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Devotion or promotion? When Bollywood films cash in on religious fervour

As Dahi Handi and Ganesh Utsav mark the beginning of the festive season, we find out how the makers of some soon-to-be-released films are combining religious faith with business interests...

While actors touring various cities and making appearances at shopping malls and colleges have become routine in the run-up to their film's release, dropping by at puja pandals is an addition to their checklist this festive season that begins with Ganesh Chaturthi on September 17. hitlist takes a look at some upcoming films that are looking forward to the festive fervour for reasons than transcend faith and devotion...

Stamp of faith
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will be seen on the big screen after a hiatus of five years — her last release was 'Guzaarish' (2010). While she must be aspiring for a successful comeback, her film's team is already planning promotional activities to create a buzz. And we hear Ash along with her co-star Irrfan is set to visit Ganpati pandals in Mumbai.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is liekly to visit a few Ganpati pandals in town along with co-star Irrfan as part of the promotional schedule of Jazbaa. PIC/yogen shah
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is liekly to visit a few Ganpati pandals in town along with co-star Irrfan as part of the promotional schedule of 'Jazbaa'. Pic/Yogen Shah

"We cannot share the exact details as to which pandals we will be visiting due to security issues, but it is confirmed that the film's team will be seeking lord Ganesha's blessings before the film releases," informs a source.

Akshay Kumar's next with director Prabhu Dheva releases in the first week of next month. While they have already kicked off their promotional campaign, pandal hopping during Ganesh Utsav is also a part of the plan. The actor-director duo is expected to visit the major pandals including Lalbaugcha Raja and Andhericha Raja. The team is still working out the day the cast will seek blessings.

From left: Prabhu Dheva, Akshay Kumar and Amy Jackson are liekly to visit some Ganpati pandals across town to promote their film, Singh  Is Bliing. pic/ TUSHAR SATAM
From left: Prabhu Dheva, Akshay Kumar and Amy Jackson are liekly to visit some Ganpati pandals across town to promote their film, 'Singh Is Bliing'. Pic/Tushar Satam

The worshipper
Stand-up comic turned actor Kapil Sharma swears by Lord Ganesha, say his close friends from the industry. A source points out that when filmmaker-choreographer Farah Khan was the first guest on his comedy show after its set caught fire, she had gifted him a Ganesha idol. So, it is not surprising that when Kapil is set to make his debut with Abbas Mastan's upcoming release, 'Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon', he will be visiting Ganpati pandals to seek blessings.

"Kapil has always been a bhakt of Lord Ganesha and he will be visiting several pandals in the city. His debut film is set to release by the end of next month and these visits will be a part of the promotional activities," says a source from his film's publicity team.

Himesh Reshammiya

In the calendar
Madhur Bhandarkar, who has been religiously visiting Lalbaugcha Raja every year, will continue the pilgrimage this year too. But, given the fact that he also has film release lined up during the Ganesh Utsav, he is unlikely to miss out on the promotions of his next, 'Calendar Girls'.

Madhur Bhandarkar, whose festive season is never complete without a visit to Lalbaughcha Raja, will take the star cast of his Calendar Girls on a Ganpati idol worship tour to spread word about the film
Madhur Bhandarkar, whose festive season is never complete without a visit to Lalbaughcha Raja, will take the star cast of his 'Calendar Girls' on a Ganpati idol worship tour to spread word about the film

"It is true that I worship Ganesha and like every year, I will be visiting Lalbaugcha Raja apart from celebrating the festival with my family. Also, my 'Calendar Girls' team will be visiting pandals in the city to seek the lord's blessings. We are working on the plan," says Bhandarkar.

Festival business
Making an appearance at pandals comes with certain business interests. Says trade expert Amod Mehra, "It is the easiest way to seek maximum reach for a film. One does not have to spend much in organising such trips, but makes news instantly. Also, as many people come to visit these pandals, they attract a huge audience. Therefore, films releasing during the festival season never miss out on such opportunities."

Vivek Oberoi at the Girgaum Ganpati pandal in 2009
Vivek Oberoi at the Girgaum Ganpati pandal in 2009

Looking back
This is not the first time that many film teams are planning to cash in on the festive season. In the past, Rani Mukerji was also spotted at a Ganpati pandal and Dahi Handi ceremonies for the post-release promotion of her last release, 'Mardaani' (2014). Vivek Oberoi had promoted 'Kismet Love Paisa Dilli' (2012) at Girgaum Ganpati. Similarly, Himesh Reshammiya had organised the music launch of his film, 'Radio: Love On Air' (2009) at Lalbaugcha Raja.

Rani Mukerji
Rani Mukerji at a Dahi Handi ceremony for the post-release promotion of her last release, Mardaani (2014). Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Himesh, however, feels the celebrity visits to pandals go beyond film promotions. He says, "It's about a personal belief and I strongly feel that it's not just about the reach (of films). It is about faith in God, which is most important. If there is faith, then God gives you the opportunity to come closer to him."

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