Diwali No Holiday for Indian Box Office

Former Prime Release Period Now Risky for Bollywood

MUMBAI -- Three years ago, Diwali was considered Bollywood's big-ticket week, with most producers scrambling to get films ready in time for the industry's most important moviegoing season. Not anymore.

Now, rather than clash with other big releases, many producers and filmmakers are opting for post-Diwali releases.

"It's a misconception that people watch movies during Diwali. There is puja at home, there are people to meet and watching a movie might not always be on the cards," said filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whose 2007 Diwali release Saawariya sank at the box-office.

Bhansali said the film might have fared better if not released during the festival season, where it was pitted against Farah Khan's blockbuster Om Shanti Om. Both filmmakers are ready with their new projects this year -- neither are opening on Diwali.

While Bhansali's Guzaarish, starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, releases two weeks after Diwali, Farah Khan's Tees Maar Khan -- with Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif -- opens on Christmas Eve.

Ashutosh Gowariker's Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey is also slated for a December release.

"December is a good time to release a film because people are still in the festive mood, they want to go out and celebrate, and you can also get a solo release, rather than clashing with another film," says Siddharth Roy Kapur of UTV Motion Pictures.

In 2009, two of the three films released during Diwali week -- Blue and Mr. and Mrs. Khanna -- had disastrous outings at the box office. The Ajay Devgan comedy All the Best was the only crowd-puller.

"If you have even two big films during Diwali, you are sure to be dividing your audiences and ensuring that there is clash," said Vajir Singh, editor of Box Office India.

Traditionally, the film industry hoped to cash in on the increased spending power of Indian audiences during the festival of lights. But in recent years, films opening in other festival months have also tasted success. Eid releases Dabangg and Wanted and Christmas week films 3 Idiots and Ghajini are a case in point.

That said, the industry is hoping for at least one film to strike gold during Diwali this year. Romantic comedy Action Replayy, starring Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, takes on Rohit Shetty's comedy Golmaal 3.

"Diwali, nevertheless, is always a big week for us and we are expecting huge crowds, especially since it is a weekend," said Rahul Singh, senior VP, operations of PVR Cinemas.