High temps brings B.O. bonanza

'Main,' 'Deewar' among pix taking advantage of season

NEW DELHI — It’s heat-and-dust season in north India — the trying summer months before the monsoon marked by white-hot temperatures, frayed tempers and windstorms that sandblast already wilting humans on the Indo-Gangetic plain.

But it’s also Bollywood bonanza time as thousands, especially in the national capital New Delhi, begin their annual surge to air-conditioned cinemas to escape the searing heat.

“Producers prefer to release their films during this time because of holiday season. This is the best time to make money,” says film trade analyst Amod Mehra.

Another analyst, Komal Nahata of Film Information, says Bollywood filmmakers have shelled out some 1.75 billion rupees ($40 million) on three blockbusters and a host of lower-budget youth-themed flicks in a bid to harness the summer holiday season.

That’s more than last summer, when the combined budgets of the holiday films was $27 million. “If your film is OK, the chances are that it will do better because of the summer holidays,” Nahata says.

First of these major pics, released last week, is the $6.8 million “Main Hoon Na” (I Am There), starring popular actor Shah Rukh Khan in the role of a major in the army who believes friendship is the best way to live with India’s neighbors in Pakistan.

Due out in May is Pakistan-themed “Deewar” (Wall), starring film legend Amitabh Bachchan, followed in June by $6.9 million “Lakshya” (Goal), starring heartthrob Hrithik Roshan.

At least six other made-for-summer films are lined up for release before the end of June, including “Hum Tum,” about the love life of a young cartoonist; “Yuva,” which revolves around student politics; and “Kyun … Ho Gya Na,” a romantic comedy in which a boy and a girl share a house.

With Indian audiences going through rapid mood changes, producers know the stakes are high in the summertime gamble. It’s not only the heat that’s got them in a sweat.