x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Bollywood hopes for Eid box office joy

South Asian producers and Bollywood film distributors are hoping the Eid holiday bring a change in fortune.

DUBAI // After a disappointing summer of diminished audiences, South Asian television producers and Bollywood film distributors are hoping the Eid al Fitr holiday bring a change in fortune. "People are not only on holiday, but this is big family time," said Rajeev Kheror, head of programming for Zee TV Middle East. "And the TV is always on. There is something or the other happening on television and people still watch TV."

Mr Kheror estimated there was a 15 to 20 per cent increase in viewership during Eid because families either spend time at home or visit each other. For the past month, programming at Zee TV has been tailored to the Ramadan audience, he said. For example, every afternoon, the channel showed an hour-long episode of Khana Khazana, a popular cooking show hosted by Sanjay Kapoor and featuring Middle Eastern recipes. Other daytime programmes included replays of the Zee Cinema Awards and musical shows such as Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.

On evenings during Eid, Zee TV is showing films. In daytime, programming includes a three-hour musical concert with the Sufi singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Film distributors cannot attract bigger audiences by tweaking schedules like television can. Instead, they rely on big-name actors, quality scripts and special effects. Ramadan was quiet for Bollywood. There was only one new release in the UAE. A number of releases are scheduled for the coming weekend, to coincide with Eid.

"The major releases continue for the next three months," said Mahi Golchin Depala, managing director of Phars Film. "Then you have film-going audiences who come to theatres during Eid and Diwali and all the way to Christmas." Looking back at some of the summer films, including Love Story 2050, which bombed at the box office, Ms Depala said she was unsure about Bollywood's experiments with science fiction, animation and futuristic plots. For example, the upcoming Roadside Romeo is a fully animated feature film.

She hopes Drona will have the same success of last year's Krrish, which was about a Superman-like character based on the mythology of Krishna. Drona has a similar plot but Ms Depala is apprehensive. Bollywood "is fantastic with romance", she said. "They know how to make you cry. They make heartbreaking films and they're good with action films, but please don't make futuristic romances. Don't try and make it too western. Keep the Indian element.

"You cannot copy Hollywood any more. You simply cannot make another Iron Man. Audiences are different now. They have different expectations of Bollywood and Hollywood, and they watch both keenly." sbhattacharya@thenational.ae