Kishore Biyani, the head of Future Group, cut a deal valued at several tens of lakhs to sell merchandise inspired by the film Saawariya. However, he ensured that none of the merchandise carried either the film’s name or the photographs of its lead actors.

By doing this, Biyani, who produced two flops in an earlier avatar as a film producer, was only hedging against the possible failure of one of the year’s biggest releases. A few days into the release of Saawariya, most indications are that while Biyani’s bet (on the film) hasn’t paid off, his hedge certainly has.

Saawariya, made at a cost of Rs40 crore and co-produced by Hollywood’s Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.—it is the company’s first Bollywood production—received a lot of pre-release hype, but after the movie opened for business on Friday, it has been plagued by bad press and negative comparisons with competing release Om Shanti Om. Sony Pictures released a statement claiming that Saawariya had done business worth Rs50 crore during the Diwali weekend (Friday to Sunday), but analysts say poor reviews and the consequent public opinion have slowed things down. Independent data on box office takings of the film were not immediately available.

“All multiplex chains across India have already reduced the number of shows for Saawariya, and increased the number of shows for Om Shanti Om. What’s even more surprising is that in some instances, these cancelled shows have gone to an old release like Jab We Met. That should say it all," said Komal Nahata, editor, Film Information and The Film Street Journal.

Analysts say the producers will probably recover their investment in ‘Saawaria’, but that companies that chose to associate with it will likely be saddled with branded merchandise that they can’t sell.

“Film reviews don’t determine the fate of a film, audiences do. Besides, we do have our safety nets in place," said Biyani. “...none of the goods have Saawariya written on it," he added.

Consumer electronics company Sony Electronics, an arm of Sony India Pvt. Ltd, said it too was not likely to be affected by the film’s showing as the company had stopped its promotions related to Saawariya soon after Diwali. “Our consumer promotion got over just before the release of the movie; therefore the publicity post the release had no negative impact at all," said Sunil Nayyar, general manager (sales) Sony India. And Sudhin Mathur, GM, Sony Ericsson India Pvt. Ltd, which has launched Saawariya phones with branded content, said “sales have been encouraging".

A Plan B is a good idea while associating with a Bollywood production, said an expert in branding.

“Unfortunately for Saawariya, the forced competition with Om Shanti Om (a movie starring Shah Rukh Khan) hasn’t worked to its advantage," said Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. The hype surrounding both films actually seems to have worked against Saawariya, he added.

The performance of Saawariya is unlikely to affect Sony Pictures’ plans for Bollywood, said an executive at a US distributor of Indian films.

“This will not have an impact on Sony’s bottomline, as the production budget for Saawariya was less than a rounding (off) error for Sony Picture’s overall worldwide production budget. The reported $10 million budget for Saawariya is an astounding 80% less than what’s typically spent for US releases and that doesn’t include marketing," said Vin Bhat, general manager of Saavn, a New York based company that is into digital distribution of Bollywood movies and music in the US market.

“India is a growing market that is increasingly becoming organized and over the long term, a sure bet," he added.