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`Tees Maar Khan' claims new victim - in Nepal

Kathmandu, Dec 21

"Tees Maar Khan", the "great" Indian criminal, the likes of whom are born only once in a blue moon, and who "steals, cheats and cons with amazing audacity" has struck again - this time in Nepal.

When Nepali film director Dev Kumar Shrestha announced his new film, the first supernatural thriller in Nepal, would be released on Christmas eve, he was not deterred by the thought of theatre-goers being diverted by festivities or new Nepali films releasing simultaneously with star-studded casts, or for that matter, "Tees Maar Khan".

However, the 38-year-old was forced to call a press conference Monday to concede that "Ek din, ek raat" would now be shown a week later, from Dec 31.

"Tees Maar Khan", Bollywood's much-hyped new action comedy directed by Farah Khan and starring Akshay Kumar as the super rogue and Katrina Kaif as his leading lady, is being released internationally Dec 24 and Shrestha decided not to take any chances.

"Nepalis are avid watchers of Hindi films," Shrestha told IANS. "Besides being preceded by a lot of hype, 'Tees Maar Khan' is a big-budget film made under a big banner and with big stars."

By contrast "Ek din, ek raat", despite receiving considerable pre-release publicity in Nepal, was made on a budget of NRS 8 million - Rs.5 million in Indian currency - which would be considered peanuts in India's mega-billion-rupee spinning film industry.

It also deliberately avoided signing up big names, instead opting for theatre artistes with a solid reputation for acting skills.

Unlike most Nepali films, "Ek din, ek raat" would be screened in Jai Nepal, one of the best theatres in Kathmandu that shows only exceptional Nepali films. So with the multiplex also releasing "Tees Maar Khan" Friday, Shrestha thought it prudent not to take the big Bollywood rival head-on.

In Nepal, it is not Nepali directors but Bollywood that still remains the film industry's biggest competitor.

When Manisha Koirala's comeback film in Nepali after two decades in Bollywood was released earlier this month, director Dipendra K. Khanal decided to change the title to "Dharmaa".

The original title was "Rajniti" but Khanal feared it would seem a copy of Bollywood director Prakash Jha's political drama by the same name that was released in Nepal as well and lauded, even by top Maoist leaders who had once advocated banning Hindi films in Nepal.

Veteran Nepali film maker Yubaraj Lama decided to shelve making a film on the Buddha after the news broke that Bollywood director Ashutosh Gowarikar was also making a film on the same subject.

However, despite Shrestha's retreat, "Tees Maar Khan" may not have an entirely triumphant reign in Nepal.

It is bound to be regarded critically, especially as Akshay Kumar's earlier film, "Chandni Chowk to China", was banned in Nepal last year after director Nikhil Advani's kungfu comedy triggered public protests due to the script, which erroneously said the Buddha was born in India.

The founder of Buddhism was born in southern Nepal and the wrong note led to the then Maoist government ban the film in Nepal.

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