierce Brosnan, Sharmila Tagore and Amitabh Bachchan: Hotting up things in the December chill
Two blockbusters from two of Bengal’s biggest directors; two mega Mumbai releases, one with the Big B and the other with the hottest boy on the Bollywood block; a Bond film worth pushing back a date with death for… Has the Friday fight ever been bigger'
After a long lull, suddenly, Tolly-Bolly-Hollywood is crowding Calcutta screens that are struggling to do the juggling act. Friday the 20th finds too many movies — Rituparno Ghosh’s Shubha Mahurat, Sanjay Gupta’s Kaante, Shaad Ali’s Saathiya, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Makdee and the latest Bond, Die Another Day — jostling for too few “quality halls” in town.
Things hot up even more in the December chill with Aparna Sen’s multiple-award winning Mr and Mrs Iyer and Cameron Diaz as The Sweetest Thing making an entry on the last Friday of ’02 and Deepa Mehta’s Hollywood Bollywood and the teenybopper-romance Tujhe Meri Kasam (TMK) booking a berth for the first Friday of ’03.
The last two have borne the brunt of the space jam on the city screen. “The posters for TMK (starring Maharashtra chief minister’s son Ritesh Deshmukh) had to be pulled down. Similarly, Rahul Khanna-Lisa Ray’s Bollywood-Hollywood could not find a theatre in Calcutta till January 3,” said an industry spokesperson.
The crowding is inevitable — Ramazan (considered the wrong time for a new release) is over and the Christmas-New Year party has just begun. So, if Priya will host Shubha Mahurat for matinee and evening, it must accommodate Kaante at noon and night.
And there seems to be no release respite in sight for city distributors or cinema-owners. As Mahendra Soni of Shreevenkatesh Films puts it: “These two weeks are vital because of the variety of releases. But January will see a mad rush for Bollywood films like Dum, Jism, Khushi, Jaal, Dil ka Rishta…, as everyone wants to hit the halls before the cricket World Cup starts on February 9.”
But if Bollywood is hoping for some salvation after the Rs 200-crore-plus debacle this year, Calcutta might not be its happy hunting ground, at least not for the six men in black, led by Amitabh Bachchan, or for Vivek Oberoi romancing Rani Mukherjee. “I would not bet on Kaante or Saathiya. In fact, we have booked Shubha Mahurat for 8-10 weeks in Priya. Alongside, we will bring in Mr & Mrs Iyer from December 27,” says Arijit Dutta, owner, Priya and Globe.
So, the best year for Tollywood in decades — and the worst for Bollywood — could well see the local industry ending it on a high, with Pierce Brosnan as 007, at Lighthouse and Roxy, the one ‘outsider’ looking capable of holding his own against Sharmila Tagore-Raakhee-Nandita Das and Konkona Sen Sharma-Rahul Bose.
Who bags box-office honours is a great gamble. But the ultimate winner of the release race is clearly the Calcutta hall-hopper.