A Run Down of the Box Office with info taken from a couple of publications including Shama Film Magazine.

Lollywood has been breathing a collective sigh of relief during the summer of 2001 as the shackles of age-old rigid government restrictions have been lifted with extremely encouraging results. Cinema owners across the nation have been rejoicing as profits have shown a considerable upswing since the government relief measures were brought into effect earlier in the year.

The mood has been so buoyant that some old cinemas that had closed down are once again reopening. This time around however the emphasis is on following the multiplex system with smaller screening rooms and more choice. Cinema owners who for years were restricted to showing only three shows a day, at 3pm, 6 and 9 have now been allowed the freedom to manage their own scheduling which has resulted in benefits for the audience and the industry and the cinema owners alike. Now invariably one finds that cinemas are screening morning shows of recent hit films or better still, movies from yesteryear. In doing this they are helping to salvage some of Lollywood’s older films from an era when they weren’t quite the embarrassment they tend to be nowadays.

The experiment of starting a sign-up membership type thing for the imported Hollywood films seems also to have been a resounding success as for the first time in ages, audiences who preferred to rely on their state-of-the-art home theatre equipment found that there’s really nothing to beat the cinema experience. Thus, films like Shrek, Tomb Raider, Hannibal and The Mummy Returns (especially) have done very solid business indeed and this trend of importing Hollywood films before they are completely yesterday’s news seems to be paying dividends.

On the local front, there is more activity and buzz in the dingy offices of Royal Park than there has been for many a year. Even poor Shamim Ara has managed to resurrect herself from the grave and announced a couple of fresh projects – such is the level of optimism and buoyancy in Lollywood at present. Punjabi films have received a shot in the arm as recently released films of the Sultan Rahi genre with Shaan doing the Rahi thing have scored major success at the local box office. A complete report of the Lollywood Box Office scenario for June, July and August and September is presented to you in detail:

Firstly, Khoay ho tum Kahan continued its victory march and packed the crowds in all over the country – and managed to get families and droves of women out of their homes and into the cinemas. The film has been deemed a mega hit and it has single-handedly saved the career of Meera, as she was in danger of becoming jobless before this film made it big. Khoay ho has just completed its run from its main cinema in Lahore, but only having done some very solid business indeed. Musalman, despite being an awful film, managed to run on its massive publicity campaign and ended up on the plus side overall.

Madame Sangeeta attempted to follow up her hit Sultana Daku with Mere Mehboob starring Shaan, Resham, Noor and Saud. Unfortunately for Madame Sangeeta, the film was totally rejected by the masses. She had a chance to rectify matters the following week when her family drama Gharana was released all over the country. Sadly the rather stale film bombed miserably and Sangeeta looks like she may well be heading for a hat-trick of flops with her upcoming Dul which hasn’t generated much pre-release hype.

Raka, which is essentially a vehicle for struggling singer Lucky arrived in the third week of May and was met by the ridicule that it thoroughly deserved. The film and its stars were laughed off screen within days leaving Lucky and his chamchas rather humbled. Its opening week figures were a shocking 20% and it came as little surprise that the film struggled to make it for another week.

Next up was veteran producer director’s remake of his smash hit film from over 25 years ago by the name of Khan Zada. The film had been a major hit way back in the early 70’s and contained a song by Nahid Akhter akh lade te ladai ja which became a sensation along with the film itself. Akram Khan has remade the film, updating the story but has used the same name as his lucky hit from way back as well as the hit song which has been re-recorded and used once again in this new version. Though the song has been rapturously received, the film itself has met with a lukewarm response at best. Its reasonable start has tapered off rapidly leaving the film as a losing proposition. The film opened in Karachi with only 60% and fell away rapidly while on home turn in the Punjab region it didn’t fare much better, clocking in with 70% in the opening week and decreasing rapidly thereafter.

The next release on the 1st of June was a rarity called Nizam Lohar – a rarity in that it was a period piece that dealt with an historical subject rather than the usual blood and guts that every second Punjabi film invariably is. This remake of an old film Nizam Lohar met with lukewarm success in the Punjab circuit but sank without a trace in the Sindh region. In the Punjab region it opened with an encouraging 80% in the first week but fell away drastically to just about 40% in the following week. The film starred Saud in the title role along with Sana and Noor.

Next up was Younus Malik’s Toofan Mail starring Saima, A parrot, Shaan, Saud, Meera, Nargis and good old Gulloo (Ghulam Mohiuddin). The film started with a bang and in the initial few days, business was remarkable for a film of such exceptionally low quality. Saima’s moronic antics with her pet parrot had the crowds cooing in delight, if only for the first three days alone as business started to plummet rather alarmingly. The film struggled for the next few weeks and it will end up doing very well to recover its investment costs at very best. Surely parrot oriented comedy films are a touch passé? Karachi wallah’s certainly thought so as the film registered a pathetic 30% in its opening week.

Hasnain returned with the Shaan starrer Asoo Billa in a desperate attempt to break his run of recent failures. The film featured Shaan in the mould of the late great Sultan Rahi and was released in the Punjab circuit alone on the 29th of June. Hasnain’s grimace of anxiety soon turned to smile of utmost relief as Asoo Billa absolutely stormed the Punjab Box office taking 95% collections in its first week and dropping to 90 in the second and third weeks. The film has been a raging success in the Pindi circuit and, after the success of last year’s Ishtehari Gujjar – means that there is yet another renaissance of the Rahi style of film making and Shaan is the Rahi of the new century. The hit song by Shazia Manzoor and its picturization on Sana have sent the crowds into raptures and have given the film significant repeat value. The film has managed to continue hovering around the 90% mark even after a month of release and is a screamer of a hit in the Punjab circuit. Asoo Billa opened much later in the Sindh circuit where it has been embraced by the Karachiites in a big way too with a massive 95% opening first week and rock steady business thereafter. Asoo Billa has proved to be a nationwide smash hit, and Sana has finally arrived as a solo heroine.

Meanwhile a Syed Noor, Choorian clone flop from way back in November 2000, Nooran – starring none other than Saima in the title role – was released in Karachi in June 2001 with fairly unimpressive results. The film managed to scrape round about 50% in its opening week which was rather more than could have been expected of a film as tedious as Nooran.

Another Syed Noor Choorian clone titled Choorian Nahin Hadhkadian opened at the fag end of June and failed to catch on in the cities but reports from smaller circuits was fairly encouraging. The film might end up recovering most of its costs even if it can’t really be considered a money spinner.

Zeba Bakhtiar’s much awaited, highly touted Babu opened after numerous delays in the second week of July. Zeba herself had directed and starred in the film and it featured Saud in a double role – which was ambitious to say the least. However, nobody could have anticipated the box office disaster that Babu became within the first day of its release. The film, which was not a cheap production by Lollywood standards, proceeded to bomb in the most spectacular manner ever. In Rawalpindi the owners of Shabistan cinema pulled it from their screen within the first three days and replaced it hastily with last year’s hit film Ghar Kab Aao Gay! Babu didn’t even manage a four-day run in Rawalpindi and it met with similarly disastrous results all over the country. Babu must go down as one of the biggest flops in Lollywood history, and Zeba’s credentials as a saleable actress and viable director have taken a serious battering due to the Babu debacle.

Munda Rang Rangeela with Moammar Rana, Jon Rembo and Resham was a cheapie and managed to record a decent opening of around 80% but it fell away badly after that. However as the film cost next to nothing to produce, it won’t be too much of a disaster for investors even if it is a rank flop.

Madame Sangeeta had been sent into a frenzy with her back to back flops Gharana and Mere Mehboob, but worse was to follow as Dul Dul bit the dust in a big way despite a star cast of Shaan, Reema and Saud and co. Dul Dul follows Babu as one of the stinking flops of the year even if it didn’t quite cost as much as Babu did. The figures for Dul Dul make embarrassing reading with opening weeks in Lahore of 30% and in Karachi of 25%. The Madame is going for broke with her next film starring Shaan in and as Sher Lahore.

***NEWS FLASH*** Sher Lahore has opened very strongly in Lahore’s Capital cinema (and others) where fights were reported on the opening and second day shows when the cinema operators refused to screen Nirma‘s hot dance number more than three times in succession. The dance number had gained notoriety even before the release of the film and now audiences in the form of drooling young men are thronging the cinema to ogle at Nirma’s obscene pyrotechnics. Industrywallah’s are wondering just how much dosh the producers had to part with in order to get the saucy song through the censors, but then Madame Sangeeta is a heavyweight in more ways than one – with a hefty clout as well as frame. In the wake of a series of strikes against American intervention in Afghanistan, cinemas have been incurring heavy losses this month and Sher Lahore is facing an uphill battle even if its opening has been very encouraging. Most films that were due for release in this period before Ramzan have now been pushed back due to the current unsettled political situation. Syed Noor’s Dil Deewana Hai has bombed while Gujjar 302 has opened with average business at best and has failed to match the three hits Asoo Billa, Humayun Gujjar and Mehr Badshah. Altaf Hussain’s Shahen shah has not caught on either and is a losing proposition.

A light comedy remake of an old hit from the 70’s Uff Yeh Beewian was released at the end of July. The film starring Moammar Rana, Saima, Reema and Resham and directed by Syed Noor managed to pull a steady if unspectacular 75% in its opening week which wasn’t too much to get excited about. However subsequently it has shown strong “legs” and the weekly drop has been marginal in that the third and fourth week’s business has been hovering around the 70% mark which means that Beewian has turned into a steady commission earner this summer.

Syed Noor’s Sapney Apney starring Moammar Rana, Saima, Baber Ali and Reema has opened encouragingly in Lahore where its opening days take was nearly around 90% and this figure was going upwards by the third day of release so expectations of a decent run are high at the moment and subsequent weeks will tell whether the strong initial was sustained or not. As it turned out, the film went steadily downhill and has been pronounced a flop.

Following in the footsteps of smash hit Asoo Billa was Punjabi pot boiler Mehr Badshah and this film too has managed to do strong business in the Punjab region with collections of around the 90+ region in its first week and solid figures of 80 in its second and third weeks. The double header success of Asoo Billa followed up by Mehr Badshah has put Punjabi film makers into a very enthusiastic frame of mind and production is in full swing. There have been some casualties along the way however. Badmash starring Saud in the title role along with Sana and Noor met with dismal failure recording around 35% to 40% in its opening week.

Aaj ki Larki starring Resham in the title role also fell by the wayside and will rank as one of the big flops of the year.

The Punjabi boom is set to continue it seems as reports of Humayun Gujjar’s opening week are nothing short of spectacular. The film has followed in the footsteps of Asoo Billa and has taken a storming start of 100% all over the Punjab circuit and despite the slowing down of business after the Sept 11th attacks; the film has maintained a roaring trade with figures remaining above the 80% mark. The film has been held over in cinemas throughout the circuit and has been pronounced yet another bumper hit – which makes it three in succession for Shaan and the Punjabi scene. Asoo Billa scored big time, followed by Mehr Badshah which has also packed them in…and now the stunning performance of Humayun Gujjar has scored a hat trick of success. Meanwhile let us be the first on record to say that there is clearly a noticeable shift in the box-office hierarchy and though Shaan remains very much the king among the men, surely Sana with her string of smash hits (Ishtehari Gujjar, Asoo Billa, Humayun Gujjar and Mehr Badshah) has crept up and over taken at the top of the women’s perch?

The latest on “Manisha Koirala’s first Lollywood Film” Doulat is that the shady characters who were trying to fool potential investors by claiming that their product was ready and about to hit cinemas have found no buyers for their film which apparently is still far from being completed, and is likely to remain that way. The word going around the industry regarding Doulat is that it was merely an attempted “fraud” by the film makers…a shady attempt to hook unsuspecting investors for a dud product. Fortunately, they haven’t had any luck, though there is a rumour also floating around that the film is again due on the 19th of October which we have serious doubts about. **DOULAT HAS NOT OPENED AS OF NOVEMBER 6th!

Meanwhile Shafqat Cheema’s aspirations as a hero will have to wait a little bit longer as his Ek Jagga Hore opposite Saima couldn’t make it on schedule due to censor trouble. Just opened films include Gujjar 302, Shehenshah both with Shaan in the title role…in face glance through the upcoming titles below to be stunned by just how many films do feature Shaan in the title role. Just goes to show how much this man dominates the Lollywood scene at the moment. Ek Din Sher Da, Baaghi, Maakha Jat, Sher Lahore, Shikari Haseena and Riaz Shahid’s original Nizam Lohar as well as the legendary Maula Jat are about to be released in the next few weeks but read about how they fared in our next Box Office Report.