Industry rides on India's twin passions

New Delhi For all those who say Bollywood is scared of big ticket releases during the Indian Premier League (IPL), it's time for a rethink. Undeterred by the enthusiasm for the cricket extravaganza this season, Bollywood released big-budget projects like "Housefull 2" and "Ishaqzaade". It also bowled its promotional plans to mid-wicket by bringing its stars to "Extraaa Innings", the cricket-based TV show telecast on the sidelines of the IPL matches. A bevy of stars, including Emraan Hashmi, Karisma Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Sharman Joshi and Sanjay Dutt, recently made an appearance on the show to talk about their projects. Hosted by Samir Kochhar, Gaurav Kapoor, Shibani Dandekar and Archana Vijaya, "Extraaa Innings" occasionally features B-town celebrities sharing tidbits about their forthcoming films. Cinema and cricket have always had a symbiotic equation. And the IPL tournament has only taken it further with the association of Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta with the teams. Plus there is the glamour quotient with biggies such as Amitabh Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra performing at the grand opening ceremony of the fifth season. As trade analyst Taran Adarsh puts it: "IPL is no opposition to films." "IPL or no IPL, a good film will always work at the box office. Films like 'Vicky Donor', 'Ishaqzaade', 'Housefull 2' and 'Jannat 2' have proved that with their success. Besides that, perhaps IPL is a good platform for film promotion. But, in the end, its fate boils down to its content." "Bollywood and cricket are twin passions in India. They are ultimate forms of entertainment. When the IPL was launched five years ago, it united the two worlds in a big way and it is indeed a lovely mix," Gaurav Seth, senior vice president (marketing), Set Max, told IANS. In his view, IPL does not just draw traditional cricket viewers. "It gets as much viewership from non-traditional viewers like women, children and older males, which also make a great market for Hindi films. So promoting films on such a platform is a great way to reach out to all sorts of audiences," added Seth. Emraan came on the show to promote "Jannat 2", which has turned out to be a hit, while Karisma spoke about her comeback film "Dangerous Ishq", which hasn't received a favourable response at the box office. Arjun came with his co-star Parineeti to create a buzz for his debut film "Ishaqzaade", Sharman even danced to promote his "Ferrari Ki Sawaari" and Sanjay spoke of "Department". "IPL is the greatest marriage between cricket and Bollywood. You not just get to see the emotional side of stars like SRK and Preity Zinta when their team wins or loses, as well as their passion for the game; a whole lot of actors get to promote their films thanks to the game's high viewership," host Vijaya told IANS. "And it's not just their films that we focus on while talking to them on 'Extraaa Innings', it's also about what they think of cricket, and the IPL too. So it's not totally distractive for viewers," she added. Before the IPL series ends May 27, Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra will be seen promoting their "Teri Meri Kahaani" on the show. Subsequently, Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan and Abhishek Bachchan might take the IPL route to spread a word about "Rowdy Rathore", "Ek Tha Tiger" and "Bol Bachchan", respectively. Earlier, the Hindi film industry refrained from scheduling its big-ticket releases during IPL as many feared the cricket fiesta would keep the audience away from cinema halls. But the fear has clearly waned. "IPL takes place seven weeks in a year. As Bollywood has started producing a larger number of films a year, the industry has realised it can't compromise on these seven weeks, and keep its crucial releases away. They have to take a conscious call and take the risk. There's not much room in the calendar to say that IPL is not a conducive period to release films," explained Seth.