September 3, 2002 
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'Amitabh in an art movie?'
Arjun Sajnani's Agni Varsha faces a drought at the US BO

Arthur J Pais

The widely reviewed Agni Varsha (Fire and Rain), which also played at several prestigious venues in New York and Los Angeles, faces famine in North America.

Running at eight theatres, the movie which received mixed reviews from mainstream press, took in an estimated $21,336 for a tepid
$2,667 average over the four-day Labor Day weekend. It could end its North American run with less than $50,000, unless its distributor takes a significant risk and adds many more theatres next week.

Typically, big-time Bollywood movies open at about 50 theatres across the country. In their second week, their box-office declines by about 30 per cent in case of a few hit movies like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, and by about 50 per cent for most films

Many desis stayed away from the movie thinking it is an arty film.

"Amitabh is acting in art movie?" my Guyanese neighbour, a teenager, wanted to know. The film stars Jackie Shroff, Raveena Tandon, Nagarjuna and Amitabh Bachchan (in a special appearance). My neighbour said he preferred to see K3G on video for the fifth or sixth time than see Agni Varsha. "What kind of a title is this? And who are the other stars?" he asked. "Maybe I should wait till it comes on video."

The movie received the kind of attention from the mainstream media that Lagaan could not get during its initial run. Mainstream publications reviewed Lagaan only when it reopened (and failed spectacularly) in mainstream theatres after Sony Pictures Classics bought its North American rights.

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Agni Varsha, based on a Girish Karnad play inspired by the Mahabharata episodes, was praised by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times in lengthy reviews for its visuals and performances. It drew a star-and-half (and a mini review) from the New York Post. Its reviewer, while praising the visuals and production values, faulted the story.

The New York Daily News which also gave the film a short review, however, conferred two-and-half stars on it.

'Director Arjun Sajnani splashes his canvas with gorgeous colors,' the short review in Daily News said. 'Even with requisite melodrama, it's a rollicking, optimistic movie.'


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