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October 3, 2001

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Chandni Bar glitters in Bombay

A film that was being dismissed as pretentious, arty and sleazy before its release has taken Bombay by storm.

Director Madhur Bhandarkar's small Rs 15 million film Chandni Bar is expected to rake in at least Rs 50 million in Maharashtra alone.

Congratulatory calls are pouring in at the Bhandarkar residence. He says, "You could call me a semi-debutant director because I've made one film earlier: Trishakti. But my heart was just not in it. Chandni Bar is the kind of cinema I believe in. That my convictions have paid off is a blessing beyond belief."

After a phenomenal 100 per cent opening on Friday, Shringar Films, the distributors long associated with small cult films like Santosh Sivan's Terrorist and Rituparno Ghosh's Bariwali, have now added six more prints of Chandni Bar in Bombay.

Says the young distributor-exhibitor Shravan Shroff, "Chandni Bar is doing exceptionally well in Bombay. Perhaps it can attributed to the film's theme of dancing girls, peculiar to the city. We never expected the film to be such a rage."

Interestingly, while Chandni Bar is an unqualified success in Maharashtra, it is a near washout in northern India. Audiences find the film's strong language and visual content (including a 12-year-old boy being sodomised in prison) objectionable.

Says Roshan Singh, "My theatre has a reputation for family films. My customary audience is rather taken aback by the film's strong visuals and language."

Meanwhile, Patna exhibitor Roshan Singh, says, "Chandni Bar lost out on the weekend audience -- the film reached Bihar a day late, on Saturday, instead of the scheduled Friday. I believe the distributor had some financial problem."

Bhandarkar, for his part, is unapologetic about his film's graphic content: "I believe this is the first Indian film to show sodomy. What I've shown regarding the way our society treats women and the other weaker members isn't even a fraction of the truth."

"I don't want to be trapped into making formula films," he says. "I will only make films I believe in. After Chandni Bar, I have received as many as 18 offers. I turned all of them down."

Ram Gopal Varma, who groomed Bhandarkar for five years, is proud of his former assistant, whose film is being compared with his own path-breaking Satya: "At a time when big films like Yaadein are dropping like ninepins, a small budget film with Tabu as its 'hero' has caught the public's fancy in a big way. That's really remarkable. Hats off to Madhur Bhandarkar."

The Bombay-centric success of Chandni Bar is likely to trigger off a chain of such low budget, high-powered and realistic films.

Up next is Hansal Mehta's Chhal. Mehta is delighted by the success of Chandni Bar: "It's a brave and path-breaking film with a performance by Tabu that should win her every award in the book. It just goes to show that audiences are sick and tired of watching hackneyed formula films like Yaadein and Nayak with a lavish spectacle substituting for a real story."

Indo-Asian News Service

ALSO READ:
Tabu on Chandni Bar
The Madhur Bhandarkar interview
Of slums, bar girls and Tabu

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