Stakes high for Bollywood film trade

By Priyanka Khanna, Indo-Asian News ServiceimageNew Delhi, (IANS) Cinema lovers are in for a good time with the film industries across India banking on a raft of star-studded releases in the festive season ahead to set cash registers ringing.

Riding on an investment of nearly Rs.1 billion, the stakes are high for the Mumbai-studio based Hindi filmdom or Bollywood, especially after the recent successes at the box office.

Superstars Shah Rukh Khan with “Don – The Chase Begins” and Salman Khan with “Jaan-E-maan” will clash at the turnstiles on Oct 20, just before the Hindu festival of Diwali and the Muslim festival of Eid, which are celebrated with much fervour across the country.

They will soon be joined at the marquees by former Miss World and highest paid female actor Aishwarya Rai in the avatar of a courtesan in “Umrao Jaan”. The total investment in these three films alone is a whooping Rs.850 million.

In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, eight Tamil films are vying for release in the wake of the festival of lights. These include Ajith’s “Varalaru”, Sarath Kumar’s 100th film “Thalaimagan” and Silambarasan’s “Vallavan”.

Ditto for movies in Bengali, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati and Bhojpuri, including “Ganga” that stars Amitabh Bachchan.

Traditionally, the festive season is considered an auspicious time for new beginnings and filmmakers go to great lengths to ensure their movies release during this season.

Armed with festival bonuses and with a lot of time to spare given the holidays, people flock to cinema halls during this period, trade observers say.

While the reining king of Indian box office, Shah Rukh, will be seen as a bad boy in “Don”, the very popular Salman Khan, who is labelled by many as a bad boy in real life, will be seen in a romantic role in “Jaan-E-Mann”.

Shah Rukh will be flanked by beauties like Kareeena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ishaa Koppikar and Sushma Reddy and aided by Om Puri, Boman Irani, Arjun Rampal and Chunky Pandey. The film by Farhan Akhtar is based on the successful erstwhile classic of the same name, which featured the legendary Amitabh Bachchan.

The contemporary and stylishly crafted “Don”, features Bollywood czar SRK playing a double role. The film synopsis seems notoriously similar to Hollywood hit “Face-Off” starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, but one will have to wait a while for the chase to begin.

The Ritesh Sidhwani-production is the third venture for Farhan who had made a mark with his distinctly unique debut “Dil Chahta Hai” and later with “Lakshya”.

Salman on the other hand is being directed by newcomer Shirish Kunder in “Jaan-E-Maan”. This has been a good year for debuts and Shirish has had a good start by way of getting Salman, Akshay Kumar and Preity Zinta to star in his film.

Essaying a role of a wannabe rock-star, Salman seems to have a tailor-made role. His previous film with Akshay was a super hit and much is expected from this one as well. Curiously, Salman’s popularity has risen whenever he has faced upheaval in his personal life.

The film’s performance will show whether his ongoing court battle over charges that he hunted endangered wildlife has found him more fans or lost him some.

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In time to cash in on the festive mood, Aishwarya Rai along with Abhishek Bachchan will light up the silver screen in the month ahead. Much like Shah Rukh who is trying to do an Amitabh, she will be seen in “Umrao Jaan”, an adaptation by J.P. Dutta of a novel by Mirza Hadi Ruswa.

In 1981, multi-faceted Muzaffar Ali had made “Umrao Jaan” based on the same novel. Starring the enigmatic Rekha in the title role, the film still lives on in the consciousness of Indian viewers.

Aishwarya probably has a bigger task in hand than Shah Rukh as the new “Don” is propped up with gizmos and an all-new script. Aishwarya on the other hand needs to not only breath the same character set in the same time and space but also has to surpass Rekha’s performance.

For the many courtesan stories that have been made, Rekha as “Umrao Jaan” has remained unsurpassed. Even Meena Kumari in “Pakeezah” and Vyjayantimala in “Devdas” are remembered more for conveying the tragedy of their respective characters more effectively than for casting a spell on all those watching.

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Rekha will give Aishwarya a tough competition as the original courtesan of Bollywood will be seen again in the same role she immortalised in soon-to-be-released “Yatra”.

The female actor who turned 51 this week is the only woman her age who is still cast in sensual roles by Bollywood filmmakers who usually write off actresses who marry.

Rekha will be playing the role of Lajavanti, a courtesan in the film by Goutam Ghosh. The film also stars method actor Nana Patekar who is a novelist in the film. Nakul Vaid, Deepti Naval and Raima Sen are the other cast-members in the film.

News reports say “Yatra” will be screened at BFI 50th London Film Festival to be held between Oct 18 and Nov 2. It will also be screened at the National Film Theatre on Oct 26 and Tricycle Cinema on Oct 28, reports say.

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