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‘Grand Masti’ and the art of risqué taking

A still from Grand Masti: Fun Never Ends. The movie might not open in Punjab and Haryana, where the high court ordered a stay on the release on the ground of obscenity.  (Fun Never Ends. The movie might not open in Punjab and Haryana, where the high court ordered a stay on the release on the ground of obscenity. )Premium
A still from Grand Masti: Fun Never Ends. The movie might not open in Punjab and Haryana, where the high court ordered a stay on the release on the ground of obscenity.

(Fun Never Ends. The movie might not open in Punjab and Haryana, where the high court ordered a stay on the release on the ground of obscenity. )

Filmgoers love double entendre and the prospect (suggested but never consummated) of sexual adventure

An indication that the adult comedy movie genre has truly grown up: a brand association between the producers of the upcoming Grand Masti and the publisher of Mills and Boon titles. Maruti International has tied up with Harlequin India’s imprint Spice for Grand Masti: Fun Never Ends, a compilation of 15 short stories written by Neha Puntambekar and concerning the complicated love lives of the movie’s three hapless heroes, Amar, Prem and Meet, said the banner’s co-owner Ashok Thakeria.

Grand Masti, which opens on 13 September (eveywhere but in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh as of Tuesday), is a sequel to the 2004 hit Masti, which was also produced by Maruti International and directed by its co-owner, Indra Kumar. The Delhi high court ended another, wholly inadvertent, association between the movie and a leading private bank.

Reacting to a petition filed by ICICI Bank, the Delhi high court on Monday issued notices to the filmmakers asking them not to use the company’s name in a sequence about a bank heist.

A risqué trailer, which was released on YouTube several weeks ago, suggests that the sequel will further develop the original’s theme of married men looking to spice up their sex lives. The tagline declares that Grand Masti is “Bumpier, Bouncier, Bigger, Broader", with each descriptor accompanied by appropriate visuals. Starring Riteish Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi and Aftab Shivdansani, Grand Masti has raced to the top of the Friday release pile in an unusually lean week.

“This movie will go everywhere—it is going to be the number one movie for the weekly programme," said Prakhar Joshi, head of programming at PVR Cinemas. “The movie’s message has already been conveyed through the promos, and it also has the potential to do very well in single screens."

However, the movie might not open in Punjab and Haryana, where the high court ordered a stay on the release on the ground of obscenity. Thakeria didn’t offer a comment to the ruling.

Thakeria claimed that as soon as the trailers appeared on the Internet, he was approached by at least two or three buyers for each of the territories into which film distribution is divided. “I closed all my business within the first 10 days itself," said the veteran producer.

Eros International Media Ltd has acquired the worldwide distribution rights for Grand Masti, which will target 2,000 screens in India. The adults only pratfall fest, which is also known within the trade as the “non-veg film" or the “double meaning comedy", cost roughly 21 crore to make, according to Thakeria.

“YouTube has been a great tool for us—digital is not as expensive as television, where you can’t afford more than five to six weeks of advertising," he said. Posting unrated trailers on the Internet doesn’t just help distributors sidestep the costs of paying television channels and major multiplex chains, which have started charging for movie trailers. The major target audience of such films is young people, who are increasingly going online for cinema-related information, Thakeria said.

When Grand Masti’s progenitor opened in 2004, it was one of the first mainstream movies to venture into territory that had been more fruitfully developed by low-budget and fringe filmmakers. Viewers loved the double entendre and the prospect (suggested but never consummated) of sexual adventure. “For the first time, the protagonists of a Hindi film were openly saying that they wanted to have affairs outside marriage," said Thakeria, of the trend that resulted in such movies as No Entry (2005), Kyaa Kool Hai Hum (2005) and its sequel Kyaa Super Kool Hai Hum (2012). “Our society enjoys this (kind of humour), but we don’t openly say so."

The big difference between 2004 and 2013 is the proliferation of chatter about sex across the media, leading to an expansion of audiences for a movie that traditionally attracts irreverent college students and young men, Thakeria said. Adult-themed comedies exclude families and conservative viewers, but they attract other kinds of groups across the country—Gujarat is seen as lucrative territory for comedies in general and sex comedies in particular.

“Such films have good commercial viability and have been doing extremely well, especially in Maharashtra and Gujarat," said Sharad Doshi, who owns a string of cinemas across Mumbai, Pune and in Gujarat. “These movies work across age groups—you have the college crowd and young men, but increasingly, couples," Doshi said. “You will be surprised to see the increasing number of women in the audience."

Although Grand Masti seems to have had a smooth journey into the cinema hall, it could face challenges recovering its costs from satellite rights, which have not yet been sold. Although Thakeria said negotiations were on with television channels, they are likely to baulk at the adult theme, which will be lost if the naughty bits are snipped out to make the movie qualify for a U/A rating (parental discretion advised for viewers below 12 years). In the absence of an adult movie-friendly post-11pm slot, television channels prefer to play it safe and broadcast movies that carry U (unrestricted) or U/A ratings, which can be shown at any time of the day and attract advertising far more easily.

“There has always been a market for adult comedies, but the main reason why there aren’t too many of them is to do with re-certification for satellite," said Tanuj Garg, CEO at Balaji Motion Pictures, which produced Kyaa Kool Hai Hum and its sequel. The satellite rights for adult-rated movies such as Gangs of Wasseypur and Mirch, for instance, remain unsold. “The regulatory framework in this country does not allow for supposedly risqué film content to go on television and channels do not encourage adult-themed content either," Garg added. “Adult comedies have universal appeal across age groups and also tend to be review-proof."

In the case of Grand Masti, Thakeria is targeting everybody who is not a hypocrite. “Every human being has some naughtiness," he said.

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