Dec 20, 2008

Entertainment - Bollywood's year of 'wreckoning'

Mumbai, Dec 20 (IANS) Big banners flopped, the global meltdown spelt a cash crunch, the Mumbai terror attack kept audiences away for a while and even the small-budget wonders weren't that wonderful. Bollywood, a part of India's Rs.513 billion ($10.8 billion) entertainment and media industry, tried very hard to rock on in 2008 but had very little to cheer about.

About 125 films hit the screens this year, but except for 'Race', 'Jannat' and 'Rock On', most movies bombed, especially the big-budget, mega starrer ones.

That's not surprising. The ratio of success and failure in Bollywood has for the past many years been 5/6:100 - that is, of 100 movies released in a given year only five or six manage to hit the jackpot.

The year began with the lavish period film 'Jodhaa-Akbar', which had big stars like Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. Though it accounted for the major business in the first quarter of this year, the Rs.450-million movie was a costly production and it took a long time for UTV to recover the cost.

But Abbas-Mustan's thriller 'Race' and Kunal Deshmukh's film about match fixing, 'Jannat', were declared genuine hits.

Later in the year, director Farhan Akhtar's acting debut, 'Rock On', broke the dry spell. The film not only redefined the parameters of mainstream Hindi cinema, it also brought some respite to the box office - but only in metros.

Much of the year saw the industry suffer a crippling blow with big films like 'Sarkar 2', 'Drona', 'Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic', 'Tashan', 'Krazzy 4' and 'Love Story 2050' falling flat at the box office.

Apart from flops, the industry was hit by the global meltdown and skyrocketing star prices.

Notwithstanding recession that led to cost-cutting becoming the buzzword of the world's biggest film factory, stars continued to charge hefty fees for a movie. Shah Rukh Khan, for instance, charged Rs.150 million plus percentage of profits, while Saif Ali Khan demanded Rs.200 million.

Imran Khan, who was the discovery of the year after 'Jaane Tu....Ya Jaane Na', confessed he was being paid an 'obscene' amount of money to appear at private functions. His second film 'Kidnap' tanked. But there was no rethink on star prices, not even when one of the biggest hits of the year 'Singh Is Kinng' failed to rake in the moolah for distributors and exhibitors.

Distributors said the film was so overpriced on the table that no amount of profits could bring back the investments.

By the end of the year, when 26/11 had served a numbing blow to the entertainment industry, stars were still charging many times the amount they deserved.

Akshay Kumar was paid a hefty amount just to lend his voice and presence to a dubbed Korean animation film called 'Jumbo'.

Does that make any business sense?

Salman Khan had three major flops - 'God Tussi Great Ho', 'Hello' and 'Yuvvraaj'. He was still paid what rock stars generally get in their prime, and not just for taking off their shirt.

The year also witnessed skin show from male actors - Zayed Khan and Vivek Oberoi did it in 'Mission Istaanbul', but it was John Abraham who made beefcake a fashion statement after the successful 'Dostana' where he flaunted his body generously.

Also, myths were being broken in 2008.

It was said female-oriented films don't do well. And yet 'Jodhaa Akbar' and 'Fashion' did good business. Costume dramas and dramas about costumes, they said, didn't work. So why did 'Jodhaa-Akbar' and 'Fashion' click?

The box office failure of small budget films like 'Sorry Bhai!', 'Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye', 'Maharathi' and 'Dil Kabaddi' has broken another myth that small is successful.

It was also the year of terrorism.

Filmmakers of all ilk and hue - from Neeraj Pandey's 'Wednesday' and Nishikant Kamat's 'Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan' to Jagmohan Mundhra's 'Shoot On Sight' and Rajkumar Gupta's 'Aamir' - pulled out all stops to explore the anatomy of terror.

Terror far more real awaited round the corner. And when, after the Nov 26-29 Mumbai terror strike, Ram Gopal Varma paid a fleeting visit to the Taj Mahal and Tower Hotel , he was accused of 'cannibalising carnage'.

The biggest scandal of the year was not Varma's Taj tour, but Shah Rukh and Salman Khan battling it out at Katrina Kaif's birthday party.

Parties and film premieres ceased to be the venue for scandals long ago. Or so we thought. Until the two superstars showed us otherwise.

Hrithik Roshan had his second son this year, while Viveik Oberoi's sister and John Abraham's brother got married.

But no star marriages. None of the high-profile celebrity couples from Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia to Kareena Kapoor-Saif were in a hurry to tie the knot.

Bollwyood also lost two legends this year - B.R. Chopra and Begum Para.

This was the year the blog became a vogue. Amitabh Bachchan showed the way... and before him Shekhar Kapur and Aamir Khan. By the year end, everyone, from Varma to Shilpa Shetty to Karan Johar, was blogging his or her heart out, prompting a section of the industry to wonder when do these guys get a chance to make movies?

Towards the end of the year, Shah Rukh, who was busy with Indian Premier League, made an impressive entry with 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi' and it has changed the mood at the box office. He has given both the filmmakers and the audiences something to smile about.

Now trade circles have their hopes pinned on on Aamir Khan's 'Ghajini'.

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