New Delhi, May 5:It may not have set the cash registers jingling but Pankaj Parashar's 'Banaras-A Mystic Love Story' has warmed the hearts of many a film critic, both at home and abroad, for brilliantly putting across the message of spirituality, a subject few films in Indian cinema have touched upon.
The film, which stars Bollywood actor Urmila Matondkar as a young woman, who is forced to search for the true meaning of life after suffering a terrible personal tragedy, has been lauded by critics as ''an excellent attempt to explore the complex relationship of humans with God, while using Banaras - or Varanasi as the temple city in Uttar Pradesh is now called - and its spiritual wisdom as the backdrop.'' Talking about the film, Jaspreet Pandohar, a film critic with the BBC said, ''it's less superstition and more spirituality which is at the heart of this thought provoking drama. It takes a mature storyteller to tackle a film like 'Banaras' that combines a love story with spiritualism and Parashar does it with sensitivity.'' ''Through the depiction of tumultuous events that change the life of an upper caste Brahmin girl and a lower cast boy, the director actually opens up the centuries-old debate between science and theology that is the key to unlocking the climactic secret journey taken by the main protagonists and the personal one experienced by viewers,'' Mr Pandohar said.
Infact, in terms of its brilliant depiction of the message of spirituality, some film critics compared the film with the Oscar-nominees 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Crash'.
The international website 'Smashhits.com' said, ''Banaras is a unique experiment at a time, when the world cinema is daring to shed social taboos in society. If Oscars can value a film like 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Crash', why can't we salute a cinema that is more than a dance and drama sequence.'' Talking about the film, Abhishek Banderkar of eFilmcritics.com said, ''Banaras is undeniably a spiritual experience. I don't remember the last time my years of religious scriptures, being a Hindu born in a highly religious society, for all the reasons practical without any religious leanings were made so clearly aware to me. That is exactly what Banaras did and it made me feel enlightened of only at a spiritual level.'' The film, which was released all over India on April 7, opened to a rather poor response at the box office.
However, the critics have been effusive in the praise for the film. Infact, critics feel after 'Pinjar', 'Ek Haseena Thi' and 'Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara', this film could be another feather in Urmila's cap as she has made a conscious decision of moving on to meaningful cinema after playing the glamour girl for more than a decade in mainstream films.
After taking a highest ever opening for a solo Akshay Kumar-starrer in the United Kingdom, Raj Kanwar's 'Humko Diwana Kar Gaye' continues its strong run at the UK box office in its subsequent weeks.
The film, which opened to record theatre collections - its opening day earnings in the United Kingdom were a staggering 50000 UK Pounds (Rs 35 Lakh) from just 38 cinema screens - is rock-steady in the subsequent weeks.
'Humko Diwana Kar Gaye', which was at number ten in the UK top 15 in its opening weekend with total collections from its previews and theatre earnings during the 4-day Easter weekend being 219,981 UK pounds (Rs 1.7 crore) from 38 cinema screens, dropped just a few places to be at number 14 on the UK Top 15 chart in its second weekend with a gross of 64,306, pounds beating several American titles released by UIP, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox.
Trade analysts say the ethereal presence of Katrina Kaif, coupled with the brilliant chemistry of Akshay Kumar and Katrina in the film seems to have endeared itself to the UK audiences.
This is perhaps why the film, which saw its collections dropping in its second week in India after a good opening, continues to remain rock steady in the United Kingdom.
Trade sources say the opening taken by 'Humko Deewana Kar Gaye' is the highest ever for a solo Akshay Kumar-starrer in the UK.
Infact, the opening of the film was even bigger than that of 'Andaz', Akshay's previous film with director Raj Kanwar.
According to UTV, which is distributing the film in the overseas circuit, the film's total UK box-office gross at the beginning of the third week (April 28) was 386,093 pounds.
Infact, trade pundits describe the showing of the film overseas, specially in the UK, as nothing short of extraordinary.
The film's success only reiterated the standing of Akshay Kumar in the overseas markets. Recent years have seen Akshay emerge as the new star on the overseas circuit. Films starring the actor like 'Garam Masala', 'Deewane Huye Paagal' and, more recently, 'Dosti' have proved to be hits in the UK.
Of the above, the success of 'Dosti' is specially remarkable considering that the film opened to a lukewarm response from Indian audiences. Which only goes to prove what a big draw Akshay is emerging at the box office.