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Bollywood packs more in less

Tuesday, May 25, 2004 • Hindi Comments
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Multiple versions of the same film, multiple films with the same crew, multiple musical soundtracks for the same film, multiple films shot on the same locale and even multiple films in the same hall.

The new and improved Hindi film industry is packing in more in less but only time will tell whether that means more entertainment. "Yuva", ace filmmaker Mani Ratnam's latest offering, was shot and released simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil Friday. The film looks at the growing aspirations of Indian youth to bring about dramatic political changes and has been hailed as innovative, effective and in tune with the times.

Tilted "Aayitha Ezhuthu" in Tamil, the south Indian version with stars like Surya, Madhavan, Sidharth (of "Boys" fame) and Trisha, besides Meera Jasmine and Esha Deol (the only common star in both versions), was booked in advance for the next two weeks and is sure to recover its cost in the first week itself.

The Hindi version has garnered good reviews for its cinematography and technical panache, besides bouquets for actor Abhishek Bachchan, who is cast as a rough, uncouth, unapologetic and power-hungry youngster.

Its cast includes the highly talented Ajay Devgan, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor and Esha.

The Tamil film is set in Chennai while the Hindi one in Kolkata. The two versions had the same crew and technical team. Ratnam has dubbed the film in Telugu and done all this with an Rs.200 million ($4.41 million) budget."Not many filmmakers have tried to make two versions of essentially the same film simultaneously. They usually wait for the box-office verdict of one version and then go in for the other, loosing topicality and freshness in the process," said trade observer Farrukh Dhondy.

Maverick Hindi filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma has stolen the march over Ratnam in taking the cinematic experience further down the unknown road. The producer-director, who has set up a production house called Factory that churns out several movies using the same crew and even directors, is further economising the business of filmmaking by releasing two different endings for his next film. His thriller, earlier entitled "Murder At Shri Krishna Building," will be released as two separate films - "Galti Se" and "Jaan-Boojh Ke". The film is about a character essayed by Anil Kapoor who kills his wife.

While in one version the incident is shown as accidental, in the other it portrayed as intentional.

Varma said about 30 percent of the two versions will be different. Films like Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" and more recently Kamal Haasan's Tamil film "Virumaandi" have contained various perspectives on the same crisis - but all told within one film.

Producer-director Sanjay Gupta, apparently inspired by Ram Gopal Varma, plans to release two versions of the music for his film "Musafir".

While one version will be called "Musafir Lounge" and have music by Vishal-Shekhar, the other will be called "Musafir Club" in which music-mixer Nikhil Chinnapa will give the same music clubs feel.

That's not all, according to a news report, New York-based Manan Singh Kathora is directing "Windows - The Quadrants of Time", in which the movie screen will be divided into four parts and the viewer can watch four different movies playing continuously and simultaneously in each quadrant of the screen.

"The film will comprise four parallel stories independent of each other, which will merge into a single climax," the report said. Earlier, "Time Code" by Mike Figgis was shot in a similar format but it remains to be seen if Manan and co-writer Abhishek Kumar and Sameer Jain can crack the code. Not very long ago, Boney Kapoor had shot some scenes of his film and parts of a TV serial at the same overseas locale. Similarly, Ekta Kapoor's production house Balaji Telefilms is known to make use of the same overseas location for her different soap operas as she repeats many lead actors in her different serials. Besides, Bollywood is known to have several producers financing the same film. The latest trend emerging on that front is that Bollywood actors are becoming co-producers to equally hare the booty of a hit film and at the same time shoulder the burden of a box-office dud.

Anil Kapoor has shown the way by striking a deal with production house K Sera Sera for "Murder at Shri Krishna".

Rumour has it that Saif Ali Khan and Ajay Devgan are eager to climb the same bandwagon. While some call the trend a method to save taxes, others hail it as an indication of the changed attitudes of stars. As for moviegoers, the jury is still out on whether the cost-cutting innovations will translate into better entertainment.

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