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Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon Main Prem ki Diwani HoonDirector: Sooraj BarjatyaCast: Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan Cost: Rs 3...

December 29, 2002
HAHK worked when action films were the norm. There’s no reason why they won’t hit bull’seye againYash Chopra

Director: Sooraj Barjatya
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan
Cost: Rs 30 crore

Abandoning his own formula of the never-ending wedding nuptials, Sooraj Barjatya goes for a more intimate tale of love, friendship and fraud. Barjatya revisits golden-oldie Chitchor for Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, which has young girl (Kareena) going in search of a boy called Prem (Abhishek) who her family has chosen for her to marry. She does meet Prem (Hrithik) and falls head over heels in love with him. Must she sacrifice her love for the man she is betrothed to, or will she marry the man who cheated her into falling in love with him? We’ll find out around Diwali, when the film is likely to hit the theatres.

For this film, Barjatya has dumped gaudy havelis of Mumbai’s Filmistan Studios, and zoomed off to New Zealand. The film is undoubtedly one of Bollywood’s hottest tickets, coming as it is from a man who delivered three superhits in a row and made shaadi songs and dance a staple Bollywood ingredient. And let’s not forget, the name Prem has always spelt success for the Barjatyas, who cast Salman Khan as Prem in all three of their last blockbusters.

PR Babble: Says Kareena Kapoor, ‘‘It is the simplicity of the plot and the emotional conflict which set apart a Sooraj Barjatya romance from every other Bollywood love story. His old-fashioned sentimentality is likely to draw family audiences into the cinemas.’’

Expert Opinion: The King of Romance, Yash Chopra, gives his stamp of approval to the forthcoming Barjatya extra-vaganza. ‘‘In the age of special effects, thrills, and convoluted plots, the Rajshris have stuck to simple story-lines and family dramas.’’ Chopra says their biggest strength is that the Barjatyas have always bucked the trend. ‘‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun swept the nation at a time when action films were the order of the day. There’s no reason why they won’t strike gold again,’’ he says.

Director: Ramgopal Varma
Cast: Ajay Devgan, Urmila, Rekha, Fardeen Khan
Cost: Rs 20-25 crore

It seems the industry is truly spooked by its plunging fortunes, what else explains this new obsession with aliens and ghosts? So, now we have Ramgopal Varma and his Bhoot. Although he didn’t quite manage to pull it off with Raat (a supernatural thriller), Varma is determined to fulfill his dream of making the perfect horror film. With an all-star line-up for Bhoot (apart from the main cast, there’s Nana Patekar, Seema Biswas, Victor Banerjee), Varma hopes to bring some modicum of sophistication, quality and respect to this genre in Bollywood which, until now, was tagged C-grade, thanks to the Ramsay Brothers and their lack of imagination.

Bhoot should be a welcome change from those shoestring-budget blood-and-gore flicks with wafer-thin plots and cheap resin masks. According to the director, ‘‘Bhoot is a classic horror film.’’ So expect a haunting background score, pale apparitions, nail-biting suspense, and long silences.

Considering thrillers are the fad this season (Raaz was the year’s biggest hit, Humraaz and Deewangee did better than most other releases), trade pundits believe the timing is just perfect for Bhoot, up for a May release. Then again, anything Vikram Bhatt can do well, Ramgopal Varma will want to do better.

PR Babble: Ajay Devgan, Bollywood’s brightest star at the moment, says he was attracted to the film despite the multi-star cast. ‘‘The story is really quite spine-tingling,’’ says the star. ‘‘Bollywood just does not make films like this anymore.’’ As for Varma, he is not bothered about what the critics have to say, he has already publicly declared Bhoot has a Hitchcockian feel in its mood and treatment.

Expert Opinion: Bollywood Badshah Bharat Shah believes ‘‘only a film which is radically different can salvage the business,’’ and is of the firm opinion that Bhoot just might be that lucky film. Says Shah, ‘‘Lots of directors are going to try thrillers and horror films, but if only it were that simple. However, Ramgopal Varma is an intelligent man. He doesn’t follow trends, he sets them.’’

Director: J P Dutta
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan, Sunil Shetty, Saif Khan
Cost: Rs 40 crore

J P Dutta’s LOC is unabashedly mega in terms of budget and canvas. With a price tag of approximately Rs 40 crore and a cast of over 30 that includes the heavies (there’s also Akshaye Khan-na, Manoj Bajpai, Abhishek Bachchan), middling stars (Mohnish Behl, Bikram Saluja, Ashutosh Rana), and small stars (Karan Nath, Amar Upadhyay, Inder Kumar, Himanshu Malik), the film is unparalleled in scale.

Revolving around the Kargil War of 2000, LOC explores not only the patriotic theme (each actor plays a real-life soldier who fought in the war), but also the human angle, dwelling on their personal lives and struggles. And that is where the women come in. Rani Mukherjee, Mahima Chaudhary, Kareena Kapoor, Esha Deol, Isha Koppikar and Preeti Jhangiani make fleeting appearances as wives or sisters of some of the leading men. The war scenes are said to be spectacular, and the film’s emotional quotient is expected to be loud and shrill.

PR Babble: ‘‘The star cast will guarantee a bumper opening,’’ says leading actor Sanjay Dutt. ‘‘I think the film will evoke desh bhakti in an audience corrupted by silly romances and Hollywood-inspired thrillers.”

Expert Opinion: Film Information editor Komal Nahata believes LOC has tremendous face value. Nahata also predicts the film’s patriotic theme and nationalist message will melt the toughest of hearts when it is released around Diwali or later in the year.

Director: Rakesh Roshan
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta
Cost: Rs 35 crore

RAKESH Roshan teams up with beta Hrithik after the box-office busting Kaho Na…Pyar Hai, and casts Preity Zinta as his lady love in a film famously described as Forrest Gump-meets-E.T.. A third of the film’s Rs 35-crore budget is believed to have been spent on creating the ‘alien’ and for special effects in Australia and the US.

A ‘creature director’ from Down Under (to manage the ET) stayed on the sets at all times, a common practice in the West, but a rarity in Bollywood. The actors performed against a blue screen for their scenes with the ET to give it a paranormal look.

The unit is tightlipped about the story but Hrithik, it is learnt, plays a mentally challenged boy who befriends the alien. The bond between the two strengthens over time, and Hrithik is healed almost supernaturally by this sudden positive influence in his life.

PR Babble: Says Rakesh Roshan: ‘‘It’s really a very human, emotional story. And it presents Hrithik in an entirely different role.” But isn’t it time Hrithik stopped experimenting with films and roles and gave us another hit? ‘‘The audience is tired, I think, of the typical Hindi film hero,’’ says a brave Hrithik, ‘‘who is good-looking, can fight 10 guys, and is the paragon of virtues.’’ Therefore, Koi Mil Gaya may be exactly what the audience ordered. It’s up for a summer release, in May-June 2003.

Expert Opinion: Trade analyst Amod Mehra insists Koi Mil Gaya is most likely to turn the fortunes of Bollywood in the year ahead. Koi Mil Gaya, Mehra says, will have universal appeal because of its theme. ‘‘It’s an unusual story, and that can only be a good thing when the audience is rejecting everything tried and tested.’’

Director: Anil Sharma
Cast: Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Sharma
Cost: Rs 45 crore

The film brings together the successful Gadar duo of Anil Sharma and Sunny Deol again, and trade pundits do not see any reason why they should flop this time. The Hero, according to the grapevine, is bigger, badder and bolder on its blood and gore theme. Reportedly costing an astounding Rs 45 crore, the film has been shot extensively in Canada and Switzerland, but oozes Indian sentimentality.

Muscleman Deol slips back into his desh seva boots, and sets about wiping terrorism from Indian shores. Preity Zinta and Priyanka Chopra purr and ooh appreciatively as Deol hoists the Tricolour. More than five mega sets costing about Rs 2 crore each (including one all-glass set) were constructed and blown to smithereens in gut-wrenching action sequences.

PR Babble: Says Sharma, ‘‘By embracing Gadar, the audience proved patriotism is a theme they are interested in. But I’ve taken several steps forward with The Hero. It is on international espionage.’’ Sharma confesses that this time too there is a lot of anti-Pak sentiment.

Expert Opinion: Taran Adarsh, editor of Trade Guide, predicts The Hero is likely to draw in large crowds when released, probably around March-April. ‘‘Anil Sharma has a finger on the pulse of the audience,’’ he says. If Pak-bashing is what they want, then so be it. ‘‘Also, Sunny Deol in a patriotic film can rarely go wrong,’’ he adds.

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