'Happy New Year' shakes up Bollywood's men's club

Fri Nov 7, 2014 6:44am EST
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By Tony Tharakan

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A record opening-day debut for a Bollywood film that happens to be directed by a woman is shaking up the men's-only club of filmmakers in the list of India's highest grossing movies.Farah Khan's new film, a heist caper that doubles as a song-and-dance extravaganza, is a rare blockbuster by a woman filmmaker in the Indian movie industry, the world's largest by ticket sales. Two of Khan's three previous films in the last decade were hits too, but not as big as "Happy New Year".

The choreographer-turned-filmmaker said withstanding pressure from people who expect her to make a certain kind of cinema because of her gender is her biggest success.

"Nobody is expecting a 200 crore ($33 million) hit from a woman director, which in itself is very sad and very patronizing," said Khan, whose recipe of breezy, entertaining cinema woos children and adults alike, but is panned by critics.

"I hope more women come and break this record. I think it will help every woman who wants to go out and make a movie, if our movies end up making as much money as the male directors."

Khan, 49, said she lived her dream with "Happy New Year", having wanted to make the "biggest film you've seen in India".

Her leading man Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood's most bankable star, headlines the film's ensemble cast. In the film, Shah Rukh and his ragtag crew of loveable rogues worm their way into a global dance competition at a Dubai hotel, with their sights set on diamonds hidden in an underground vault at the venue.

Reviews have mostly been critical with Anupama Chopra writing in the Hindustan Times that "the desire to entertain overshadows everything else - script, character, coherence, narrative logic".

But Khan is unfazed by criticism, saying she relies on her gut instinct while making movies that make her happy.   Continued...

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (L) and director Farah Khan smile during a news conference in Mumbai September 18, 2007. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe