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The summer bonanza

Summer, generally, is ushered in with the release of movies. SREEDHAR PILLAI takes a look at this year's fare.

"Lakshya" has an impressive star cast with Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta.

THE HEAT is on! As the mercury soars it is time for summer releases — the best season to unleash star spangled big movies in India. Actually it is a worldwide phenomenon and even in the U.S. ticket sale peaks. In India, summer holidays bring the kids and their families to the mushrooming multiplexes in major cities as cinema is still the cheapest form of entertainment here, with ticket rates hovering between Rs. 50 and Rs. 150 compared to international rates of $10 to $ 20! Multiplexes have also become a style statement in India as these are the favourite hang-out places for the young audience.

So what is in store this summer?

For Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan's "Main Hoon Na," a fun film, has kick-started the summer box-office. There will be almost 30 releases during summer this year of big and small films. Our focus will be on the five big budget films worth over Rs. 100 crores, which, according to the trade, can turn into blockbusters.

"Yuva" directed by Mani Ratnam is said to be a Rs 20-crore project and stars Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor and Esha Deol. A. R. Rahman's music has raised a lot of expectations. The promos on satellite channels highlighting the "Anjaana... Anjaani" song have created waves among the viewers.

"Yuva is about three young men from three different strata of society with entirely different points of view about life. Their paths cross and their lives change forever. The film premieres in Singapore for the IFFA festival and will be released worldwide on May 21.

On May 28, there is a clash between Big-B's "Deewar" and the Yash Chopra-produced, Kunal Kohli-directed romantic comedy "Hum Tum," starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee.

A scene from "Spiderman-2."

"Deewar" is said to be based on "The Great Escape," Steve McQueen-James Coburn classic war film of the 1960s. In this `desi' version, produced by Gaurang Desai and directed by Milind Luthra, Akshay Khanna joins hands with a Pakistani played by Sanjay Dutt to save his father (Amitabh), a prisoner of war (POW) from a high security Pakistani jail!

Saif's success with comedy in "Dil Chahta Hai" and "Kal Ho Na Ho" has his fans expecting more funny stuff from him in "Hum Tum" made on a budget of Rs. 8 crores. Saif plays a cartoonist in a leading publication and the film is said to be heavily inspired by the Hollywood comedy, "When Harry Met Sally."

"Aan," directed by Madhur Bhandarkar of "Chandni Bar" fame, is about male bonding between three police officers played by Akshay Kumar, Suneil Shetty and Shatrughan Sinha. It is a Rs.15-crore budget film that is scheduled for June 4 release.

On June 18 the most eagerly awaited film, "Lakshya," directed by Farhan Akhtar with an impressive star cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta will hit the screens. The film made on a budget of Rs. 32 crores is about a lazy young man (Hrithik), who becomes focussed after he joins the Indian Army. Preity plays a committed television journalist and Hrithik's love interest. The backdrop is the the Kargil war but there is no Pak-bashing.

Hrithik's hairstyle in the first half — locks flopping on his forehead — is already a rage among the youth in metros and the song "Main Aisa Kyon Hoon ... " choreographed by Prabhu Deva is on top of the charts.

India is considered the fastest growing market in Asia for Hollywood films. The box-office takings from India are in the range of Rs 200 to 250 crores annually. But the fact is that the studio honchos in California are bullish about India, which ranks 14th in worldwide box-office takings. Today Hollywood films, especially the biggies, have simultaneous releases in India and the U.S. following the success of "Matrix Revolution."

The studios prefer to go in for a simultaneous release due to Asia's notorious pirates who flood the markets with VCDs almost 48 hours after its U.S. release. "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban" will open simultaneously.

This summer, the first major Hollywood release in India is Columbia's "Hellboy," which is also being dubbed in Indian languages and will release on May 14. "Hellboy" (Ron Pearlman) is the story of a half-man, half-devil raised by a scientist and is a secret avenger who fights for mankind against demons from hell. It is a sci-fi fantasy horror and is based on the popular comic book by the same name.

It will be followed by "Independence Day"-director Roland Emmerichs' $100-million sci-fi extravaganza, "The Day After Tomorrow" which releases on May 28 worldwide including India. Roland's enemies this time are not aliens but Nature itself, as devastating tornados rip Los Angeles, snowstorms pound New Delhi and a hail storm batters Tokyo. In the film, Dennis Quaid is a climatologist fighting to save the world from abrupt global warming.

Warner Brothers that made huge money with its worldwide release of "Matrix Revolution" hopes to repeat the success with "Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban" on June 4. It is another action-packed Potter film showing Harry's (Daniel Radcliffe) third year at Hogwarts, the Magic School. There are scarier creatures this time called Dementors as Harry has also to meet the challenge from a mass murderer who has escaped from Azkaban's wizard prison and is heading his way.

Paramount's "Van Helsing" releases on June 11. The handsome, macho Hugh Jackson stars as the famous 19th century vampire hunter who has to face a legion of dark forces including Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman! This $150-million project is said to satisfy every horror and adventure fan's wildest dream and is sure to be a hit in India with its spectacular special effects.

Finally on July 23 the biggest of them all, Columbia's "Spiderman-2." This time Peter Parkar alias the masked super hero is beset with personal problems as he takes on the demonic Doctor Octopus, a multi-tentacled menace. The film opens in the U.S. on July 2 and the trade is predicting that it would surpass the $365 millions collected by "The Passion Of The Christ" in the U.S.

"Naani," directed by S. J. Surya has Mahesh Babu and Amisha Patel in the lead.

For the Tamil industry, summer started with the Tamil New Year (mid-April). So far all releases like "Gilli," "Aethiree," "Arul" and "Jana" have taken a good opening. "Gilli" has already turned out to be a blockbuster and the trade feels that it may even cross the collections of "Padayappa" and last year's "Saamy" in the long run.

Two more biggies ready for release are "Perazhagan" on May 6 and "Aayutha Ezhuthu" on May 21.

AVM's "Perazhagan" may turn out to be the dark horse in the midst of all the action films released in the last two weeks. This film is sure to attract the children and promises to be a `family entertainer,' without blood and gore. As the buck-toothed, dark, hunchback Chinna, Surya brings the house down with his antics.

Mani Ratnam's "Aayutha Ezhuthu" is also another biggie as it has all the young stars like Madhavan, Surya, Siddharth, Meera Jasmine, Esha Deol and Trisha in the cast. It is releasing on May 21 along with its Hindi version "Yuva."

S. J. Surya-directed "New" releases on June 11. Surya is the hero opposite Simran. The music of A. R. Rahman is on top of the charts and the film promises to be a rollicking entertainer.

The Telugu film industry continues to be the sunrise industry as Tatas and Birlas have forayed into making films here. Super-hit films here collect a distributor's share of Rs 25 crores and more! This year, due to the Assembly elections, all summer blockbusters have been delayed.

The first of the big summer releases this year is "Naani," directed by S. J. Surya with Mahesh Babu and Amisha Patel in the lead. It will release on May 14. This is also a bilingual, which has some great music by A. R. Rahman.

This will be followed by "Sri Anjaneyam," directed by Krishna Vamsi, who is trying out a mythological film after a long time with some spectacular special effects.

In June there is Junior NTR's "Samba" and Pawan Kalyan's "Gudumbu Shankar," followed in July by superstar Chiranjeevi's "Shankardada MBBS" a remake of "Munnabhai MBBS."

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