Watching films a couple of days before it is officially out in the public domain, is one of the privileges that members of the fourth estate enjoy. And without tickets too! So it was with great enthusiasm that yours truly caught both Chennai Express (CE) and Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara (OUATIMD) at one of these screenings and though both were poles apart, I enjoyed them both.
However, scribes were not the only ones to enjoy the out-of-turn screenings. This Eid and Independence day, Bollywood extended this privilege to the masses as well, albeit for a premium price. In the film industry where films are guarded as zealously as national secrets till the Friday dekko, paid previews are increasingly becoming the norm especially for big, tent-pole projects by the studios. Quite like the special shows, press previews and so on organised by producers, paid previews are held a little earlier than the Friday releases and the tickets, therefore come at a steep price. And to sweeten the pot further, plexes even rope in stars to make a short appearance before the audience. So, if you were wondering about SRK being present at malls and plexes across cities all through the weekend, it was to ensure that his film netted high numbers. And it did.
Chennai Express was a laugh riot (expected from Rohit Shetty who has made quite a name for himself with family laughathons) for most part with glimpses of the famed SRK humour, a significant part of it directed at himself. And, predictably got off to a good start. Deepika Padukone, the leading lady of the film was in great form too, carrying off the role with much aplomb! Enough has been said about merits of the film, but what the stats associated with CE (Rs.150 crore plus revenues) suggest is that in the movie business, SRK, humour and paid previews seldom go out of fashion!
As for the gangster flick Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbaai Dobaara Akshay Kumar, as Shoaib was impressive, and Imran endearing. The film reportedly takes quite a leap of imagination and shows Shoaib, the ganglord (a carry over from the first part loosely based on Dawood) in a romantic misadventure. As for its box-office collectionsthey have done reasonable business with over Rs.51 crore, but are still a long way from the Rs.100 crore cut-off yet.
Interestingly, both films opened on holidays, a day prior to the Friday release and much to everyones delight, Chennai Express had chugged to the safe Rs.100 crore mark even before the week was up.
It is no secret that an SRK film, especially a home production, spells a promotional carpet bombing of sorts with the film or the actors present across mediums be it television, print, radio or ground events. But other stars have been following the promotional blitzkrieg formula too, with varying degrees of success.
Ghajini and 3 Idiots, both box-office record setting films too opted for paid previews and several innovative promotional events strategised by Aamir Khan himself and the results were spectacular.
As it turns out, in the increasingly competitive scenario where reaching the multi-crore finish line within a short span is a films most significant virtue, the combo deal of paid previews, aggressive star promotions and a hike in ticket prices is turning out to be the best bet for film-makers.
After all, as the saying goes, time is money!