A curious wait-and-watch game is being played out in Bollywood. The future of a number of costume dramas scheduled to start filming in 2008, now hangs by the slender gossamer threads of Hrithik Roshan's lavish costumes in Ashutosh Gowarikar's Jodhaa-Akbar.
It's very simple, really. If UTV's handsomely produced 40-Crore budgeted Jodhaa-Akbar fails to work magic at the Box Office all the other mega-epics recreating eras gone-by would be aborted. And that includes Rajkumar Santoshi's two Devgan-driven mega epics on the lives of the Mauryan emperor Ashok and Ram the maha-purushottam from Ayodhya in Ramayan, both to be directed by Raj Santoshi. While Ashok was to be produced by PVR and start shooting in February, it seems unlikely that the project will commence on schedule. Says a source, "PVR isn't too keen on the Devgan-Santoshi pair doing a Rs 40 Crore costume drama with Devgan as Ram and Kajol as Sita…Not after Halla Bol. And not unless Jodhaa-Akbar and the Devgan-Kajol starrer U Me Aur Hum do well." Santoshi's combination with Devgan however remains intact. Contrary to rumors that Devgan has decided not to work with Santoshi any more the two are in fact at this very minute planning another project in lieu of Ashok, to start immediately.
"Stories about my professional parting with Ajay are totally unfounded. We're going ahead with all our projects including Ashok. If not with the current producers, then with another. Ajay and I are in constant discussion and we'll be doing many films together in future. If that's a problem for some people, what can I do?" says Santoshi. Though Raj Santoshi doesn't spell it out, he is in fact planning another film with Devgan in case the huge finances for Ashok don't materialize on time.
A lot hinges on the success of Jodhaa-Akbar. If the opulent epic takes off as it is expected to, the two costume dramas planned by Santoshi will materialize in no time at all. For now the future of costume dramas seems uncertain. And that includes the proposed epic based on Ashok banker's six-volume series on the Ramayan. Some time ago, the television channels had gone ballistic with announcements on the Banker books, stating that Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai were slated to play Ram and Sita. Amitabh Bachchan and Sir Ben Kingsley's names were also mentioned in the cast. However all four actors have individually denied their participation in the above project