The heat is on. As the mercury soars, Hollywood and Bollywood are trying to make hay with the third instalment of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and Yash Raj Films’ forthcoming release “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom” during the extended holiday period in India before a dull phase sets in.

Summer has traditionally been a good season for filmmakers with an eye on the box-office. While the sequel “Spider-Man 3″ kick-started Hollywood summer movie season followed by India release of the third instalments of “Shrek” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” Friday, the Indian film trade has been comparatively lacklustre.

For Mumbai studio-based filmdom the cash registers have not been ringing as loudly as they were in the first half of last year. But the sell-out release of “Shootout At Lokhandwala” towards May-end has given the industry reason to smile.

So far, Bollywood’s six-month report can boast of “Guru”, a very well crafted commercial hit, some very expensive above-average box-office performers like “Namastey London” and “Ta Ra Rum Pum”, and a surprising hit in the form of small budget film “Bheja Fry”.

Besides, varied medium-budget films like “The Namesake”, “Traffic Signal”, “Just Married” and “Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd” have done well in multiplexes.

The only blockbuster this year has been Sooraj Barjatya’s “Vivah” that was released towards the end of 2006 and is still going strong in some cinema halls.

The industry is hoping that “Shootout At Lokhandwala”, a joint production of Sanjay Gupta, Shobha Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor that has fetched an excellent start across the country, will help boost its six-month report card.

The film starring Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Viveik Oberoi, Suniel Shetty, Arbaaz Khan, Tusshar Kapoor and a score of other actors has garnered rave reviews and has a buzz going about it.

Amitabh-Tabu-starrer “Cheeni Kum” by ad guru R. Balakrishnan was also released alongside “Shootout At Lokhandwala” and is faring well at big city multiplexes. The film is also likely to add to the final tally of average to above-average performers in the first half of 2007.

On the whole, the box-office has not been too kind to Bollywood, as only one in 10 films released this year have managed to stay on the marquees for more than a week. Most films, however, are reportedly breaking even with the help of other venues of money making like sale of satellite rights, music, overseas distribution rights, in-film branding, corporate tie-ups etc.

The month of June is expected to be bigger and better. Hollywood offerings like the “Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End” and “Shrek – The Third” may not be as enticing as the originals but are nonetheless likely to be money spinners given the hype and hoopla around them.

Though the dime a dozen Hollywood sequels are turning out to be frightfully formulaic, it is impossible to not get carried away in the frenzy. A fearsome rank of other money-spinners this summer to hit Indian marquees will include “Ocean’s 13″, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “The Simpsons’ Movie”. “Rush Hour 3″ and John Travolta musical “Hairspray” are also likely to come to Indian shores.

The Hindi film industry will not have much to show in terms of resistance. The month of June was kicked-off with multi-starrer “Fool N Final” that features a motley of stars including Shahid and Viveik who are hot favourites after “Vivah” and “Shootout At Lokhandwala”, respectively.

Sunny Deol, Om Puri, Sharmila Tagore, Ayesha Takia, Paresh Rawal, Arbaaz Khan, Jackie Shroff, Chunky Pandey, Sameera Reddy, Zakir Hussain, Johny Lever and Gulshan Grover play other key characters in the film.

The Ahmed Khan movie, however, has come in for severe criticism from film critics across the board. Terming the comedy as an absolute waste of money and resources, critics are livid. Even if the film does well in interiors, its dumbness does not justify the money pumped into production.

The month ahead will also mark the release of Juhi Chawla-Manoj Bajpai starrer “Swami” and Pankaj Kapur-starrer “Dharm”, which was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Both films are small-budget productions and promise to have strong storylines and are likely to release coming Friday.

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The big-ticket release for the month of June will be “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom” starring father son duo Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan along with Preity Zinta, Bobby Deol and Lara Dutta.

“In the case of a Yash Raj film, people want to see it, irrespective of the content. Their films are targeted at both the masses and the classes,” explains Devang Sampat, Cinemax vice president marketing and programming.

But long before “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom” hits screens, Emraan Hashmi’s “The Train” and a teen love story introducing Ruslaan Mumtaz and Hazel in “Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar” (MP3) will hit the silver screen.

Emraan will be seen again in Mahesh Bhatt’s “Awarapan”. The buzz, however, is surrounding Himesh Reshammiya’s “Aap Kaa Surroor”, that stars the composer-singer-actor opposite Hansika Motwani and features an extended special appearance by Mallika Sherawat for which she was reportedly paid mega bucks.

Another much talked about film is “Apne”. Made by Anil Sharma of the “Gadar” fame, the film brings together veteran actor Dharmendra and his two sons Sunny and Bobby Deol.

It also stars Victor Banerjee, Kirron Kher, Shilpa Shetty, Katrina Kaif, Aryan Vaid and Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh.

“Unlike ‘Jhoom…’, in case of ‘Aap Kaa Surroor’ or ‘Apne’, one has to depend on the quality of the content for the film to be a success,” says Sampat.

Rajnikanth-starrer “Sivaji” is expected to equal the opening of Yash Raj’s “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom”.

Fame’s programming head Gaurav Varma believes that June is expected to be the biggest reaper of 2007, with collections mounting to 20 to 30 percent over the average collection of the remaining 11 months.

“Jhoom…” and Hollywood movie “Ocean’s 13″ are expected to do extraordinary business.

But will this steady flow of promising flicks translate into encouraging advance bookings and house-full shows? Given that unconventional has become the latest essential element for the success mantra, only time and box-office report will tell who is the winner this summer.

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The month of June is crucial for Bollywood as it will be followed by a lean period when no major film is slated for release. After June, the next big ticket releases will be in August, including Salman Khan’s international project “Marigold: An Adventure In India” and, of course, Shah Rukh Khan-starrer “Chak De India”.

Source: INAS

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