New Delhi: With the fierce Dilwale-Bajirao Mastani clash finally behind us, the first week of the year ordinarily lacking Bollywood offerings has given way to a host of movies lined up for release in the coming months. About 400-500 crore are riding on the films slated for release between January and April alone, according to industry experts.

At least some of these high-profile films will have to make big numbers to trump the 2700.67 crore box office collections of 2015, of which 1081.99 crore were made in the first half of the year according to movie website koimoi.com. This period, however, hasn’t historically been as lucrative for film business as the second half. If one goes by records, most big films are lined up later in the year, mostly during festive seasons as Salman Khan with Eid and Aamir Khan with Christmas, have continually proven.

“The winter season casts its spell over most of northern and eastern India for the first two months of the year. Board examinations followed by vacations tend to make it some sort of a transition period for families," said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. “While producers could earlier plan releases post that, the IPL (Indian Premier League) now takes up another two months."

That hasn’t deterred the line-up though and the action begins no later than this weekend with Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar-starrer Wazir. The crime thriller directed by Bejoy Nambiar (of Shaitaan and David fame) is the story of two unlikely friends—a wheelchair-bound chess player and a grief-stricken Anti-Terrorist Squad officer who are brought together by a strange turn of events.

“Of course the film is driven by the star power of its male leads, but I think it is the unique story that will resonate and find a bearing with audiences," said Nambiar.

The director added that he’s very happy about the clear two-week window his film has got since the last big films hit screens. “Plus there is no other big release along with us, so the film will get a good chance," he said.

Akshay Kumar (right) in a still from ‘Airlift’
Akshay Kumar (right) in a still from ‘Airlift’

The month goes on to Akshay Kumar’s thriller Airlift on the 22nd based on the Kuwait invasion of 1990 which led to the biggest evacuation of humans in history. Then there is bilingual sports drama Saala Khadoos (Irudhi Suttru in Tamil) featuring R. Madhavan produced by Rajkumar Hirani, UTV Motion Pictures and Tricolour Productions releasing on the 29th.

In February, along with UTV’s Tabu, Katrina Kaif and Aditya Roy Kapur romantic drama Fitoor and Manoj Bajpai-starrer Aligarh where he plays a professor suspended on grounds of sexual orientation, there is Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja co-produced by Fox Star Studios, a biopic on slain airhostess Neerja Bhanot who died while saving passengers on a Mumbai-New York flight in 1986.

March onwards, viewers will be spoilt for choice. Among them are Prakash Jha-directed social drama Jai Gangaajal starring Priyanka Chopra on 4 March, Dharma Productions’ Kapoor & Sons featuring Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan on 18 March and R. Balki’s Ki And Ka that is supposed to be based on a reversal of gender roles and features Kareena Kapoor Khan and Arjun Kapoor on 1 April.

The good news should continue on 15 April with Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan where the actor plays both a superstar modeled on himself and his own fan. The film is directed by Maneesh Sharma who has earlier helmed Band Baaja Baraat and Shuddh Desi Romance. There is also Tiger Shroff-actioner Baaghi on 29 April where he co-stars with Shraddha Kapoor that is directed by Sabbir Khan and co-produced by Sajid Nadiadwala and UTV Motion Pictures.

“The line-up looks impressive on paper," said Mohan. “And with most films, you never really know. Last year, releases like NH10 and Badlapur looked just about okay but they ended up doing excellently."

Along with Anushka Sharma’s NH10 at 32 crore and Varun Dhawan’s Badlapur at 50 crore, early releases of 2015 like Yash Raj Productions’ family saga Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Akshay Kumar’s thriller Baby managed earnings of 30 crore and 95 crore respectively.

There are several lessons to learn from last year, said Mohan, apart from the need to control budgets and fight piracy. “Clashes benefit nobody, as the case of Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani shows. Also, our storytelling is improving, that is what every filmmaker wants to make a mark with today."

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