Big bets for Bollywood this Diwali

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Sep 28 2011, 09:28am hrs
Bollywood is getting ready to unveil its busiest, and hopefully its most fruitful, season at the box office starting October with a double dose of Shah Rukh Khan and films of Ranbir Kapoor, Akshay Kumar and John Abraham. With at least R300-400 crore riding on films like Ra.One, Rockstar, Desi Boyz, The Dirty Picture, Agent Vinod and Don 2, producers are putting their best foot forward on marketing and promotions.

Kamal Jain, CFO, Eros International Media, says Shah Rukh Khans Ra.One will get the biggest and widest possible release, with the sci-fi superhero film releasing in over 3,000 screens across the world, including 400-500 3D screens (Bodyguard released in 2,600 screens). It will be dubbed in Tamil and Telugu as well. Eros, which produced the film together with Red Chillies Entertainment, is leaving no stone unturned to ensure Ra.One rakes in the maximum at the opening Diwali weekend.

With Diwali on October 26, we will get a five-day weekend. We are also going to release the film in new territories like Germany and Taiwan, to name just two, Jain adds. SRK is very popular in Germanya large part of Don 2 was shot there and he has been a regular at Berlinale. Besides, the film will have a cameo by southern superstar Rajnikanth, whose Enthiran (Robot) last year earned over R250 crore at the box office. Made at a budget of about R130 crore, it was supposed to be the most expensive film made in India, till the buzz around Ra.One having a bigger budget. Ask Jain whether the studio isnt taking a risk with Ra.One because Indian audiences havent been too kind to homemade science fiction (think Drona) and he says most of the costs of Ra.One has been recovered by selling satellite, music, overseas and digital rights. All this while we have been talking about how our films are not monetised properly. Ra.One will change all that, because we are monetising the film across all streams from satellite to merchandise, points out Jain. For the first time, an Indian film has tied up with McDonalds for merchandise, with SRK Ra.One miniatures being dished out with a Happy Meal.

Traditionally, October is a very busy month for Bollywood, with big banner films releasing, but this year it gets much bigger than last year, when around 20-25 films were released, says Pritie Jadhav, COO, P9 Integrated. Films releasing in October include David Dhawans comedy Rascals starring Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt; UTVs My Friend Pinto, a Sanjay Leela Bhansali Productions film; Yash Rajs youth brand Y Films Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge and Hema Malinis Tell me O Khuda, Esha Deols comeback film.

After Ra.One on October 26, the next big-ticket release will be Ranbir Kapoors Rockstar on November 11, directed by Imtiaz Ali of Jab We Met fame. Produced by Eros and Ashtavinayak, which had also produced Jab We Met, if Rockstar fares well at the box office, it will boost Ashtavinayaks financial state, which hasnt looked good ever since the R10-crore Blue flopped in 2009, though Dabangg, one of last years biggest hits, came out of the Ashtavinayak stable.

Says Ashesh Jani, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, Apart from Bollywood, the distributors of Hollywood films also see this as the season to plan releases of global blockbusters. The event of releases is hyped by aggressive marketing and promotion of films by way of banners and digital, among others. The December holiday season will see the release of installment four of top Hollywood franchise Mission Impossible starring Tom Cruise, which will clash with Guy Ritchies Sherlock Holmes sequel starring Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law. December will also see the release of Steven Spielbergs much awaited film on Tintins adventures.

Despite the fact that Shah Rukh himself has two films in close successionDon 2 releases on December 23and a crowded movie release schedule, insiders say that wont deter moviegoers. The response to the Don 2 teaser has been phenomenal and has a lot of curiosity value, say analysts. Audiences have flocked to see their favourite stars in various productions, even if there are back-to-back releases of the same star, as each film in India is unique in its approach and appeal and also in the success or failure that it endures, points out Jani.

The year may not have seen a blockbuster as yet for Bollywood, but several films have grossed over R50-100 crore at the box office, including Eros and Excel Entertainments Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Reliance Entertainments Singham and Bodyguard and Delhi Belly. Earlier, the industry used to celebrate R5 crore at the box office. Now films are making R50 crore, besides satellite, music and overseas rights, says an insider. So, the industry is hoping SRKs two films click, as also Ranbir Kapoors Rockstar and Akshay Kumars Desi Boyz. The years biggest hits so far, though critics rubbished them, have been delivered by Salman Khan (Ready, Bodyguard). Now all eyes are on SRK. Will he be able to light up the box office, twice in three months