Summer B.O. looks livelier

'Bhoot,' 'Andaaz' rake in rupees

NEW DELHI — Bollywood is managing to raise a ghost of a wicked smile following good openings by two midsummer specials, “Bhoot” (Ghost) and “Andaaz” (Allure).

The Hindi-lingo film industry set in Mumbai has been reeling from a string of flops that saw losses amount last year to nearly $60 million and until the June openers, only “Jism” (Skin) had made any money this year.

But “Bhoot,” a suspense thriller directed by Ram Gopal Varma, opened June 6 to full houses, raking in 20 million rupees ($415,000) in Mumbai alone at the weekend — the best so far this year.

Made for about $1 million, Varma looks to have a hit on his hands — to the relief of distributors and exhibitors.

“Bhoot” tells the story of a couple played by Ajay Devgan and Urmila Matondkar who move into an apartment unaware that its previous occupant committed suicide there.

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If suspense is selling, so is sex — skin-showing “Andaaz” has already recouped its $1.8 million outlay after just three weeks.

The movie, with flashes of bare flesh, has been especially popular in the northern cow belt, with theaters in the state of Bihar adding extra showtimes to accommodate the crowds.

Two big-budget family dramas — “Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon” (I Am Crazy About Love) and “Chalte Chalte” (While on a Stroll) — are further expected to bring rupees clattering into the near-empty Bollywood coffers when they are released later this month, industry observers believe.

“It is a well-known fact that only family dramas bring in the repeat audience in India, which is so crucial for a movie’s success,” says trade analyst Indu Mirani.

Success for a Bollywood film is measured by an audience that can sing along to the musical numbers and quote line after line of dialogue — proof they have seen the picture numerous times.