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Coming soon, Bachchan versus Bachchan

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

The box office is about to see a clash like never before. Two huge Amitabh Bachchan-starrers -"Aetbaar" and "Khakee" - are being released on the same day.

"It can't be helped," Amitabh Bachchan, who has just returned from a holiday with his entire family in Dubai to resume shooting for Gaurang Doshi's "Deewaar", told IANS.

On hearing of the double-decker fare on January 23, he tried to reason with the respective producers.

"But both the makers of 'Khakee' and 'Aetbaar' are adamant. I think they have financial constraints and have to do what's best for their films. One can't argue with that."

Says "Aetbaar" director Vikram Bhatt: "We've no choice, we've waited long enough.

"We can't get a good chain of theatres on the previous Friday. As for January 30, two big films 'Rudraksh' and 'Paap' are looming ahead of us. Where do we go?

"We kept postponing our film because of Karan Johar's 'Kal Ho Naa Ho', J.P. Dutta's 'LOC' and Raj Kumar Santoshi's 'Khakee'. My producer is pumping in an average of Rs.1.2 million on publicity each week. We just can't afford to wait any longer."

Bhatt is forthright enough to admit that more people will want to see "Khakee" than "Aetbaar". "Why not? Besides Bachchan, it's got an all-star line-up.

"But let me remind you my first hit, 'Fareb', came a week after Mahesh Bhatt's Shah Rukh Khan-starrer 'Chahat', and a week before Abbas-Mustan's big suspense film 'Daraar', and on the same Friday as the Sridevi-starrer 'Army'. We thought our small film would perish. But what did we know? All the other films bombed, 'Fareb' was a hit

"I agree the audience's buying capacity cannot accommodate two Bachchan flicks on the same Friday. I'm sure 'Khakee' will get a much bigger opening.

"But we have an extended weekend - Monday, January 26, is a public holiday - and I'm hoping we'll consolidate our position. May the best man win."

There are interesting parallels and contrasts between the two Bachchan flicks. In both, Bachchan performs under directors who've worked with him for the first time.

While "Aetbaar" features the mega-star as a disapproving father who can't bear to see his daughter Bipasha Basu being swept off her feet by a closet scumbag John Abraham, "Khakee" fits him into the far more heroic mould of a cop transporting a hardened criminal (Ajay Devgan) to his nemesis.

Obviously "Khakee" casts Bachchan in a more crowd-pleasing mould. No wonder its producer Keshu Ramsay is in no mood to budge this time.

"We're definitely coming on January 23 come what may," says the "Khakee" leading man Akshay Kumar.

The film trade seems to have been thrown into a dizzying rush of releases in January.

While this week two heroine-centric films, "Chameli" and "Paisa Wasool", which till the 11th hour were expected to be pushed to January 16, vie for the top spot with the all-boys' crime caper "Plan" directed by debutant Hriday Shetty, next week Ram Gopal Varma goes it alone with "Ek Haseena Thi", which marks the directorial debut of the talented Sriram Raghavan.

The extended January 26 weekend has the two Bachchan flicks vying for attention while the last Friday of January brings a vibrantly varied cine fare -- Mani Shankar's "Rudraksh", Pooja Bhatt's "Paap" and Vishal Bhardawaj's "Maqbool".


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