Bollywood is counting its blessings
Halfway into the year, and Bollywood is counting its blessings. The summer of 2005 has seen audiences heading for the movies in the kind of numbers that pleases the hearts of the trade. “Bunty Aur Babli is the big summer movie,” says Bijan Bose, Assistant Manager - Programming, PVR. “It had a slow start, but began doing very well after the first weekend, and now, four weeks after its release, is still packing them in.”
The Yashraj release, made at well over Rs 20 crore, has done exactly what its producer Aditya Chopra and director Shaad Ali must have hoped for… become the perfect antidote for holiday boredom, and an attraction for children. As the industry knows, once you’ve got the kids, you’ve got it made, because children seldom come unescorted. They bring siblings, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and the numbers keep swelling.
The other film, which also appears to be picking up after a slow start, is the Rs 25-crore Parineeta. Poles apart from the kitschy, contemporary appeal of Bunty Aur Babli, Pradeep Sarkar’s period film is doing well in its second week. “To be very honest, it wasn’t doing well in parts of the cities where there is no gentry audience,” says Girish Johar, UTV’s business manager, North India. “So we’re focused on multiplexes, and those single screens which bring in the right crowd. In all the key cities in the North, as well as Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai, Parineeta is rocking.”
Industry watchers say both Bunty Aur Babli and Parineeta score high on entertainment quotient, despite being very different movies. The first doesn’t have any pretensions. It is a movie that invites you to park your brains outside, and enjoy the show put up by its ultra-colourful cast, which engages in the silliest antics. Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherji, styled by Mumbai designers in what they consider to be small-town UP fashions, hit the road thieving and cheating, and evading a wizened old cop played by Amitabh Bachchan, and the film ends on a happy note.
A happy end is what Parineeta offers too. The film re-defines what adaptations of classics can do in the guise of making things palatable for today’s generation, and doesn’t want to be bothered about the niceties of exactly what the 1960s were like, the period when this latest Parineeta is set (Saratchandra Chattopadhyaya’s novel was set in the 1930s).
It looks as if people are happy as long as they get a facsimile version - havelis, puja dances (both Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt wear red-bordered dhotis, and twirl about), and sights of the Howrah Bridge. What they also get is dollops of fun - Rekha swaying sensuously in a nightclub, new girl Vidya Balan smiling winsomely, charming music, and passionate love-making.
The success of these two movies (Parineeta may not be able to catch up with the might of a Bunty Aur Babli, which reportedly has done business worth Pound Sterling 500,000 among the NRI-heavy pockets of the UK, but it is as much a prestige movie) has set a couple of new benchmarks. One, that a film need not star Shah Rukh Khan to break the box office. Bunty Aur Babli has the upcoming Abhishek, who fits the part of the mildly rebellious youth fleeing a life of drudgery better than King Khan, simply because Abhishek looks younger and is still raw around the edges, whereas Shah Rukh has settled into more mature roles now. Second, stars help, but packaging helps even more.
Both films have been ‘packaged’ very carefully with the right elements at regular intervals. Bunty Aur Babli has songs which do nothing to move the narrative along, but who is going to argue with a Rani Mukherji in an electric blue ensemble lighting up the screen, or an Aishwarya-Amitabh-Abhishek doing the jhatkas in a mujra where Bachchan Sr effortlessly steals the show? The ageless Rekha may not look like Usha Uthup, the crooner who was the inspiration for her song, but no one is going to argue about the box-office prospects of the rousing Moulin Rouge-ish ditty. It may have been ripped off from a Louis Armstrong original, but no one seems to know or care. It is a feel-good song in a feel-good movie.
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