SREEDHAR PILLAI

‘Om Shanti Om,’ ‘Saawariya,’ ‘Azhagiya Tamil Magan,’ ‘Vel,’ ‘Lions for Lambs’… it will be a clash of the titans this Deepavali.

Pyramid Saimira has purchased ‘Om Shanti Om’s Tamil Nadu-Kerala rights for the highest ever price for a Hindi film...

Deepavali, 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.

Deepavali 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.

The first one

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 Tamizh 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 Tamizh 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.”

The other likely Diwali releases are smaller films such as the Pritviraj-Sathyaraj-Sandhya starrer ‘Kannamoochi Enadaa,’ directed by PriyaV, Dhanush’s ‘Polladhavan’ directed by Vetrimaran, and Jeevans’ ‘Machakkaran,’ directed by Tamizhvanan.

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.

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 crores! The film is set for another record, the highest number of prints any Indian movie has released so far – 2,000, 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, is planning to open it big in 60-70 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. Sanjay’s films have struck an emotion chord with audiences everywhere, especially due to their visual splendour and soulful music that accompanies every mood. ‘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 is planning to release ‘Saawariya’ worldwide with nearly 1,000 prints and is looking at the Indian Diaspora to make it popular.

So, can we say Deepavali 2007 will be a festival of star-spangled films for cineastes.