Diwali, the festival of lights is upon us. Together with the ritual of firecrackers, oil lamps and clean houses to welcome the goddess of wealth and good fortune Lakshmi, the annual big screen Diwali-Bollywood battle is also set to burn. This year, Bollywood fans choose between Akshay Kumar's star turn in the action-thriller Blue, Salman Khan's romance vehicle Main Aur Mrs Khanna and the comedy All The Best featuring Sanjay Dutt.
For sheer adrenalin, the top pick for Diwali 2009 has to be debut feature director, ex-ad man, Anthony D'Souza's Blue starring heavyweights Akshay Kumar and Sanjay Dutt. The story is pure action with a story line, D'Souza has told the Indian media. “If you come to this film with expectations of an emotional film with lots of endearing moments you'll be very disappointed,” he says.
Shot in the Bahamas, with an estimated budget of 100 crore (one billion rupees or just under AUD25 million), production company Shree Ashtavinayak Cinevision has invested heavily in D'Souza. Assembled crew on the feature includes cinematographer, Pete Zuccarini (Pirates Of The Caribbean) who shot the underwater scenes with music direction by A. R. Rahman. Blue also features a cameo by Kylie Minogue in her debut Bollywood appearance! You may have caught her latest song, “Chiggy Wiggy” a synthesised Bollywood duet with Kumar released in advance of the theatrical release as per Bollywood marketing conventions. Minogue, who sings and delivers her dialogue in English, is said to be the highest paid foreigner in Bollywood history with a reported $1,000,000 fee for her vocals on the one song and a small role as herself.
In what promises to be as different from Blue as you can get, Main Aur Mrs Khanna is all emotion. The film's central premise surrounds questions of morality. The “perfect” married couple Mr Khanna (Salman Khan) and Mrs Khanna (Kareena Kapoor) are “tested” by an extra-marital affair. Directed by another first-timer, Prem Soni the film was shot on location in Dubai, various locations in Maharashta, India and Thailand as well as Kingford Smith International Airport in Sydney and Melbourne and stars veteran actor Govinda as the third party of the love triangle.
Finally, in a season that has something for everyone, there is another chance to catch Sanjay Dutt in the comedy 'extravaganza' All The Best. With the tagline “Fun Begins” the film, produced by Ajay Devgn Films, directed by Rohit Shetty and distributed by Yash-Raj Films is shot in Goa and features Dutt as multi-millionaire Dharam Kapoor who bankrolls his “rockstar” brother Veer Kapoor (Fardeen Khan). An unexpected visit and a case of mistaken identities ensue. Also starring Ajay Devgn, Bipasha Basu, Mugdha Godse and Asrani.
Fans of Shetty's previous comedic direction, notably Golmaal (2006) and Golmaal Returns (2008) are again targeted with All The Best. Prepare for extravagant song and dance sequences that include Dutt on the drums and 2000 dancers. The cast, together with music director Pritam launched the music at Siddhivinayak temple, Prabhadevi, Mumbai in what they no doubt hope is an auspicious start for their Diwali campaign.
As is custom for films released during Diwali, the producers of Blue, Main Aur Mrs Khanna and All The Best will be hoping that their audiences' collective feeling of wellbeing and generosity will translate to ticket sales. For our part, the global and local Bollywood audience can only hope that all our Diwalis have come at once and that the films live up to the hype.