June - a monumental month at the movies
Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Fardeen Khan, Preity Zinta, Akshaye Khanna, Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan and, above all, Amitabh Bachchan... they're all on screen this month in some of the biggest wannabe blockbusters in recent times.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
It is a month that will be excruciatingly critical for the Mumbai film industry.
Starting this week with producer Feroz Nadiadwala's cops action film "Aan: Men At Work", the turnstiles get really hot in June with some of the most versatile and varied master craftspeople pitching in to make the month monumental at the movies.
"Aan" is crucial to director Madhur Bhandarkar, who needs to break away from the art house image that he inherited from "Chandni Bar" and "Satta".
On the other hand is Govind Nihalani who has established a formidable reputation as a serious filmmaker but needs to win over the masses with the star-studded "Dev", which opens next Friday on June 11.
While Bhandarkar and Nihalani move in opposite directions, the cult moviemaker Farhan Akhtar needs to prove that his debut "Dil Chahta Hai" was no flash in the pan. In his war film "Lakshya", Hrithik Roshan not only transforms into an army man but also dares to put all his eggs in one basket -- he has no assignments on hand.
"Lakshya" is as critical to Farhan as it is for Hrithik.
A week after this mega-movie, producer Gaurang Doshi will finally unleash his prisoners-of-war drama "Deewaar: Let's Bring The Heroes Home", the third Bachchan epic in three weeks and perhaps the most rugged of the trio.
Doshi, whose first production "Aankhen" did well enough at the box office to give him a grip over the grammar of mass production, is confident that his biggie won't clash with the other June specials.
"Agreed 'Aan', 'Dev', 'Lakshya' and my 'Deewaar' are all as big as it gets, and also agreed that three of them star Mr. Bachchan. But these are different products from different genres admittedly targeted at the same audience, yet providing them with a different kind of thrill each time," says Doshi.
"It's not like five cop films one after another. If Mr. Bachchan plays a cop in 'Dev', he's an army officer in 'Lakshya'. In my film he plays a prisoner of war held captive across the border," he adds.
Interestingly, a recurrent motif in this month's super-biggies is the question of communal and national identity. While "Lakshya" and "Deewaar" feature Pakistan as the common adversary, "Dev" dwells on the sensitive theme of the communal divide.
Undoubtedly, June is the month of epic bonanzas with more than mere entertainment value attached to marquee names. And if we add the smaller and yet potentially winsome films like "Girlfriend", "Chot" and "Raghu Romeo" to June's hot list, we have a potentially volcanic box office this month.
While first-time director Rajat Kapur's "Raghu Romeo", featuring the talented Vijay Raaz in the title role, was a favourite at international festivals last year, director Nabh Kumar Raju (whose earlier film "Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain" with Govinda and Urmila Matondkar was a dud) bases his "Chot" on the true-life story of a milk seller in Mumbai (played by Ashutosh Rana).
Kapur's "Raghu Romeo" and Raju's "Chot" open alongside Farhan Aktar's "Lakshya" on June 18.
Karan Razdan's "Girlfriend" which opens with Govind Nihalani's premium product "Dev" is the only spot of unabashed erotica in a month filled with epic products targeted at a mass market.
The success or failure of the June biggies is critical since more than Rs.1 billion are at stake at the box office this month.
If Farhan Akhtar's "Lakshya" is a war epic, Govind Nihalani's "Dev" is an epic on the communal divide of the police force during a time of the crisis.
Clearly, this is not the time for escapism at the movies.