Bollywood's ready for a blast in the past

Not all period films have hit pay dirt lately, but Bollywood appears to be in no mood to give up.

Three period movies, "Lagaan", "Gadar: Ek Prem Katha" and "Devdas", saw huge success but they are a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, films like Shyam Benegal's "Zubeida", Rajkumar Santoshi's "The Legend of Bhagat Singh" and Chandraprakash Diwedi's "Pinjar" have rolled down on the floor and died an uncelebrated death.

Surprisingly filmmakers aren't ready to give up on recreating the aura of a bygone era.

One of the films scheduled for next Friday is Kuku Kohli's "Woh Tera Naam Tha", a melodrama set during pre-partition India featuring newcomers. The film's makers believe the era isn't the issue.

But a good story is.

As Aamir Khan had said before the making of "Lagaan", "It's a fallacy that a period film won't click. Let's put it this way, a majority of the films set in the present are flops, aren't they? So what's period got to do with success?"

Aamir, who has done two notable period films set in British India in the past -- Deepa Mehta's "1947 Earth" and Ashutosh Gowariker's "Lagaan" -- is all set to return to British India in Ketan Mehta's "The Rising", chronicling the adventures of freedom fighter Mangal Pandey.

While Shah Rukh Khan went back in time for Santosh Sivan's "Asoka" and "Devdas", Salman Khan is all set to do a period film, "Bajirao Mastani", with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali in 2005 where he and Kareena Kapoor play passionate 19th century Maratha lovers.

In fact Bhansali's "Black", which is under production, is also set in an earlier century.

The whole ambience of an era gone by is being recreated by new art director Omang Kumar, who hopes to be recognised for his painstaking periodicity through the capable creative vision of Bhansali.

Nostalgia is indeed a huge high in Bollywood right now.

Yash Chopra's hush-hush project featuring Shah Rukh, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee, Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini is an India-Pakistan love story set in the 1980s.

Rani Mukherjee, who's a part of four period films -- Ketan Mehta's "The Rising", Yash Chopra's film and Sanjay Bhansali's "Black" and "Bajirao Mastani" -- says she loves the idea of recreating a whole bygone era.

"I've done a period film, 'Hey Ram', with Kamal Haasan. The ambience, clothes, makeup, speech... it's all very fascinating to put together," she says.

Karan Johan agrees. His next directorial venture will be a mammoth period epic featuring Shah Rukh.

Johar has already started research work for the chosen period. Rajkumar Santoshi is also planning a huge period film, a costume drama with Ajay Devgan in the lead.

And movie mogul J.P. Dutta, who has gone aggressively contemporary in "LOC", says it is his dream to make a film on the legendary Lucknow courtesan Umrao Jaan Adaa.

The question that haunts the film trade in Mumbai is, are the audiences willing to return to a bygone era. Do they wish to have a blast in the past?