April 3, 2009

Singing the Bollywood blues (while trying to beat the other varieties)

Regular readers might recall that your Projectionist loves watching Bollywood films and listening to good music from India — and not just because they cost less than the Western variety. (That said: Legit Indian CDs from T–Series for USD 5 or 6 vs., say, a Jonas Brothers album for USD 15 on average. So much for the math.) Recently, he's begun to catch up with a number of recent titles on DVD, and you might see reactions soon.

Meanwhile, this news flash from Screen is very bad news, especially if you opt to hit a multiplex for your marsala fix:

After failing to resolve the issue of profit sharing with multiplex owners, the film producers are all set to go on an indefinite strike from Saturday [April 4th], stalling any new film releases in these theatres…

The disagreement between the two parties is over the revenue sharing model of 'ticket sales.'

Producers and distributors have demanded a 50 per cent cut while multiplex owners want to stick to the old arrangement of sharing between 40–48 per cent, depending on the movie's performance at the box office.

The BBC adds that the strike could hurt India's showbiz scene hard, especially with the India Premier League Cricket (yes, cricket) season on the horizon — and this year, it's in South Africa (for security reasons, we read on the BBC's Sport pages).

Of course, it hurts enough to learn that some of the more recent Bollywood releases, even the Hollywood (Warner Bros.)–funded Chandni Chowk to China, had a very bad time time at the box office, no doubt in part because of the global economic meltdown. Not even Akshay Kumar (Singh is Kinng) has been able to get enough fans into seats.

His latest vehicle, the Percept Pictures/T–Series–funded 8 x 10 Tasveer, opened today worldwide on very unstable ground — not just because of today's news, but because of a report on mounting rumors that, among other things, Percept was intentionally holding back on the film's release.

And bad reviews — the first of them being this one from Screen and Hungama — won't help matters. (I'll update this if any more critiques surface.)

One theatre out on Long Island, owned by National Amusements, got one of the prints just before the strike deadline.

I was able to see the trailer online and wasn't impressed by what little I was able to see. I guess I prefer Mr. Kumar in comic mode, at least for now.

In the meantime, I was impressed to see on Screen's homepage that three of the films I brought home to Projectionist Central — the taunt topical thriller A Wednesday!, the seductively decadent Fashion, and the very moving Mumbai Mere Jaan, all produced by powerhouse UTV — made the top 10 selling Bollywood video chart (at numbers 1, 2, and 7 respectively). I was happy to finally see Mumbai Mere Jaan and was moved by it, even as I feel movie buffs here in the West should have been given the chance to see it. A Wednesday! would have also done well (in part because director/author Neeraj Pandey gets down to business and gets it done in a 1 hour and 36 minutes running time).

I really wish Bollywood companies would get their films well publicized — not just to the Hindi communities, but to the Western media as well. Newsday gave Chandni Chowk to China a very positive review, and I recall last year that Aditya Chopra's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi got very unexpected praise in the pages of, would you believe, The New York Times.

With praise for the really good stuff, why not go for it?

My life outside of the screening room continues to have its ups and downs, but I do want to follow up on this post with my thoughts on the Bollywood DVDs I've seen so far. Maybe one film at a time. Keep watching this screen.

[UPDATE 2009.04.04: Mr. Kumar's troubles aren't limited to 8 x 10 Tasveer, as this BBC News item, uh, reveals…]

[UPDATE 2009.04.08: On Monday, April 6th, Rediff predicted poor box office earnings for 8 x 10 Tasveer — something that BollywoodWorld confirmed today. So Mr. Kumar, having had his Jim Carrey turn at a non–comic role, might want to stick to what he does best. Of course, being with writers and directors who actually know what they're doing would help.]

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