Bollywoods bountiful year

Updated: Nov 20 2005, 06:17am hrs
Its official. 2005 is Bollywoods best year and the year is not over yet. With just a month before it inches to an end, the worlds largest film industry has grossed Rs 350 crore so far (as compared to last years Rs 200 crore). Come December and more films are slated to hit the screen, and the gross figure is expected to look healthier. After a prolonged drought in 2004, when only skin flicks ruled the box-office and created major furore nationwide as moralists objected to the content, its time for happy families in 2005.

Family is the key

Wholesome entertainment for bubblegum crowds and families has changed the way of the film industry while screen-scorching fare has spelt disaster this year. The summer, of course, has been the most glorious with as many as six films topping charts both in India and overseas: Bunty Aur Babli (so far the biggest hit), Parineeta, Kaal, Paheli (also Indias only representative at the Oscars), Sarkar and Kya Kool Hai Hum earnings were close to Rs 180 crore. It wasnt much of a surprise though for producer Yash Chopra whose production company has netted two of the years bigger hits (Bunty Aur Babli and Salaam Namaste). Says he, Audiences are more discerning and know what they want. Vulgar films are out. Movie-going is a family affair and the success of good films is primarily because everyone wants clean films which entertain. Salaam Namaste had a bold theme, but it was still a family film.

Small is beautiful

Size doesnt matter anymore in the Mumbai movie biz. None of the top 10 grossers in Bollywood thrive on big budgets. The smallest film, Page 3 (made on a budget of Rs 3 crore) turned out to be this years first hit, while Ramgopal Varmas Rs 7-crore flick Sarkar went on to earn a tidy profit (Rs 30 crore) for his production house The Factory. The biggest film this year in terms of budget so far has been Vidhu Vinod Chopras Parineeta, once again a surprise summer hit. If lavish sets and big stars were the guarantee to success, then there would have been no flops like Razia Sultan which had a massive budget and was a huge flop. Good scripts and taut storylines are what the audience wants now, feels distributor Sanjay Mehta. Ask Sanjay Leela Bhansali who had to reduce budget and make Black with Rs 22 crore. Bhansalis last film Devdas was made on a budget of Rs 50 crore and ended up with Rs 37 crore plus earning from video and satellite rights.

New directors on the block

Finally there is some fresh blood on the studio floors. Rohit Jugran (James), Soham Shah (Kaal), Mohit Suri (Zeher), Soni Razdan (Nazar), Siddharth Anand (Salaam Namaste), Jijy Philips (My Wifes Murder), Pradeep Sarkar (Parineeta), Shoojit Sarkar (Yahan) to Aaditya Dutt (Aashiq Banaya Apne) were some of the new crop who wielded the microphone with mixed results.

While Philips, a former journalist, earned rave reviews, ace music video director and ad filmmaker Pradeep Sarkars Parineeta was a huge commercial success.

Shah, an assistant director to Karan Johar once, sounds grateful: There was absolute freedom to do the film the way I wanted to do it. And I had a big enough budget to make a good film.

Box-offices big players

Superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan can take it easy. Even when the year has no significant releases from either (unless you discount Khans Paheli and Bachchans Sarkar), its time for the junior Bachchan. After a spate of flops, Abhishek Bachchans star is clearly on the ascendance with three hits in a row (Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar and Dus), followed closely by Salman Khan (unfazed by all the notoriety) with two hits (Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya and No Entry) and Saif Ali Khan (Parineeta and Salaam Namaste). Rani Mukhejee can rest easy, with three hits (Bunty Aur Babli, Black and Paheli), she is miles ahead of her close competitor Preity Zinta.

But Bachchan junior is modest: I dont see myself as a superstar at all. Today I have three hits, tomorrow there could be flops. I think we need to cross our fingers that there are so many hits this year.

Comedies mean big bucks

In a surprise departure from the sleaze fest which kept out families from theatres, light-hearted comedies have warmed their way into the box-office. Sangeet Sivans naughty sex comedy Kya Kool Hain Hum made on Rs 6-crore budget gave soap queen Ekta Kapoor her first film hit in years. Siddharth Anands witty Salaam Namaste once again hit the jackpot. Fun flicks Bunty Aur Babli, No Entry, Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya and Paheli had a smooth landing at the ticket windows and have in turn inspired a huge demand for comedies (up next is Neal-N-Nikki). Comedies in fact have pulled in crowds this year. Bunty Aur Babli, the biggest hit this year, is a comedy and audiences just love to laugh, says Monty Chadha, owner, Wave Cinemas, Noida and Ghaziabad in the National Capital Region.

The Diwali releases (Garam Masala, Kyun Ki and Shaadi No 1) may not have made great collections so far, but there is no reason to lose hope yet. The year has been good for the film industry. And in December you might expect a couple of hits more, so there is plenty to look forward to, feels Komal Nahta, a trade analyst.

While piracy still eats into the movie business and there are bound to be some disappointments, dream merchants, exhibitors and distributors can safely rejoice as long as the boomtime lasts.