Why Bollywood producers are still thinking bigger
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Although recent mega productions haven't done too well, big is still beautiful in Bollywood.
While many recent biggies, including the titanic two-some "LoC" and "Khakee" haven't been the blockbusters they were expected to be, filmmakers are still undeterred in their enervating excursions into the epic.
The next big thing is producer Gaurang Doshi's fascinating adventure saga "Deewaar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home".
The Rs 300 million budgeted film features Amitabh Bachchan the icon as well as Sanjay Dutt as prisoners of war.
The film's last lick is being negotiated right now on a set at Film City in Mumbai, depicting a Pakistani prison built by Jayant Deshmukh. The set cost a whopping Rs.15 million!
Gaurang, who belongs to a film empire (his father Vinod Doshi produced hits in the 1960s-70s like "Sachcha Jhutha" and "Blackmail"), thinks the only way to entice audiences out of their homes is "to visualize epic entertainers that look fresh and uncharted. Poor rehashes of Hollywood won't do".
"Deewaar" is an original all right. Interestingly it has been written by the "Khakee" writer Sridhar Raghavan. Raghavan and director Milan Luthria have given the film a sinewy rugged look and feel.
Scheduled for release on May 14, "Deewaar" is the first of the war epics in 2004.
Farhan Akhtar's "Lakshya" and Anil Sharma's "Ab Tumhare Hawaale Watan Saathiyon" are the other big war epics lined up for 2004.
Gaurang Doshi isn't alone in his epic convictions.
Manohman Shetty (whose father-actor Manmohan played villainous roles in the 1970s), who last year burnt his fingers with the small-budgeted comedy "Nayee Padosan", is all set to bounce back with the fantasy-adventure "Rudraksh".
Said to have been made at a cost of nearly Rs.250 million, Sanjay Dutt's make-up for "Rudraksh", which was readied in the US, alone cost the producer a whopping bill.
But Nitin Manmohan isn't flustered at the financial extravagance.
"I feel the audience comes to the cinema for a larger than life experience. And we better give it to them."
Manmohan is already shooting another mammoth multi-starrer "Tango Charlie" with the "Rudraksh" director Mani Shankar.
Stars and spectacle are also the USPs of Mani Rathnam's second Hindi film "Yuva" (also being made in Tamil).
Scheduled for April, it features Ajay Devgan, Esha Deol, Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee, Vivek Oberoi and Kareena Kapoor.
Star-shopping alone must have cost the producer a minor fortune, no matter how much these stars curtailed their prices for the superstar-director.
Other super-biggies for this year include Yash Chopra's untitled film featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukherjee.
Karan Johar is already planning his next directorial venture, which will be his biggest epic to date featuring among others Shah Rukh Khan.
And right after the movie maestro Sanjay Leela Bhansali finishes with his intimate portrayal of epic emotions in "Black", he goes to the romantic historical "Bajirao Mastani" featuring Kareena Kapoor, Salman Khan and Rani Mukherjee.
Down in Chennai too, filmmakers have realized the importance of being big on the screen.
After a series of 'thanda-thanda' films, the awesome Kamal Haasan has bounced back to the blizzard status with the epic Tamil blockbuster "Virumaandi", which has single-handedly revived the Tamil film industry's sagging morale.
In the US and Europe promoting the film, the ecstatic director-actor says: "All I asked for was a hit for all the hard work that I put in. Now look what they've done! It's the biggest hit of my career.
"Surpassing 'Indian', 'Sakala Kalavallavan', 'Appu Raja'...all of them. I'd have said god has finally decided to be kind to me. But I don't think He exists."