Mission China: Zubeen Garg's Assamese film gives Bollywood a run for its money
The multi-talented Zubeen Garg is emerging as a true blue star among the Assamese moviegoers. Case in point: The roaring response of his film Mission China.
Assamese movie Mission China gives makers of Bollywood films like Daddy and Poster Boys a run for their money as the flick is running houseful across many centres in Assam in the first three days since its release on Friday, 8 September.
The news comes as a whiff of fresh air for the Assamese film industry which was seen at the verge of extinction after repeated flops in the face of steep competition from Bollywood. The regional film industry, that has hardly seen any hit film in the last six years, has been demanding the state government to devise protection measures in order to prevent Bollywood sharks from eating away its market.
National Award winning critic Utpal Borpujari said that all tickets of various centres across Assam were booked for the first three days of the release. Mission China stars singer-turned-actor-turned director Zubeen Garg.
Borpujari says the market for Assamese cinema is limited to 45 cinema halls which can provide a film with 60 to 70 shows per day. “But Mission China has got 168 shows which is a very good sign for Assamese cinema,” he added.
It is estimated that the number of shows might be higher than the estimated 168 as some theaters have increased the number of their shows.
Siddharth Goenka, the distributor of the film says, “The film is only one and half hour long which provides the hall owners with the laxity to increase the number of shows keeping pace with the public demand.”
The action romantic Assamese film, written and directed by Zubeen Garg, has a number of firsts to its credit.
It is seen as the first Assamese film to register sales as high as Rs 39.97 lakh on the very first day of release.
“The size of the business this film has done on the day of release can only be expected from an Assamese film that is running smoothly in its second week. But grossing such a big amount of money on the very first day itself was unheard of,” says Arun Lochan Das, an Assam based film critic.
According to the website Desigyan, the film grossed another Rs 40 lakh on the second day.
The story of the film, which is on the lines of the legendary Hollywood movie The Magnificient Seven that released in 1960, involves an operation led by the protagonist who is an ex-army man (played by Zubeen Garg) to rescue a child kidnapped by a group of terrorists on Indo-China border.
Industry sources attribute the cult following that Zubeen Garg enjoys among the youngsters in Assam to the success of the film.
Zubeen Garg has lent his voice to more than 9,000 songs in various Indian languages. He also won the best playback singer award at the Global Indian Film Awards (GIFA) in 2006, for the song ‘Ya Ali’ from the film Gangster, directed by Anurag Basu.
“Zubeen is the brightest star in Assam. His songs and his music is immensely popular. Though music is his fiefdom, his star power is also optimally utilized in Assamese films,” said Arun Lochan Das.
Zubeen has acted in a number of Assamese films including the last year's release, ‘Gane Ki Aane’, which did well at the box office too.
“But Mission China is his home production. Hence the craze among his fans for the film cannot be matched with the films that he has earlier acted in,” Arun said.
Many fans vowed in their Facebook accounts not to let ‘Zubeenda’, as he is popularly known among them, lose the money he invested in the film.
Mission China is the first Assamese film to serve as competition to Bollywood films in the last two decades. The last time Assam saw a regional film take on the might of Bollywood was in 1995, when the universal hit Hum Aapke Hain Koun had to be removed from some halls to accommodate Joubone Aamoni Kore, a regional super hit.
The regional film industry that takes pride in its eight decade-old history saw its biggest lows in recent times, owing to repeated poor performances of films at the box office.
“The competition came from Bollywood. Due to budget constraints, hardly any Assamese film maker could provide the viewer with a product of the same quality as Hindi cinema did,” says Pobitra Margherita, Chairman of Jyoti Chitrabon, a Government of Assam-run film studio.
The total budget of an Assamese film is normally around Rs 80 lakh. The I Creation Production release Mission China broke that record with a budget of Rs 2 crore, which also makes it the first Assamese film to spend such a big amount on its making.
Theaters chucking out Assamese films to accommodate big Bollywood releases is also seen as the reason why regional films failed to perform at the box office. “A few months ago, a regional film Local Kung Fu 2 was chucked out to screen Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, even though the action comedy was doing good business,” said Margherita.
Mission China too met a similar fate when a multiplex reportedly cancelled contract to show the film. But political parties cutting across party lines stromed the Assam Assembly over the issue, as reported by India Today.
A lack of stars is also one reason why Assamese movies have found it difficult to woo movie-goers to the theaters.“But it seems in Zubeen Garg, the Assamese film industry has found a bankable star. Mission China could bear testimony to that,” says Arun.
The filmmakers also had to take extra care to check some die-hard fans, who attempted to stream the film via Facebook Live, right from the theater.
“I would like to appeal to everyone, please don’t indulge in piracy. Also, if you see anybody sitting beside you, in the theatre, recording the movie, please stop them as well,” said Garima Saikia Garg, to TIME8.
Sanjib Borah, an official in PVR Cinemas Guwahati, said that the regional film which has seemingly captured nearly 90% of Assam’s market, has done strikingly better than the Bollywood flicks in the metros, because of the growing Assamese movie-going crowd in the cities.
“The film has done phenomenally well in PVR theaters in Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune. Though the multiplexes are screening only one show per day in the metros, the shows have gone houseful unlike other films,” he said.
Arjun Rampal starrer Daddy earned Rs 2 Crore on its opening day all over India. On the other hand, Sunny Deol starrer Poster Boys earned Rs 1.75 crores pan-India on the release date.
Kenny Deuri Basumatary, another actor-filmmkaer from Assam, who watched Mission China in a theater in Mumbai, told Firstpost that it was houseful there too.
The post-production work of a Bengali version of the film, which was shot simultaneously, is underway. “The Bengali version is likely to hit the screens in December,” said Garima Saikia Garg, the producer of the film, without disclosing the date.
Bengali films have a far bigger market than Assamese ones, especially in the state of West Bengal, Bangladesh and among the Bengali diaspora. The producers of Mission China are certainly eyeing it as an opportunity to widen the impact of a film that has already created quite a few waves in Assam.
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