It was star power versus sex power last weekend. Two diametrically opposite films -- DEV and GIRL FRIEND -- made it to the cinema halls on Friday, June 11, 2004. While the opening of GIRL FRIEND ranged from 40 to 60% [the turnout at multiplexes was much better], the below-the-mark opening of DEV at several parts of the country did raise eyebrows.
One wasn't really expecting an earth shattering opening response to the film, but given the impressive star cast [Big B, Om Puri, Fardeen, Kareena, Amrish Puri], one did expect it to have a 90% + start, on an average. Unfortunately, the 40 to 70% opening did dampen the spirits of its distributors.
A section of the film industry is of the opinion that DEV would've fared better had it released some time during the vacations, in May to be precise. According to these soothsayers, releasing a film in mid-June, when schools and colleges have re-opened, could prove to be a damaging exercise.
Going by this theory, BORDER [release date: June 13, 1997], HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM [release date: June 18, 1999], JOSH [release date: June 9, 2000], LAGAAN and GADAR [release date: June 15, 2001], AWARA PAAGAL DEEWANA [release date: June 21, 2002] and CHALTE CHALTE [release date: June 13, 2003] should've been disasters. But they weren't!
DEV had nothing new to offer and somehow, despite aggressive promotion, the hype associated with a big film was clearly missing. Yes, the film did appeal to a handful of self-appointed PRs who masquerade as critics [whose written word hardly matters to the film trade or the common man!], but what about the majority? In today's times, when a cinegoer spends Rs. 50 or Rs. 80 for a ticket, his idea of entertainment is not to watch a sword-wielding man piercing the sword in a pregnant woman's belly or watching an entire basti go up in flames, as families are roasted alive inside.
Let's face it, realistic cinema has its audience, but those interested in such fares are limited to perhaps 10 people in a crowd of 10,000. Whether we like it or not, it's escapist cinema that seems to be the norm today. Be it MAIN HOON NA or HUM TUM, films that transport you to a world of make-believe in those two hours seem to be working since the past 50 years or more. And the trend is not likely to change in the coming days.
Even in Hollywood, escapist fares like SHREK 2, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN have proved money spinners in the recent weeks. What does it indicate?
The collections of DEV, after a shaky start, continued to fall as days progressed. Even at multiplexes, the fall in collections was pretty strong from Monday onwards.
On the other hand, GIRL FRIEND seems to be holding well at metros. While the weekend was fairly good at the multiplexes, as compared to single screen theatres, the film continued its steady march on weekdays as well. And now, with the million dollar free publicity that it has garnered, this love triangle, budgeted at approx. Rs. 2 crores, should show a jump in its b.o. collections.