Way back, in the late 1980s, I was sitting with a rather disturbed producer whose multi-hero film had been declared a bankrupting flop at the box-office. Admitting that his film had failed to excite the viewers, the producer pointed out two major reasons for its non-success: [i] The MAINE PYAR KIYA wave that had gripped the country then and [ii] The poor content of his film.
As I pen this piece, my mind travels back to the time when Sooraj R. Barjatya's directorial debut smashed box-office records and almost all films that were released thereafter, at least for the next few months, got severely affected by the 'M.P.K. wave'.
There have been innumerable instances of films getting sidelined because of the strong presence of an earlier release that has caught the fancy of the audiences from East to West and from North to South.
That's what happened with TEHZEEB, which couldn't stand on its feet at metros due to the KAL HO NAA HO wave. I am not trying to imply that TEHZEEB is a flawless film and had it released before KAL HO NAA HO, its fate would've been different.
To be honest, TEHZEEB was a major disappointment. Now this is all the more surprising since its writer-director, Khalid Mohamed, has closely monitored cinema for over two decades, pointing out the plusses and minuses of films week after week in his film reviews. Obviously, you expected TEHZEEB to be a cut above the rest.
Where did the fault lie? The film had a decent cast [Shabana, Urmila, Arjun, Dia], had accomplished technicians [A.R. Rahman, Santosh Sivan], an interesting story, an exciting pre-release promotional campaign… But, somehow, the viewer just didn't feel excited enough to walk into a theatre screening the film.
TEHZEEB has its share of limitations. It has been noticed time and again that films do pick up with word of mouth even after a slow start. BAGHBAN is a fresh example, which picked up rapidly even during the holy month of Ramzan, when film business is expected to be at an all-time low.
In the case of TEHZEEB, the word of mouth wasn't strong enough. The film had an uninspiring screenplay, was embellished with a mediocre musical score and most importantly, the emotions depicted on screen failed to touch your heart. These three factors, combined with the KAL HO NAA HO wave [this film is super-strong at all 'A' class centres], sent TEHZEEB for a toss.
The opening of TEHZEEB was shockingly low at most places [in the range of 25% to 35%]. And the trend continued as days progressed. The film has been rejected by moviegoers, not just in India but even in Overseas [the film has collected a meagre 10,098 Pounds in its opening weekend on 12 screens in U.K.], classifying it as one of the prime setbacks of this year.
Both Aditya Shastri and Paresh Manjrekar of 20th Century Fox [the domestic distributors of TEHZEEB] opine that the film was targeted at the gentry, which explains why they had released the film at multiplexes mainly. "But it's difficult to figure out why the audience has been indifferent to the film," says Manjrekar.
Shastri does admit that the film hasn't worked at the box-office on the whole, "but the collections are slightly better in the evening shows at some multiplexes," he says.
Continues Manjrekar, "One of the reasons that went against the film was the poor ratings by some reputed critics. That kept the audiences at bay. The other reason is KAL HO NAA HO."
Sanjay Dalia of Cineline Theatres agrees, "KAL HO NAA HO continues to be the first choice of cinegoers. Besides, a majority of people are now looking forward to the next major release, L.O.C., which has made the intervening releases appear non-descript."
He continues, "Also, TEHZEEB had nothing new to offer. The tension in the mother-daughter relationship has been witnessed umpteen times earlier and the music wasn't great either."
Manoj Desai of G-7 multiplex is more forthcoming. Says he, "The pre-release reports gave the feeling that the film would draw the intelligentsia on the basis of its content. But going by the post-release reports, there has been scant appreciation for the film."