Bollywood puts love on the backburner

Indians spent a whopping Rs.10 billion ($200 million) on Valentine's Day but the dream merchants of Bollywood missed all the fun and games.

The film industry was busy churning out an Indian version of "Matrix" and a high-decibel motion picture about an expatriate battling racism.

Mani Shankar's "Rudraksh" and actor-producer Sohail Khan's "I: Proud To Be An Indian" that made up for the entertainment package from Bollywood were a far cry from what would have made for an ideal movie experience for the Romeos and Juliets.

Increasingly, Bollywood's most-often told tale -- of boy-meets-girl-in- college, they-overcome-parental-opposition, they-live-happily-ever- after -- seems to be losing its magic, with film-makers not giving love a chance.

Though it was the Romeos and not the Rambos that made the cash registers ring last year, with Shah Rukh Khan ("Chalte Chalte" and ("Kal Ho Naa Ho"), Amitabh Bachchan ("Baghbaan"), Hrithik Roshan ("Koi Mil Gaya") and Salman Khan ("Tere Naam") winning hearts.

This year, however, love stories seem to have taken a backseat in the land of fantasy and make-belief. Action heroes are the flavour of the season with both the latest releases coming from the brawny stable.

"Rudraksh" starring Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty, Bipasha Basu and Ishaa Koppikar had a grandiose budget from the coffers of Nitin Manmohan and Sohail Maklai. The film tries to please everyone, including the religious-minded and the SFX-obsessed.

Shankar, who is credited with the story, screenplay, dialogues, editing, SFX and direction, once again proves he is the best technical hand around but has some brushing up to do before he can be an efficient story weaver.

The film seems headed for a box-office drubbing given its complicated screenplay and huge production cost.

On the other hand, "I: Proud To Be An Indian" is yet another attempt by Salman Khan's sibling Sohail to try his luck in front of the camera.

The film starring actor-producer Sohail, Imran, Henna, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Aasif Sheikh, Mona Ambegaonkar is directed by Puneet Sira.

Though the film is based on a unique premise of assertion of nationalism in a foreign land, its box-office success may be limited due to the absence of a crowd-pulling star.

A slew of action movies are slated for release this year, with Sunny Deol leading the pack. After a long sabbatical due to injury, he will return with home production "Deodhar Gandhi" directed by Guddu Dhanoa.

He also has "Jo Bolo So Nihal" with director Rahul Rawail who was also the man behind hits like "Arjun" and "Arjun Pandit". Sunny days will return when he gangs up with the entire brigade of macho men, including Suneil Shetty, Arbaaz Khan and John Abraham in Vicky Films' "Lakeer".

Brother Bobby Deol who has been trying to shed his chocolate boy image for some time now, will be seen as the muscle man with no time for love in "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon" and then in "Bardasht". He is also part of Vikram Bhatt's "Jurm" and Guddu Dhanoa's "Kismat" that are slated for release soon.

After "Rudkrash", Sanjay Dutt who had cured many a heart with his lovable act in the hit film "Munnabhai MBBBS", will be seen in war movies like "Sarhad Paar" and "Deewar". Relatively newcomers like John Abraham, Milind Soman and Arjun Rampal will also answer the war cry in "Elaan", "Yudh" and "Yakeen."

Then there is an abundance of cop flicks coming our way from Bollywood. The flying bullets and car chases in films like "Aan", "Ab Tak Chhappan", "Sanghursh", "Dev" and "Lakshya" will keep cupid at bay.

Even soulful actors like Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan and Shah Rukh Khan will have no time for chasing women as they get busy with putting up superman shows in "The Rising", "Zameer" and "Main Hoon Na" respectively.

After a moving portrayal of an eternal romantic in "Baghbaan", the busiest star of Bollywood - Amitabh Bachchan - will not be seen with a song on his lips for the next year.

Amitabh who is being showered with accolades for his performance in "Khakee" will be seen in khakis again in "Dev". He also has "Waqt-The Chase Begins Now" and will don olive greens in "Lakshya" and "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyon" and "Deewar-Let's Bring Home Our Heroes".

Understandably, with so many villains to kick, our leading men will have no time to romance.