Whatever could have gone wrong during the production of Love Aaj Kal eventually did. And, when we say wrong, we don’t just mean the fact that the film was very nearly titled Aaj-Kal or Aaj Aur Kal.
To begin with, writer-director Imtiaz Ali had to fight off rumours, baseless as we now know, that Love Aaj Kal was based on the Taiwanese film, Three Times. Then a freak accident led to a technical snag that wiped out almost three days of footage. The producers had also tied up with the ICC Twenty20 cricket championship to promote the film, but had to curtail their plans due to India’s early elimination from the contest. And finally, the original release date of 26 June had to be pushed to 31 July due to a strike.
Although the music of the film has clicked big time, even Pritam, the music director, had to face some anxious moments. When it was time to record the song, Ajj din chadeya, singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was denied a visa to fly to India. The song was recorded in Pakistan and sent over by email.
Then, Baby Naznin, a Bangladeshi singer, insinuated that the song Aahun aahun was lifted from her Bangla song. Interestingly, it later came to light that even her version of the song was lifted from an old Pakistani number, Kadi te has bol ve, sung by Naseebo Lal. So there were problems aplenty, but as the old cliché goes, all’s well that ends well. Love Aaj Kal, which was released with 450 prints and in almost 1,300 screens across India, got glowing reviews in the press. The film had one of the biggest openings of all times when its net collection on the opening weekend touched Rs27 crore.
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Thanks to its decent sustenance over the weekdays and the Raksha Bandhan holiday on Wednesday, the film closed the first week at a fantastic distributor share of Rs21 crore and is expected to finish its entire run at Rs35 crore.
Even in the overseas market, Eros International released the film in about 250 screens and the film is expected to reach the share of Rs15 crore.
This makes Love Aaj Kal the biggest hit of 2009 as also the biggest hit of the careers of Saif Ali Khan and Imtiaz Ali.
Resounding hit: Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone in Love Aaj Kal. The movie had one of the biggest openings of all times when its net collection on the opening weekend touched Rs27 crore.
Eros, which acquired Love Aaj Kal for Rs58 crore, including print and advertising, is expected to make a profit of Rs8-10 crore on the film. Another big weekend could easily take this figure higher.
The other release of the week was the Chinese film Red Cliff directed by John Woo, who returned to his roots to make a film in China after 16 years. Originally, the film was released in most Asian countries in two parts. However, for an international release, the film was condensed into one film of 150 minutes. It was this same condensed version that was released in India.
Red Cliff was released at almost 150 screens in its English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions. However, the reviews of the film were mixed and it was not received very well. It is expected to do a business of about Rs30-35 lakh at best in India. One possible reason for the poor showing of the film could be that the English version was very poorly dubbed and maybe a subtitled version could have fared better.
It is perhaps also time to announce the biggest English film to have released in India in this year. If we were to take films that were also dubbed in other Indian languages, Slumdog Millionaire is by far the top film of the year. Of the films which were only released in the original English version in India, The Hangover clinches the top spot.
The next week is going to be a busy one with Agyaat, Tere Sang and Chal Chalein releasing in Hindi and Public Enemy, Dragonball Evolutions and Fly Me to the Moon in English.
Ashish Saksena is an executive with extensive experience in India’s entertainment sector and was previously CEO of PVR Pictures. His column looks at the business side of Bollywood releases.
Respond to his column at firstname.lastname@example.org