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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poor showing

The last two weeks have been rather dull for the box office. The two most eagerly awaited films, Woh Lamhe and Zindaggi Rocks, failed to stir up any excitement. Frankly, going by the lukewarm response to these films, it’s clear that apart from the media not many people had a lot of expectations of them.

Mahesh Bhatt’s Woh Lamhe became the centre of media attention only because it dealt with his personal relationship with Parveen Babi, one of the sexiest actresses of her times. Bhatt, very calculatingly, released the tapes of his conversations with Babi to the press in a bid to hype his film. But the reams of newsprint used and the hours of television footage consumed in giving the details about his affair did not translate into box-office collections, except, perhaps, in a couple of cities. Had the same story unfolded on television as a scoop, it would perhaps have attracted many more eyeballs. But a film based on a few pages from his personal life did not make for a successful box-office formula.

It’s true that the Bhatt brothers, Mahesh and Mukesh, did not lose money on this film, but their distributors aren’t happy this time.

Just a week later, Mahesh Bhatt protégé Tanuja Chandra’s film met with a worse fate. Numerology didn’t help first-time producer Anurradha Prasad (BAG Films’ promoter) who, besides adding the extra ‘r’ to her name, also put an additional ‘g’ in the film’s title, Zindaggi Rocks. Nor did the extra ‘a’ and ‘’ in his name add zing to Aannu Malik’s music. Zindaggi Rocks, like Woh Lamhe, was too depressing. And that’s not something the Indian audience likes.

One doesn’t quite know whether the heavy losses of Zindaggi Rocks have made its producers and distributors emotional or depressed. Maybe both. But someone who is definitely depresssed is the hero of the two films, Shiney Ahuja. With his two back-to-back releases showing no shine or sparkle at the box office, his plan to hike his price to Rs 95 lakh will have to wait.

The two mythological films released last week did not unveil any miracles either. Percept Picture Company’s Jai Santoshi Maa, which is about the famous solah shukrawar fasts, couldn’t muster more than a thin crowd on the first shukrawar. Percept lost every penny of its Rs 2 crore investment in Hindu mythology. The response to the animated Krishna was slightly better. Ironically, two Muslim directors — Ahmed Siddiqui and Aman Khan — directed Jai Santoshi Maa and Krishna, respectively.

Shatrughan Sinha’s Mera Dil Leke Dekkho did not fare well either and Mirza Bros’ Jaana barely had a day’s respectable run at the theatres. Debutant director Sandeep Hanchate’s Gafla may have talked about the Rs 400 crore stock market scam, but it didn’t even manage to make Rs 4,000 per show. Sumeet Sehgal’s Bhoot Uncle was yet another non-starter.

Waiting for Don

All eyes are now on Shah Rukh Khan’s Don and Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar’s Jaan-e-Mann. Both films are scheduled to be released in the Diwali/Eid week. Convinced that Don would have a bumper opening, its producers have decided to release more than 300 prints of the action thriller in the overseas market alone. Shah Rukh Khan and the crew of Don saw the film’s trial show on October 9. They seemed very happy but SRK wanted a tiny scene edited out. Comparisons with Amitabh Bachchan’s Don would be natural, but SRK said: “Our Don is definitely not as good as the original. And I am surely not as good as Amitabh Bachchan.”

Speaking of Amitabh Bachchan, Ramgopal Varma has a tough task on his hands. Having cast the Big B as Gabbar Singh in his remake of Sholay, he will find it very difficult to match his heroes with the super villain. After all, Ramgopal Varma Ke Sholay is a story of good over evil, not vice versa. When the evil character is so strong, one wonders how the filmmaker will show the triumph of good over bad. But we won’t know if he has pulled it off until May 2007.

Komal Nahta is editor of Film Information

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