It's finally confirmed: Ajay Devgn's home production Son Of Sardaar will directly clash with Yash Chopra's swan song Jab Tak Hai Jaan this Diwali: a case of Kajol's husband taking on her favourite filmmaker and banner and of course co-star Shah Rukh Khan. Curiously enough, JTHJ is Katrina Kaif's first film with SRK and Salman Khan, her ex-beau-turned-closest friend, makes a cameo in SOS to help out buddies Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt.
The people behind the two films are indulging in hardcore competitive marketing, though it is Yash Chopra's sudden tragic demise that has given JHTJ an extra edge. But while the industry was eager that Devgn postpone his date to boost the business of both films right from the beginning, the clash of big films in this festive season has been an annual phenomenon in any case.
All that the trade and industry wish now is that both films are good enough to bring in a bonanza, which so far, has been rare in Diwali season despite the audience being in a festive mood to spend both money and time in the movie-halls.
A quick recap:
1998: Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol (with Salman in a cameo) with a debutant Karan Johar stole the 'show' with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai over David Dhawan and Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda both in dual roles in Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan, which did average business.
2000: SRK maintained his 'Diwali domination' since 1995 with Mohabbatein doing better than new sensation Hrithik Roshan's Mission Kashmir. The latter's producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra even signed SRK for Munna Bhai MBBS, but destiny willed otherwise and the actor could not do the film.
2004: Yash Chopra-Aditya Chopra-SRK's Veer-Zaara took on Subhash Ghai and Abbas-Mustan with Aitraaz starring Akshay Kumar. Both films proved average, and did better business overseas, where the former was a blockbuster. The 1960 epic Mughal-E-Azam in colorized version also made a significant dent in the opening week.
2005: Two Priyadarshan films released - the serious Kyon Ki... (with Salman) and the frothy Garam Masala (with Akshay and John Abraham). Diwali being fun time, the latter won by a big margin, even trouncing the third fun film, Shaadi No.1 by Dhawan.
2006: Salman lost yet again to SRK with Jaan-E-Mann proving a disaster, whereas Don did well, and better overseas.
2007: Once again, the dark Saawariya was a washout and SRK's Om Shanti Om triumphed.
2008: The crazy Rohit Shetty comedy Golmaal Returns was an outright winner over the dark and cynical Madhur Bhandarkar film Fashion. Ajay Devgn came into his Diwali own - it was like his first battle-cry.
2009: Shetty-Devgn took on Diwali again and though All The Best was no super-hit, it was the only film of three biggies that worked - Akshay's Blue and Salman's Main Aurr Mrs Khanna were rejected outright.
2010: Shetty-Devgn scored a festive hat-trick and their first 100 crore bonanza with Golmaal 3. Akshay Kumar's Action Replayy was routed for several reasons.
2011: SRK grabbed the hype and made 120 crore on RA.One, but the film was panned and actually lost money on its massive investment despite no big opposition. Himesh Reshammiya's acting vehicle, Damadamm!, a small film, was the only one to actually have a healthy return on investment.
Outside Diwali, however, there have been occasions when big films have been pitted against each other, but as during the festival seasons, it is always the sagacity of the audience that chose the right film, irrespective of banner, brand, budget or big-ticket stars.
Unmoved by the hype, the people stayed away from the lavish Harman Baweja debut Love Story 2050 with all its VFX spectacle to embrace the story-rich Rock On!! when they clashed in monsoon 2008. But when the latter's producers made Game, a mediocre thriller, the same audience preferred the one-flop-old Jackky Bhagnani and his small film with a topical message, F.A.L.T.U. , made at a fraction of the budget.
Looking always for that something indefinable that is called value-for-money (and time invested), the cinema-going audience chose Himesh Reshammiya's acting debut Aap Kaa Surroor (AKS) even over the hit Emraan Hashmi-Mohit Suri-Mukesh Bhatt team's Awarapan in 2007. In terms of opening and performance at the Indian BO., AKS even surpassed the third (though successful) release - Apne, made by the director of Gadar, Anil Sharma, and starring Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol together for the first time!
But if AKS as the acronym for Himesh's acting debut was a hit, Aks¸ as in the esoteric AB Corp film with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, was a blundering Goliath felled by the David that was T-Series' Tum Bin, released on the same day in 2001. And Devgn's deadly debut Phool Aur Kaante, with the debutant heroine Madhoo, scored a clear victory over Yash Chopra's Anil Kapoor-Sridevi biggie Lamhe, simply because the bold subject did not go well with the Indian masses.
But as we wish JTHJ and SOS well, we must take time off to remember the standout examples when the audiences welcomed more than one film on the same day with open arms - Gadar-Ek Prem Katha and Lagaan in 2001, Welcome and Taare Zameen Par in Christmas week 2007, and four - yes, four! - films on that one landmark day - 18 October 1974 - when Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Roti, Benaam and Woh Main Nahin and all did well, with RKM the biggest hit of the year and Roti proving a super-hit!