Can Bell Bottom reboot Bollywood?

Can Akshay Kumar do a Vijay? Or Ravi Teja?

Since the Bollywood superstar announced that his new film Bell Bottom will have a theatrical release on July 27, excitement is on the rise.

Fans as well as industry watchers have applauded the move. The hope is that, pandemic practicalities permitting, Akshay's gesture will initiate the first step at box-office normalcy for the Hindi film trade.

Film industry analysts believe all it would take for Covid-19-hit Bollywood to get going again is one big hit.

This calls for a film with the right entertainment quotient, pre-release hype and, most importantly, a star who doesn't have to try too hard to draw the crowds.

Bell Bottom is a retro spy thriller set in the '80s. It has been shot mostly in the United Kingdom and is a mix of sleek action and pop patriotism.

The high-octane drama is reportedly based on a true story and also stars Vaani Kapoor, Huma Qureshi and Lara Dutta.

The all-out entertainer would seem instantly sellable. Bollywood's hope is the film will have the same impact as Teja's Krack did for the Telugu film industry and Vijay's Master achieved for Tamil cinema in January, when films in South India were bravely released in theatres despite the pandemic restrictions.

Krack, made on a budget of Rs16 crore ($2.9 million) and released on Jan 9, managed to net more than Rs60 crore in four weeks.

Master, released on Jan 14, was made with a rumoured budget of Rs135 crore. It did spectacularly well despite the pandemic protocols - grossing Rs250 crore worldwide, according to India Today.

There are other Hindi films too lined up for a theatrical release next month.

Before the second Covid wave struck in India in April, it was announced that Shershaah, starring Sidharth Malhotra, will release on July 2.

Ayushmann Khurrana's Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is scheduled to open in theatres on July 9, along with the budget comedy 14 Phere, featuring Vikrant Massey and Kriti Kharbanda,

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Alia Bhatt-starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi is set to release on Aug 30.

Bell Bottom, interestingly, will release on a Tuesday. Which means Akshay and his battalion of producers (Vashu and Jackky Bhagnani, Deepshikha Deshmukh, Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani and Nikkhil Advani) have given themselves a three-day head start.

They will be hoping to garner word-of-mouth support over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, before the actual weekend kicks in on Friday, July 30.

For a film like Bell Bottom, which is not a conventional mainstream entertainer, a bit of buzz will be needed to get it going.

Akshay currently has half a dozen films lined up. Of these, Bell Bottom, Sooryavanshi, Atrangi Re and Prithiviraj are scheduled for release this year.

Akshay is reportedly keen to release Sooryavanshi on Gandhi Jayanti (Oct 2).

His two other films, Bachchan Pandey and Ram Setu, are slated for release next year.

Akshay has reportedly completed the shooting for all the films, except Ram Setu.

Akshay's focus clearly is on all-out entertainment. Subject to pandemic realities, if Bell Bottom kick-starts the Bollywood theatrical trade revival, it would give Akshay an advantage over the other superstars.

In the absence of theatre business, releasing films on OTT has reaped rich dividends for many in recent months. But as Salman Khan would affirm, the digital space doesn't care much about the power of traditional Bollywood superstardom. His recent release Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai made a lacklustre impression.

Akshay himself would be aware of this fact. He had dropped Laxmii on OTT last year and the impact was far from blockbuster.

Indo-Asian News Service

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