B'wood promises fireworks this Diwali

HulchulAt long last comes a Diwali that won't coincide with Ramadan, the Muslim holy period of abstinence when a large section of the movie-going public prefers not to see films.
After several years, Diwali is being again considered the best period to release films. And a queue of big producers has
caught on to the rare opportunity.

The festival of lights never looked more festive with Yash Chopra returning with his first directorial venture in seven years.

The India-Pakistan love story, the purported love legend "Veer-Zaara", featuring Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta and the newly discovered and transcreated tunes of the late composer Madan Mohan, is expected to be the Diwali biggie.

But, wait. Several other films are ready to take on Yash Chopra's mammoth melodious epic, only to be in the theatres for the festive flush-with-fund season.

Priyadarshan's comedy "Hulchal", featuring Kareena Kapoor and Akshaye Khanna, and Anil Sharma's gigantic war epic "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon", featuring Amitabh Bachchan with Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol, are expected to take on Chopra's dream project.

However, neither of these semi-biggies seems to possess the steam to disrupt Chopra's dream. "Hulchal" suffers from a disadvantage of featuring Kareena who in spite of versatile performances in "Chameli", "Dev" and "Fida" has come a cropper at the box office.

Kareena also features in Abbas-Mustan's unusual film "Aitraaz" on gender-reversed sexual harassment with Akshay Kumar playing a married man threatened by boss Priyanka Chopra. While the lead pair has fared well in "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi", the Abbas-Mustan film - "Taarzan: The Wonder Car" - was a dud.

But is Kareena an asset for the two Diwali releases? A large section of the trade has now begun to look at her as a jinx. Will Priyadarshan and Abbas-Mustan be able to break it?

Two years ago Priyadarshan broke the whole jinx on the comedy genre with "Hungama". Even if he does a box office encore with "Hulchal", it's unlikely that it will weather the competition from Chopra's film.

Or for that matter the war epic "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon". After the way other recent war epics, "LOC" and "Lakshya", have gone, "Ab Tumhare..." would really have to go into an uncharted and exciting territory to attract a sizeable audience.

While Chopra and his new offering loom large over the Diwali season, two films that stand a better chance of being noticed than the rest are Ram Gopal Varma's unusually magnetic "Naach" - his first directorial venture since the much-acclaimed "Bhoot" - and Sanjay Gupta's sizzling, sexually charged "Musafir" which the director says will do for sex what his "Kaante" did for action.

"Naach" and "Musafir" may get by on the strength of unconventionality, but the rest of the Diwali releases are bound to suffer in comparison with "Veer-Zaara", which has superstar Shah Rukh in the lead.

A few of these Diwali releases will probably withdraw from the tough race at the eleventh hour. But Varma and Gupta are adamant.

"Yes, I'm releasing 'Musafir' for Diwali, come what may. Let the other films come. I'm going ahead with mine," says Gupta.

Would the others be as brave and take on Chopra's film?