If there is one thing that the hits of 2010 and 2011 have done, it is to re-emphasize that Hindi cinema buffs, whether in India or overseas, go to movies for paisa-vasool packages of entertainment, story, genre and message — all being fine, provided there is decent manoranjan, masala and music.
With the drubbing received by faceless movies last year, it is clear that we need something to make us pay that price of an admission ticket.
The trend will continue in 2012. Comedies, that had peaked from 2004-2005 onwards, are now at a plateau — it’s the masala movie that is top of the heap, and even NRIs have concurred with desi audiences in tastes, making indifferent and below-par films under-perform. Thus, though there are some differences in tastes, with NRIs rejecting certain kinds of films and not really raving over many films, the plus point is that filmmakers have begun to realize that good films will work there rather than calculated efforts to please desi brethren overseas that can backfire domestically as well as with them.
The b.o. status of films like “RA.One” and “Rockstar” vis-à-vis “The Dirty Picture” and “Bodyguard,” for example, has clearly demonstrated that the foreign pie is not big enough to change the status of a film from flop to hit, though a strong performance at the overseas box-office can add to the total business by a decent sum.
And it’s a varied spread as usual — a lesson learnt over the last few years, however belatedly.
There is also some middle-of-the-road high-concept or multiplex cinema (which will work on the script rather than just the idea being novel) and the ubiquitous sequels and remakes (of Hindi, regional and now even officially licensed from Hollywood) across genres like rom-coms, thrillers, comedies and love stories that will vie for box-office acceptance in the New Year.
Attention has been increasingly shifting also to upcountry-based subjects rather than Mumbai-rooted and overseas-centric themes. But the skewed economics of actors charging obscene amounts despite no guarantees of hits continues unabated. A check-list outside the ruling Khans shows Akshay Kumar’s last hit (not average grosser) in summer 2010, Shahid Kapoor’s in 2007, Saif Ali Khan’s and Ranbir Kapoor’s in 2009!
The other major change that has really taken off in 2011 is that new films are now announced along with their release dates: one could call this the corporate effect. Of course, there are changes on the way, but not more than in three cases of ten. One can also expect biggies to set new records in the number of prints on release, what with multiplexes grow and newer countries opening up as Hindi film markets. Technically, 3D seems to be growing, but only future performances will prove its longevity or otherwise.
The year has taken off with Abbas-Mustan and Viacom 18’s official remake of the Hollywood caper “The Italian Job,” a star-studded caper with Bobby Deol, Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Sonam Kapoor, with Pritam doing the music. Its misguided branding as “multiplex” fare proved to be its undoing, as Abbas-Mustan have always about mass cinema and its entire cast is in dire need of hits! A key point: Abbas-Mustan, over their 22-year career from “Agneekaal” in 1990, have made hits and flops, but not a single bad film.
The other biggie of January is be the remake of the 1990 film “Agneepath” (which had flopped but is now regarded as a classic), starring Hrithik Roshan in Amitabh Bachchan’s role, Sanjay Dutt as Kancha Cheena who was played by Danny Denzongpa, Priyanka Chopra and a full-on negative turn by Rishi Kapoor. Newbie Karan Malhotra, son of late producer Ravi Malhotra who had made four films with Rishi Kapoor including “Khel Khel Mein,” directs for producer Karan Johar, son of Yash Johar, who had produced the original Bachchan film. The track “Chikni Chameli” (with a cameo by Katrina Kaif), touted as “one of the highlights,” has picked up at the charts on aggressive promotion.
The First half
February: Karan Johar’s “Ekk Main Aur Ek Tu,” co-starring Imran Khan, again helmed by first-timer Shakun Batra, will release on February 10. Feb. 17 will see Saif Ali Khan’s home production, the action blaster “Agent Vinod,” directed by Sriram Raghavan with music by Pritam again. This is the first time that Kareena Kapoor will have two films released in two weeks, and Karan Johar coning out with two productions within a month. Nitin Manmohan’s “Gali Gali Chor Hai” a satire that looks promising with Akshaye Khanna coming back after a long gap, ditto Anu Malik, also comes in. Rumi Jaffrey directs.
Ashwini Chaudhary's "Jodi Breakers" with R. Madhavan and Bipasha Basu, which if well-made could be last February's counterpart to the sleeper success, "Tanu Weds Manu, will release too. Both these films could well be the first two sleeper hits of the year and are helmed by directors who have only given flops.
Priyadarshan’s train-based thriller “Tezz” produced by Venus and starring Ajay Devgn and Kangana (the “a” after the “g” is back) Ranaut with music by Sajid-Wajid, is the biggie of the month. Priyan has not had a hit in Hindi for half a decade, his last being “Bhool Bhulaiya” in 2007. Mukesh Bhatt continues with his smartly-budgeted thrillers in “Blood Money” starring Kunal Khemu and Amrita Puri and directed by newbie Vishal Mahadkar. The long-delayed Tigmanshu Dhulia film “Paan Singh Tomar” with Irrfan in the title-role will also come in. Dhulia, always a good director, has earned new respect with “Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster.”
Vidya Balan’s “Kahaani,” a Kolkata-centric thriller revolving around a pregnant woman, is also eagerly expected by connoisseurs. Sujoy Ghosh, yet to deliver a decent film, directs his make-or-break movie. Vishal-Shekhar promise different music for their second consecutive film with Balan.
The IPL Season: Daring to counter the craze of cricket in the New Year’s late IPL season from April 4 to May 27 will be three sequels: Sajid Khan’s multi-star comedy “Housefull 2,” top-lining Akshay Kumar, with a star-studded cast of Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty, Jacqueline Fernandez and Amitabh Bachchan (in a cameo) among others. Sajid-Wajid’s music score is carrying rave reports.
Mukesh Bhatt’s “Jannat 2” with Emraan Hashmi directed by Kunal Deshmukh, the first Fox Star-Vishesh co-production, hits screens in this phase. Like “Housefull 2,” the plot will have no connection with the earlier film. Esha Gupta, former Miss India International, makes her screen debut. Pritam is back in the Bhatt stable in this film. Supavitra Babul’s comedy “Bittoo Boss,” from Viacom 18, releases April 20.
Ekta Kapoor’s “Kya Super Kool Hain Hum” is the sequel to their 2005 blockbuster “Kya Kool Hain Hum,” but is directed by Sachin Yardi, who wrote the earlier film. Tusshar Kapoor, Riteish Deshmukh and all those naughty gags return in a different tale. Last heard, the makers were keen on bringing back Isha Koppikar as the violence-happy lady cop. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Rajkumar Hirani co-scripted “Ferrari Ki Sawari” starring Sharman Joshi is their first small-cast film in decades. Directed by Rajesh Mapuskar, the film will have music by Pritam, who was first offered “Munna Bhai MBBS” by Hirani when he was part of the Jeet-Pritam team. Sadly, May (the peak of summer vacations) sees no major release.
June, July and August:
June to August was the bumper phase for cinema in 2011 and this year, we see promise too. Prabhu Deva’s second Hindi directorial after the cult 2009 “Wanted,” “Rowdy Rathore,” starring Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha, hits screens in June. The film’s promos have already caught attention, and reportedly, producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali (yes, the man is producing the film!) is so happy with the outcome, and so confident, that he has brought the rights of another South blockbuster, “Ramana.” After all, who does not want to make money? This will be Sonakshi’s first film after her 2010 debut “Dabangg,” so all eyes are on her. The director also repeats Sajid-Wajid, who are having the cream of films this year.
The “3 Idiots” pair Aamir Khan-Kareena Kapoor come together in Farhan Akhtar’s production, “Talaash,” a thriller directed by Reema Kagti and co-starring Aamir’s “Ghulam” and “Mangal Pandey-The Rising” co-star Rani Mukerji. Shot overseas like all Farhan biggies of late, the film has music by Aamir’s new pet Ram “Delhi Belly” Sampath. It is the only big film with lyrics by Javed Akhtar, who is being cold-shouldered by industry bigwigs for his crusading role in the Copyright Amendment Act.
Akshay and Sonakshi have a second film together in Shirish Kunder’s “Joker,” the filmmaker’s do-or-die attempt after two flops, and India’s first big-ticket comedy in 3D. G.V. Prakash, Rahman’s nephew, scores music. Emraan Hashmi serenades his “Murder 2” hottie Jacqueline Fernandez again in Vikram Bhatt’s “Raaz 3,” shot in 3D and marking Vikram’s return to his mentor camp of Vishesh Films after eight years after the 2003 “Inteha.”
Vikram Bhatt’s own production, “Dangerous Ishq,” a love story spanning five periods, is also coming in. Karisma Kapur (after her voiceover for younger sister Kareena Kapoor when she masquerades as someone else in “Bodyguard”) makes her full-fledged comeback. Rajniesh Duggal, a Bhatt favorite, is one of her five co-stars. Himesh Reshammiya’s music is already being talked about.
Rohit Shetty’s next after “Singham” marks his return to comedy. The 1979 “Golmaal” (not Shetty’s own 3-part franchise) is the inspiration for “Bol Bachchan” with Ajay Devgn and Abhishek Bachchan as Amol Palekar’s and Utpal Dutt’s characters respectively. Something tells me that Bachchan will have this as his tour-de-force this year. Coming up also is Anurag Basu’s light but emotional “Barfii” about two people challenged in their own different ways. Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, two more stars who need hits pronto, star in this film for which Pritam, who has excelled in Basu’s films, is doing his special best.
Kunal Kohli’s period-to-contemporary romance, “Teri Meri Kahani,” has Priyanka again, and co-stars Shahid Kapoor, whose last hit was “Jab We Met” in 2007! Sajid-Wajid are tuning Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics and the recently-recorded qawwali has been making waves in inner circles.
But the biggest film of them all will be Salman Khan’s Eid hat-trick, the anti-terrorist drama “Ek Tha Tiger,” a film directed by Kabir “Kabul Express”-and-“New York” Khan, which is his first Yash Raj film with him. Katrina Kaif reunites with him in a full-fledged romantic lead. Sohail Sen scores music.
Clash of the Biggies
As usual, the mega-clash (of egos too!) will come around Diwali and later. This is where Yash Chopra’s new directorial venture with Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma and A.R. Rahman’s music, yet sans a name, will arrive eight years after Chopra’s last directorial, “Veer-Zaara.” Nixing reports of a father-son discord, the film is written by Aditya Chopra.
Himesh Reshammiya’s and Akshay Kumar’s co-production, the action comedy “Khiladi 786,” starring Akshay Kumar and Himesh, will also come in this period. A big setup is being whispered about, and chances are that both Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan might do cameos. Bachchan is one of the three big names (along with Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan) who have yet to open an account with Reshammiya.
Ashwini Dhir’s “Son of Sardar,” an action comedy starring Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn (whose home production it is), will come in too. This is Sonakshi Sinha’s first film with Ajay and her third film this year. Also on release will be Tips’ sequel to “Race,” “Race 2,” featuring Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone and Ameesha Patel with the Abbas-Mustan-Pritam team being reprised. The year will culminate with the much-awaited sequel to “Dabangg,” starring Salman Khan and Sonakshi Sinha with Arbaaz Khan directing his co-production. Sajid-Wajid compose the music and Prakash Raj confronts Salman again after “Wanted.”
The Other Films
Without definite dates, also slotted for 2012 are Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Heroine,” which is Kareena Kapoor’s meatiest turn this year. Dibakar Banerjee’s “Shanghai” starring Emraan Hashmi and Abhay Deol is a political thriller based on a famous Greek novel. Banerjee has had a good record in different cinema.
Yash Raj Films’ “Ishaqzaade” introduces Boney Kapoor’s son, Arjun Kapoor, with Parineeti Chopra. Amit Trivedi scores music. Arjun was to make his debut in a Y Films’ project, but both the film and Y Films (the youth-oriented wing of Yash Raj Films) have been shut down, according to reports.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s weirdly-titled “Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola,” featuring Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma and Pankja Kapur as Matru, Bijlee and Mandola, respectively will also come in.
Last but not the least, we will see the diva of the ‘80s, Sridevi, make her comeback to the Hindi screen with the R. Balki production “English Vinglish,” in which Amitabh Bachchan makes an interesting cameo as a tutor in English to hausfrau Sridevi. It is written and directed by Gauri Shinde, Balki’s wife.
Gautham Menon’s “Ek Deewana Tha,” the remake of the Tamil “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa,” will also come in, introducing Amy Jackson, a British model, opposite Pratik Babbar. A.R. Rahman scores music. And if all goes well, Karan Johar’s directorial venture, “Student of the Year,” toplining Rishi Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan and three newcomers, might release too. The film introduces Alia Bhatt, Pooja Bhatt’s half-sister; Varun Dhawan, David Dhawan’s son; and Siddharth Malhotra. The music is by Vishal-Shekhar.
Dhawan himself might be able to release his remake of “Chashme Buddoor,” the 1981 comedy, with Ali Zafar and South import Tapsee Pannu. Sajid-Wajid are scoring music. Ram Gopal Varma’s “Department,” co-starring Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt (back with RGV after “Daud” in 1997) and Lakshmi Manchu, South star Mohan Babu’s daughter, will also hit th screen.
Newbies, and Three Predictions:
Including the small-budget films, more than 70 directors made their debuts in the 120-plus films released in 2011, and new directors will continue to come in. Of the assorted 100-plus newcomers in 2011, barely a few registered, but as we have seen, we will see a better grade of newbies on screen in 2012. Ileana D’Cruz (a parallel lead in “Barfii”); Ahana Deol (Hema Malini’s and Dharmendra’s second daughter) in a Shoojit Sircar film; and Rati Agnihotri’s son, Tanuj Virwani, opposite Neha Hinge in “Luv U Soniyo” add to the newcomers we have already listed.
Sunny Leone, Indian-born adult star in UK, will begin shooting for “Jism 2,” directed by Pooja Bhatt, and if the film is completed and released quickly, will be another addition to the new faces. And finally, three predictions: by the time 2012 ends, Salman Khan will be still bigger, Sonakshi Sinha will be in the top three, and Himesh Reshammiya and Sajid-Wajid will reach the A-list echelons.