Looking at full-page advertisements in leading newspapers, you’d think every movie released this year was a winner. Misleading claims of several big-ticket movies getting ‘the highest opening’ and ‘the largest box-office collection’ aside, it goes without saying that Bollywood has had the worst year in recent times. If the producer-multiplex rift was not enough, the swine flu scare also had its effect in pinning down ambitious projects that proved to be over-ambitious and unreasonably expensive in hindsight.

Which have been the biggest upsets this year? Start counting — Blue, Chandni Chowk To China, What’s Your Rashee?, Delhi 6, Dil Bole Hadippa, London Dreams, 8 x 10 Tasveer, Aladin and Main Aurr Mrs Khanna; one more expensive than the other, and each of them boasting a high-profile star cast.

But external conditions cannot be an excuse for Bollywood’s disappointing showing. The writing is on the wall. The losses have more to do with letting loose costs even in the face of recessionary trends globally, and not paying attention to that crucial aspect of filmmaking — scripting.

Blue

This film easily turned out to be the biggest flop of the year. Pegged at a budget of Rs. 100 crore, the movie was touted to be a huge Deepavali attraction — with a multi-star cast, a debut director, and a genre (underwater thriller) never explored before. With no substance and high on style, Blue sank without a trace even as distributors and the producers made a last ditch attempt to salvage the film by stalling scathing reviews on portals. Akshay’s penultimate film of the year, and hopefully his last nightmare in a string of colossal flops, including Kambakht Ishq and Chandni Chowk To China.

Chandni Chowk To China

Wonder how Rohan Sippy would have sold the film to the U.S. studio Warner Bros? Actually, we think it was brand Akshay that won this project. It was said to be largely autobiographical, with a lot of creative licence. Thankfully, Akshay’s life is not like that of the bumpkin’s we saw in the film. The idea was to create a complete Akshay package with his style of comedy, action and emotion shovelled in like never before. Loose story-telling (thanks to director Nikhil Advani) and an overdose of, yes, Akshay, did this film in.

What’s Your Rashee?

The film, about choosing your life partner from among the 12 zodiac signs, bit the dust in spite some exemplary performances by Priyanka Chopra (12 of her!) and even a decent enough showing by Harman Baweja. Two reasons — a botched up climax and the length of the film. This movie could have been an average performer, but got hugely hit by negative reviews.

Delhi 6

The number of lead actors that had refused this project made us suspicious all along, but we were not sure what to expect of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who had given us the wonderful Rang De Basanti. The monkey man’s inexplicable antics had the audience tearing its hair, and poor Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor landing with one more flop. The director couldn’t make up his mind about which-sub plot to give precedence to resulting in a thorough mess.

8 x 10 Tasveer

By Nagesh’s own admission, this project seemed to be jinxed, and it took an unbelievable time to make. The corporate producing it (Percept Picture Company) thought the story about a forest ranger, who can visualise events by entering photographs, with Akshay in the lead would rake in the moolah. The estimated loss? A phenomenal Rs. 60 crore.

Dil Bole Hadippa

Rani’s career was being written off even before the release of this movie, thanks to her penchant for working only with Aditya Chopra. The movie’s abysmal performance was the final nail on the coffin. Not even Shahid’s post- Kaminey euphoria could rescue this one. Her character seemed a strange cross between Gulab ji in Saawariya and Geet in Jab We Met. Sorry! Forgot the Sardar totally.

London Dreams

Vipul Shah’s over-ambitious Punjabi take on the super cool Rock On! turned to be such a dampener that nobody even wanted to discuss the money lost on the project. The movie was still in its pre-production last year when there was talk about Indian Films paying Rs. 120 crore just for the overseas rights to a Salman-Ajay Devgn starrer. But the deal was scrapped. We totally understand why. But there is a seriously nagging question — Why did a film about music not have even a decent-enough score?

Aladin

With the high dose of VFX in this movie, it was always a high cost one that would have been difficult to recover or even break-even. Again, the storyline that was understandably for kids was not convincingly translated on screen. With Amitabh Bachchan as the genie, it seemed to have the potential of a winner, but tottered.

MOOLAH MATTERS

Trade analyst Amod Mehra says: “It has been a very bad year with over a Rs. 1,000-crore loss. Normally, in a year, we have 15 per cent success rate, inclusive of hits, super hits and blockbusters. But this year, we can barely reach the five per cent mark. The biggest problem I see is that, with corporates coming in, all the budgeting has gone haywire. They are overpaying each artist. For instance, Akshay Kumar, who barely four years ago charged a crore for his films, is now asking for Rs. 33 crore. Amitabh Bachchan, who would charge up to Rs 2.5 crore for a lead, is now being paid Rs. 3 crore for a character role. Shahid Kapur and even johnnies-come-lately such as Ranbir Kapoor are demanding Rs. 8 crore. Where’s the logic? There’s no turning back their prices now. Add to it the shortage of stories. Filmmakers are clueless about what to make.”