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CHUPKE CRORES FOR CHORI CHORI 

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FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA   |   Mumbai   |   Published 06.03.01, 12:00 AM

Mumbai, March 6 :    Mumbai, March 6:  Chori Chori Chupke Chupke may have landed Bharat Shah in jail, but certainly not in penury. As the Bollywood financier cools his heels in a dark, dank prison cell awaiting trial on charges of links with the underworld, his film - or rather the film he claims to have financed - has turned out to be a sellout. The blockbuster, starring Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, scheduled for release on Friday, has netted over Rs 16 crore, with all 325 prints sold out, 90 of them overseas. This is against the production cost of an estimated Rs 13 crore. Bollywood watchers expect the film, riding on a wave of controversy, not just to live up to the high expectation of its producer Nazim Rizvi - also in jail - but to his mentor, gangster Chhota Shakeel, a Dawood Ibrahim confidant, who, police said, was the real financier. The D Company will not benefit from the court-supervised release because the entire proceeds will go to the state treasury. But Shah will, though for a different reason. In a curious turn of events, Shah's company, VIP Movies, bought a few days ago the right of the film's distribution to the financial capital and a few other areas that traditionally generate much revenue for Bollywood. Mumbai alone gives distributors 20 per cent of the country's entire revenue. Santosh Singh Jain, a Bollywood distributor, appointed by the court to sell the film to distributo-rs in the country and abroad, said he sold Shah's company the film's distribution right for Mumbai, Gujarat and parts of Karnataka. 'Bharatbhai's company paid me Rs 2 crore, the amount I had asked for. So, I sold it to him. What's wrong with that? No other buyer had come up with a better offer,' Jain told The Telegraph. Jain said he did not have 'legal problems' because the court did 'not bar me from selling the film to any company or individual'. He said Shah, a diamond merchant, had the 'world rights' of the film. 'He would have distributed it in India and abroad had he not been arrested.' Jain said the film has generated 'a lot of interest' because of the controversy. 'All 325 prints are gone.' In Mumbai alone, the biggest market for Hindi movies, 50 prints were sold, followed by 48 in Delhi. Jain, who is designated as the court receiver, said he had so far collected Rs 12 crore from the sale of the film. Before his arrest, Shah had collected another Rs 4 crore as advance to sell the film to distributors, which he handed over to the court trying him and Rizvi under the harsh Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. Jain said the proceeds would be deposited in the state treasury pending the outcome of the case. 'But those buying the film from us for distribution have nothing to do with the case and can function independently.'    


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