Fresh scripts fail to make cash counters ring in 2007

By Prithwish Ganguly


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New Delhi : Bollywood's hope of recreating last year's box office successes has taken a big blow in 2007, with collections of only $5.8 million in the first six months compared to $135 million in 2006.

Unlike 2006, which rode on a slew of hits like "Rang De Basanti", "Don", "Dhoom:2" and "Lage Raho Munnabhai" – three of which were sequels – revenues this year have nose-dived despite original scripts and directors experimenting with fresh ideas.

There have been only one blockbuster and a couple of moderate successes till now.

In the first six months of the year, Bollywood has so far collected over only Rs.244 million ($5.8 million), a fraction of the amount collected last year.

Remakes and sequels had garnered most of 2006's estimated revenue of $135 million, which helped the industry cut losses to $22 million from over $30 million in 2005.

Top grossers of 2007 include the runaway hit "Guru", the low budget "Bheja Fry" as well as "Ta Ra Rum Pum", "Cheeni Kum", "Traffic Signal" and "Shootout at Lokhandwala".

The films failed to catch the fancy of the moviegoers despite their star cast, elaborate costumes and catchy foot-tapping music.

Some analysts feel the audiences now prefer to watch sequels and remakes of older movies, whose subject matter is known to them, as poor scripts have forced them to judge the film's content before they book tickets.

"A dearth of ideas and lack of original scripts are the reason for this phenomenon," said Derek Bose, a Mumbai-based Bollywood scholar. "Watching sequels and remakes is a recent trend among the audience. This shows that people have a hangover of the past and don't trust new scripts."

"It has so far not been a very good year," Suleman Mobhani, co-founder of IndiaFM, a top Bollywood trade website, told IANS. "Many films have not done well and a lot now depends on the future releases. But it will be very difficult to match last year's collections."

Bollywood, the world's largest in volumes and ticket sales, is also witnessing a trend among the masses, no longer lured by just the star cast – a phenomenon of the 1980s and 1990s which saw a superstar capable of landing a box office hit.

"The truth is that content is driving a film's success," veteran analyst Komal Nahta said. "People now do not watch movies to see which star is in the film. If a good script does not even have a single superstar, it could still become a hit."

With six months still to go, Bollywood's fortunes might still change with biggies like Yash Raj's "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom", Ashutosh Gowariker's "Jodhaa Akbar", Ram Gopal Varma's "RGV Ke Sholay" and Shah Rukh Khan starrer "Chak De India" awaiting release.