Monday, December 24, 2007

BOLLYWOOD IN 2007.

In 2007, Bollywood's fortunes swung like a wild pendulum. The industry was buffeted by a slew of potential blockbusters that fell way short of trade expectations.

The under-performance of big-ticket films like Tara Rum Pum, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Eklavya, Nishabd, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and Saawariya could have left the dream factory in the doldrums. It didn't. Two men - Shah Rukh Khan (riding the crest of an unstoppable wave) and Akshay Kumar (with a hattrick of hits) -- came to Mumbai moviedom's rescue.

The box office bloodbath began early in the year. Barring Mani Ratnam's Guru, an epic drama loosely based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani, and the breezy Namaste London, an East-meets-West love story, no big Hindi film found takers in the first quarter of 2007.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra's stylised thriller Eklavya - The Royal Guard (India's controversial Oscar entry) and Ram Gopal Varma's Lolita-inspired drama Nishabd, both starring Amitabh Bachchan, were complete washouts.

To make matters worse, Nikhil Advani's Salaam-e-Ishq keeled over under its own weight. Suneel Darshan's Shakalaka Boom Boom, Milan Luthria's Hattrick and Vikram Bhatt's Red and Life Mein Kabhi Kabhi also sank without a trace. April-end saw the release of Tara Rum Pum, starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee. The first of Yash Raj Films' five releases of the year did nothing to lift Bollywood's sagging spirits.

Succour came from completely unexpected quarters. First-time director Sagar Ballary's Bheja Fry, which opened in mid April, had no saleable star names and rested on an unconventional plot premise - the film was inspired by Francis Weber's French satire The Dinner Game - but it clicked big time.

Bheja Fry, driven by a clutch of fine actors who aren't saleable stars, wasn't the only offbeat film that achieved commercial success. The substantial domestic gross of Mira Nair's English-language The Namesake, a fine adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, gave UTV Motion Pictures much cause for cheer. Another surprise hit from the UTV stable in 2007 was Anurag Basu's freewheeling Life in a... Metro.

Debutante Reema Kagti's Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., a lively comedy of manners produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani's Excel Entertainment, recovered its cost - and more.

By far the biggest disappointment of 2007 was Sanjay Leela Bhansali's self-indulgent Saawariya, co-produced by Hollywood major Sony Pictures Entertainment. Critics pilloried the film. Moviegoers stayed away. No other Bollywood film of 2007, with the exception of RGV Ki Aag, was as universally disliked as Saawariya.

Reverses that YRF suffered in the shape of Tara Rum Pum, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and Aaja Nachle were somewhat offset by the superhit Chak De India.

Directed by Ram Gopal Varma prot? Shimit Amin and scripted by one of Bollywood's most gifted screenwriters Jaideep Sahni, the film was as offbeat as a mass entertainer can ever get. The tale of a hockey coach who has a point to prove and a bunch of women who have nothing to lose may have had shades of Lagaan, but it was driven by its own rhythm and logic. Shah Rukh, for a change, shed his starry mannerisms to come up with one of his most convincing screen performances ever.

The second Shah Rukh starrer of 2007, Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om, bettered the stunning box office performance of Chak De India. OSO, produced by the superstar himself, hit the screens on the same day as Saawariya and romped home with ease.

The appeal of the crowd-pleasing fantasy about a 1970s film extra enamoured with a female star hinged on stale plot devices and infantile in-jokes, yet the film hit bull's eye owing to Shah Rukh's matchless ability to inveigle the masses with his unabashed hamming.

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