'Idiots' offers year-end punch

Khan film boosts difficult year for Bollywood

MUMBAI -- A stand-off between producers and multiplex owners and a shortage of hits marked a bleak year for Bollywood in 2009, but Aamir Khan starrer "3 Idiots" may have saved the industry from hitting rock-bottom, trade analysts said.

The world’s biggest film industry spent more than 15 billion rupees ($323.34 million)
 and released 120 films, but only a handful of those made it to the list of hits.

“2009 was a mixed year for Bollywood, mainly because the producer-multiplex standoff meant that there were no films for three months, and even when they were released, the content wasn’t up to the mark,” Sidharth Roy Kapur of UTV Motion Pictures, one of India’s biggest production houses, said.

Marketing and release of all films was suspended for three months after producers and multiplex owners reached a dead-lock over revenue sharing. It was resolved only after they agreed to a 50-50 share.

“The strike also meant that there were too many films that released at the same time, because of which a lot of good films didn’t get a decent run at the boxoffice, trade analyst Vajir Singh said.

Director Rajkumar Hirani’s year-end release "3 Idiots" could bring some cheer to the industry, with the makers claiming that the film grossed $2.16 million after four days in theaters.

“Successful filmmakers like Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra (Delhi-6), Ashutosh Gowariker ("What’s Your Raashee") and Madhur Bhandarkar ("Jail") were unsuccessful this year.

Expensive films like "Blue" and "Kambakkth Ishq" fared very badly at the boxoffice and there weren’t any small films that did well either,” Singh said.

The industry had a handful of hits, including "Love Aaj Kal," "Ajab Prem Ki Gazhab Kahani" and "Wanted," he said.

A lack of good scripts may have added to the boxoffice debacle this year, trade analysts said.

“What has happened is that there are too many people with money who want to make films and as a result a lot of scripts which may not have been chosen earlier are being made into films,” Kapur said.

Sci-fi Hollywood extravaganzas like "Avatar" have pulled Indian cinema-goers to theaters. Industry insiders are optimistic that a number of big banner films will turn the tide next year.

“2010 will start off with some good films including Karan Johar’s "My Name is Khan" and later Mani Ratnam’s "Ravan." Hopefully, it should be a better year,” Singh said.