films Om Shanti Om, Saawariya, Azhagiya Tamil Magan, Vel, Lions for Lambs… it will be a clash of the titans this Diwali, says sreedhar pillai

Diwali, the festival of lights, is traditionally one of the most auspicious seasons to release a new film in Bollywood and Kollywood. Normally, only blockbusters hit the screen during this period. Diwali 2007 promises to be a cracker of a contest in Bollywood where Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies-produced, Farah Khan-directed Om Shanti Om, which is the launch pad of Deepika Padukone, will compete with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, a love story that brings together two newcomers, Ranbir Kapoor, son of Rishi Kapoor, and Sonam Kapoor, daughter of Anil Kapoor. Bhansali’s favourites Salman Khan and Rani Mukherjee make a cameo appearance in Saawariya, the first Indian film being produced by a Hollywood major, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Down South, in Kollywood, it was said that Diwali 2007 would witness the mother of all box-office battles when Kamal Hassan’s Dasavatharam, Vijay’s Azhagiya Tamil Magan, Vikram’s Bheema, Ajit’s Billa and Surya’s Vel would compete against one another. But with only two films confirming their release date (November 8), it looks like the face-off will be between Azhagiya Tamil Magan, directed by newcomer Bharathan, and Vel, directed by Hari.

Says a leading distributor: “It is good only two big Tamil films are releasing, as there is an acute shortage of theatres outside Chennai and overseas where Om Shanti Om and Saawariya have already booked the best of theatres screening Indian films.”

Likely releases

The other likely Diwali releases are smaller films such as the Pritviraj- Sathyaraj-Sandhya starrer Kannamoochi Enadaa, directed by Priya.V, Dhanush’s Pollathavan, directed by Vetrimaran, and Jeevan’s Machaikaran, directed by Tamilvanan. And the big Hollywood release is likely to be the Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford drama Lions for Lambs, directed by Robert Redford. Industry analysts say it is going to be the biggest ever Diwali season, especially in a metro like Chennai, where Tamil, Hindi and English films do well. Says Abirami Ramanathan: “After many years, Diwali 2007 is going to be big in Tamil Nadu as Azhagiya Tamil Magan, Vel and Om Shanti Om clash. Added to that, people are just waiting to watch the superstars fight it out.

Remember after Sivaji, there has been no big hit; our audiences want to buy tickets only for movies featuring big stars.” Says Vinod, General Manager, Inox: “Already we are getting inquiries as to when the booking will open for Om Shanti Om and Azhagiya Tamil Magan!". Almost all theatres in Chennai are confident of their Diwali bookings.

Another record?

Meanwhile, there is a big buzz around the Bollywood biggies Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. The worldwide theatrical rights for Om Shanti Om have been purchased by the overseas distributor of Hindi films, Eros International controlled by Kishore Lulla, for a record Rs. 75 crore! The film is all set to create another record, the highest number of prints any Indian movie has released so far - 2000, with most of them in digital format. After the stupendous success of Chak De, Shah Rukh is the biggest Indian movie icon from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Pyramid Saimira, which has purchased Om Shanti Om’s Tamil Nadu-Kerala rights for the highest ever price paid for a Hindi film plans to open it big in 60 to 70 screens in both the States put together.

For Sony Pictures Entertainment, Saawariya is their first attempt at making an Indian film and marketing it worldwide through their network. Says Uday Singh, Managing Director, Sony Pictures India: “Saawariya is a lovely movie made by the master craftsman, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Saawariya also indicates Sony’s recognition of the importance of the Indian market and its desire to team up with the film industry in India.” Sony plans to release Saawariya worldwide with nearly 1,000 prints and is looking at the Indian Diaspora to make it popular.

With so many happenings in the world of cinema, Diwali 2007 promises to be a festival of star-spangled films for cineastes in Chennai.

Diwali dhamakaHINDI Om Shanti Om and Saawariya

TAMIL Azhagiya Tamil Magan and Vel

ENGLISH Lions For Lambs