March 13, 2010

MONEY TALK - With few 3 Idiots, Bollywood wiser, thinner

All clearly izz not well in B town. The beginning of the year might have carried forward the glow of 3 Idiots but since then there’s been very little to cheer about. Yes, My Name Is Khan managed to create a flutter at the box office, but it didn’t even come close to smashing it.

Meanwhile, the heat of the recession is finally catching up with Bollywood. With no fresh film announcements being made, the projects already in the pipeline have either been put on hold or drastically downsized.

Says trade expert Vajir Singh of Box Office India: “Things are definitely slow in Bollywood. People have become very cautious about budgets as films are just not clicking. A film like 3 Idiots comes once in a blue moon, but if projects are planned systematically and budgeted appropriately then at least recovery is possible. Finally, better sense is prevailing.”

And so the much touted Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor spy thriller Agent Vinod, which was initially pegged around Rs 65 crore, is being “re-planned” to ensure better returns. Khan, also the producer of the film, doesn’t term it downsizing but feels it is a sensible decision. “We are not cutting down the budget, we are just planning it realistically so that we can make the same movie in lesser money,” he says. “A few years ago helming a Rs 70 crore movie would have been okay but in today’s market scenario, it’s not advisable. We’d rather plan it well so that we don’t have to compromise on the big and cool quotient of this action adventure.”

Agent Vinod director Sriram Raghavan echoes the sentiment. “Agent Vinod is still an expensive movie but we are now being precautionary.” The movie, which was set to roll last year, will finally go on the floors in May and will be filmed in exotic locales of Europe and Morocco.

Unlike Saif, Abhay Deol still has to wait for a while for his ambitious home production Basra to roll. The high-budget action flick, which had been in pre-production for quite some time, has been shifted now to next year. Trade buzz is rife that presenters PVR Films have asked the budget to be reworked. Basra director Navdeep Singh confirmed that the film had been pushed to next year. “Too ambitious, starting something smaller,” he told The Sunday Express.

Meanwhile Deol has utilised his Basra dates for Zoya Akhtar’s male-bonding film Running With The Bulls, wherein he co-stars with Hrithik Roshan and Farhan Akhtar.

In some instances, budgeting constraints have meant creatively tweaking projects. Bollywood corridors are buzzing with the news that Dhoom director Sanjay Gadhvi’s 7 Days in Paris is now being relocated to Punjab. Aamir star Rajeev Khandelwal’s film Joker will now have to make do with locations in Ooty instead of New Zealand.

There are certain projects whose status is still uncertain. John Abraham’s untitled home production, to be directed by close friend Sabal Shekhawat, is searching for a producer after Studio 18 backed out of it. AB Corp’s Amitabh Bachchan-Tabu starrer The Legend of Kunal has also been temporarily put on hold. To be directed by Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi, it is a big-budget period film, which makes its feasibility in the current market scenario seem tough. The status of Sudhir Mishra’s reinterpretation of Devdas in the political scenario, titled Dhruv, with Farhan Akhtar, Kareena Kapoor and Chitrangada Singh, is also vague.

The optimists are hopeful something good will come out of this lull. Saif Ali Khan sums it up. “Like all businesses, we too are in the levelling out phase. The inflated numbers had created a crazy illusion and now it’s all settling down. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

By Harneet Singh - Indian Express