| Mithun, Koel and Jeet celebrate the film's success at a city hotel. Picture by Aranya Sen
It takes two to tango in Tollywood, in today's times, at least. The box-office jinx kept tripping tinsel town for the past six months till two leading men teamed up to vault it on July 29. Now, with house-full shows and deafening catcalls, the film industry is finally breathing easy.
Riding high on the combined box-office might of Mithun Chakraborty and Jeet, action thriller Juddha has grossed more than Rs 2.5 crore.
Directed by Ravi Kinnagi, with Debasree Roy and Koel Mullick also in the lead, the film recorded an unprecedented initial of Rs 1.2 crore in the first week.
Footfall at the theatres ' Juddha was released at Mitra, Bharati and Prachi in the city ' this August has come as a shot in the arm for an industry reeling under a spate of flops and average scorers from the start of 2005.
In the first week, Juddha ran to 90 per cent occupancy at Mitra, while Prachi and Bharati recorded 100 per cent collections. Such high initials have smashed all previous records in Tollywood, claims Shrikant Mohta of Shree Venkatesh Films, which has produced Juddha with a budget of around Rs 2-crore (including print and publicity). 'All the theatres where the film is running have reported profits. We have had 95 per cent overall collections. We didn't expect anything like this, as it's an action film,' Mohta says.
While a Bengali film is normally released with a maximum of 30 prints, Venkatesh released Juddha with 41 prints across the state. The ticket rates had also been raised by more than 50 per cent, which added to the profits, explains Mohta. The new rates at Bharati, for instance, are Rs 20 for rear and Rs 25 for balcony stalls.
'Juddha is a superhit. We have had house-full night shows over the weekends, which is rare these days,' confirms Mitra owner Dipen Majumdar, adding that it could well turn out to be the top grosser of the past three-four years.
From the Venkatesh stable, Juddha is the second action film to have rolled out after Pratibad, starring Prosenjit and wife Arpita, in 2001. In between, there have been quite a few of this genre under other banners, with Prosenjit or Mithun at the helm.
But Juddha is again one of those inexplicable instances of the box-office performance being just right though the plot is almost all wrong. Supercop Mithun rounds up para rowdy Jeet but discovers the good soul hidden within. And just when friendship begins to bind the two men, a corrupt MLA kills Mihun's wife Debasree to settle a score. Framed for the murder, Mithun turns fugitive, while Jeet slips into cop gear to stop his mentor. And then, the cat-and-mouse chase that Bollywood has long slammed its brakes on.
So, what has Juddha going for it' The Mithun-Jeet combo, a sizzling item number, a fast pace, a slick look' One leading man couldn't agree more. 'The most important factor I think is me and Mithunda coming together for the first time. That apart, Juddha is above the normal Bengali film in terms of stylisation, pace, content, looks and promotion,' sums up Jeet.
'With Jeet and Mithun carrying equal weight, this is the first of its kind multi-starrer in Tollywood. And the audience wants to see who scores over whom,' stresses Mohta.
The racy remix version of the popular folk song Saadher lao, to which Gladrags supermodel contestant Konkona Bakshi shakes her hips in a skimpy outfit, has also done its bit to boost footfall.
'We expect Juddha to run till the Pujas and we will leave a gap before releasing our next, Shubha Drishti,' adds Mohta.
If Juddha is aimed squarely at the masses, Shubha Drishti, a Rajshri-Venkatesh co-production, will spring a step forward to pull in those hooked to parallel films, when it releases in the Kali puja week.