As a kid, I remember visiting my parents in Mumbai during the annual vacations and the only ‘hobby’ I indulged in during my adolescence was watching movies and more movies. I distinctly remember standing in serpentine queues to watch the new releases at New Talkies, Neptune, Nandi, Bandra Talkies and Gaiety-Galaxy in Bandra. The one memory I can never erase was that of the junta whistling away to glory the moment the censor certificate of the film flashed on screen. If it was an 18-reeler, the whistles would be strong and if it happened to be a 20-reeler, the auditorium would be filled with loud cheers, claps and whistles. Watching a 20-reeler then made people euphoric.
A few days ago, as the censor certificate of UMRAO JAAN flashed on screen and truth dawned upon viewers that it was a 20-reeler, a group of ladies seated alongside couldn’t control their gasps, sighs and moans. “Heavens, it’s a 3-hour film,” someone remarked, making me realize once again that times have changed. A 20-reeler is more of a bane than a boon in today’s time and age. That’s one of the prime reasons why J.P. Dutta’s films suffer at the box-office.
I distinctly remember watching J.P.’s directorial debut GHULAMI almost two decades ago and the first thing the producer asked me once the screening concluded was, “Film kaisi lagi?” My reply was rapid, “The director is the actual star of this multi-starrer.” When I compare J.P.’s output in GHULAMI or YATEEM [even though this didn’t work] with UMRAO JAAN, I sincerely feel J.P. is not in form of late. As a storyteller, he knows the grammar of film-making right. As a technician, he’s fantastic. But as an editor, sorry, either he’s too passionate about his work and forgets all about editing or he has lost objectivity.
The disastrous opening of UMRAO JAAN sent shock waves within the film industry. And the blame-game began on Friday itself. “J.P. should’ve promoted the music for at least a month more,” someone suggested. Here’s another one, “The youth of today is not interested in costume dramas/period films.” And another, “Abhishek and Ash make a lovely pair, but they’re unlucky as far as box-office goes: DHAAI AKSHAR PREM KE, KUCH NAA KAHO and now UMRAO JAAN.” But why are we overlooking the chartbuster ‘Kajra Re’ from BUNTY AUR BABLI?
Back to UMRAO JAAN. The opening was 25%-30% at most places, while certain centres reported as low as 10%-15% occupancy, which sets you thinking. “We were expecting a slow start,” a prominent distributor of UMRAO JAAN told me on Friday afternoon. But things didn’t improve on Saturday, while the evening shows on Sunday showed better occupancy at some multiplexes. On Monday and Tuesday, the business plummeted completely.
Take, for instance, an ‘A’ class centre like Indore [one of the barometers in the industry]. The comparative collections of UMRAO JAAN are sure to give you a clearer idea of how the mighty fell:
Note:- Friday was approx. 20% occupancy, so just do your calculations for Tuesday.
As things stand today, the heavily priced UMRAO JAAN has emerged a setback for the industry, making its distributors poorer by a couple of crores.
THIS WEEK IN 2005
[Weekend: November 4-6, 2005]
The verdict on the Diwali releases was out: The sole ‘cracker’ that burnt the brightest was GARAM MASALA. The film recorded extra-ordinary collections in its first five days and Monday onwards, had been holding very well. The business of SHAADI NO. 1 did get a boost thanks to the 5-day weekend. But it was a definite disappointment from the badshaah of entertainers -- David Dhawan.
Everyone was disillusioned by the response to KYON KI… and two vital reasons were being attributed to its tepid start: The thanda promos of the film and moviegoers’ non-interest in watching sad endings during the festive season, when the mood is upbeat.
THIS WEEK IN 2004
[Weekend: November 5-7, 2004]
With the film industry going through a rough patch, all eyes [and hopes and prayers] were pinned on the four prominent Diwali releases -- VEER-ZAARA, AITRAAZ, NAACH and the evergreen classic MUGHAL-E-AZAM. Beginning this week, an exciting phase was about to unleash. Will the fortunes change for the better? Will the festival of lights spread brightness in our lives? Will the ratio of hits show an upward trend? Will the producers and distributors heave a sigh of relief?