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October 10, 2001

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The Hindi film industry is slowly waking up to the grim fact that it's successful run in the overseas market is over, what with the US terror attacks adding to the gloom of global recession.

And for films like Asoka and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, the realisation has dawned too late.

According to the trade weekly Screen, Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Aziz Mirza have been thinking of releasing their ambitious historical epic Asoka in the overseas market themselves, as Sony backed out at the last minute.

Shah Rukh and Kareena in Asoka Sony has also returned the overseas and satellite rights of Karan Johar's star-studded K3G family drama, the weekly said. The decision was made after projects, which were considered relatively safe -- Subhash Ghai's Yaadein and Rakesh Mehra's Aks -- bombed at the box office.

Yaadein made approximately Rs 60 million in the overseas market, way short of the amount for which its overseas rights were sold (Rs 120 million). The film sank without a trace in spite of storming into the UK Top 10.

Aamir Khan's Lagaan, which continues to rake in rave reviews after its release on June 15, also did not make much money in the overseas and music market.

Sunny Deol's Gadar, which entered its 15th week along with Lagaan, is expected to gross approximately Rs 800 million, making it the biggest earner of the year so far. Yet, this has also fared averagely.

The terror attacks at the World Trade Centre have had another fallout. Dev Anand, who had permission to shoot at the WTC for his film Love At Times Square had to rework his plans overnight and recreate Wall Street in the Bombay studios.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham Premieres and shows abroad are also going to be a no-no now, say trade analysts. Following the terror attacks, Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan and the Lagaan cricket team, who were on a concert tour of the US, had to cut down on the remaining shows.

The ten-day International Film Festival of India, which was to be held in Bangalore from October 10, was also cancelled as foreign dignitaries feared security threats.

Not so long ago, the Newsweek magazine had stated that Hindi cinema was going through a highly successful run, even beating Hollywood, in many parts of the world. But not any more.

Most producers are finding it tough to sell overseas rights. Initially, the overseas territory was the first to be sold after a project was announced. A big venture would normally fetch approximately Rs 100 million from this territory alone. But in the current scenario, not more than around Rs 50 million is being offered.

Same is the case with satellite rights. These have usually been a bonus for a film producer. And now, the satellite rights of a hit film or a recent release are waiting for buyers.

The music rights of majority of films have not been sold. Practically all audio companies have decided to adopt the wait-and-watch policy.

Trade analyst Amod Mehra says, "All these years, it has been the distributors who suffered, while producers always made money, even when their films failed. But this year, even producers are losing money, as the market for music, satellite and overseas has gone down considerably. The recession is taking its toll. I don't see the situation improving in the next few years." Kareena-Hrithik in Yaadein

In the domestic market, the Hindi film industry went through one of its best phases after Gadar and Lagaan were declared blockbusters. But after that, the losses began. A series of films Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai, Aks, Yaadein, Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat, Hum Ho Gaye Aap Ke, Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, Nayak, Lajja, Ajnabee and Kyo Kii...Main Jhuth Nahin Bolta -- bombed at the BO.

The distribution and exhibition scenario is on shaky ground as well. Exhibitors, who had offered handsome advances after Gadar and Lagaan, have burnt their hands badly in the past few months.

The arrest of film financier Bharat Shah dealt the industry its biggest blow this year. Screen stated that had Shah been around, the overseas and satellite markets wouldn't have been hit so badly.

The solution?

The industry is hoping that Ripples Entertainment's debut production Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar starring Sunil Shetty and Mahima Chaudhry, slated for release on October 12, will mark the turning point. Madhuri-Ajay in Yeh Raaste Hai Pyaar Ke

After a string of mega flops, the only respite for the Hindi film trade in Bombay has come from R Mohan's Chandni Bar -- quite surprising, given its grim subject and quite a few unknown faces.

The Tabu film witnessed an excellent opening in Bombay, but elsewhere the response has been lukewarm.

Yet another hard-hitting film waiting in the wings is Paanch, which has been stuck with the censor board for a long time.

Director Anurag Kashyap, (who penned Ram Gopal Varma's Satya and E Niwas' Shool) has reportedly decided to appeal the censor board's refusal to allow the screening of the film.

An 11-member censor board committee refused to allow its release, citing too much violence as the reason. But the director argued that the acts of violence were not shown explicitly in the film.

Kashyap says he will appeal the censor board's verdict at a special court in New Delhi. The board's new chairman Vijay Anand had asked the director to re-edit the film.

Indo-Asian News Service

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