A little over a week after it released, the Hrithik Roshan-Pooja Hegde starrer Mohenjo Daro finds itself facing a crucial weekend.
Over Saturday and Sunday — that is 20-21 August — the historical drama directed by Ashutosh Gowariker has a chance to make up in box office collections what it's missed out so far.
How is that?
For one, while its competitor Rustom surged ahead in their neck-to-neck race since the day both films released, on 12 August, most moviegoers have had a chance to watch the Akshay Kumar starrer.
The public holidays for Independence Day, followed by Parsi New Year and then raksha Bandhan on 17 and 18 August, respectively, helped add to footfalls in the theatres, propelling Rustom to its 75 crore+ week one earnings. The greater buzz around Rustom resulted in greater occupancy for theatres screening it.
However, there may quite possibly be a lull around Rustom's growth now. At the same time, there isn't any major competition at the box office in the form of new releases — among Hindi films, there is only Diana Penty's Happy Bhag Jayegi and Brett Lee's UNIndian. Hollywood has three films — Pete's Dragon, Ben Hur and Nine Lives; of these Disney product Pete's Dragon has the best chances of capturing audience interest, coming as it does on the heels of The Jungle Book's success (and based on a similar theme).
But all of these new releases cater to niche audiences, and are not in the 'mass entertainer' mould.
Which means that Mohenjo Daro has a chance to reach out to audiences this weekend and make up a share of the revenue it lost out on, in the box office battle with Rustom.
It's a curious point that in terms of earnings, Mohenjo Daro is not lagging that far behind Rustom.
Mohenjo Daro's earnings have been pegged at Rs 51.8 crore at the end of its first week — Rustom's at a little over Rs 75 crore.
However, inverse both films' earnings, and you have an estimate of how much was spent on making each.
Rustom cost Rs 50 crore to make, and by all trade estimates, it will race towards the Rs 100 crore mark. It is already being called Akshay Kumar's fastest 100-crore earner.
On the other hand, Mohenjo Daro, as per this Indian Express report, cost around Rs 100 crore to make. An additional Rs 15 crore was spent on the film's promotions — a huge amount to make up.
With earnings currently at less than half of what it cost to make Mohenjo Daro, it has been labelled a loss-making proposition for its lead star and for Ashutosh Gowariker Productions.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh's tweets about the film's box office collections have shown a steadily declining trend over its seven days at the theatres since 12 August:
Beginning with a Rs 8.87 crore collection on its opening day, Mohenjo Daro's earnings saw a rise to Rs 9.6 cr, then 12 cr on Sunday, before dropping back to Rs 10 cr on Monday (15 August). From there, it has been an even steeper drop to Rs 3.16 cr on Tuesday, Rs 2.96 cr on Wednesday and Rs 4.24 cr on Thursday (18 August).
According to Adarsh, the film has done better business overseas, with its week one earnings pegged at Rs 24.13 crore in the territories of UAE and Pakistan.
Indeed, while it opened at a comparable number of screens as Rustom (2000+), occupancy has stayed low, at around 30 to 40 percent on average.
The film's lacklustre performance has been all the more shocking since it was the same team — Disney UTV, Ashutosh Gowariker and Hrithik Roshan — who had come up with the blockbuster Jodhaa Akbar back in 2008.
Incidentally, Jodhaa Akbar was the last major success Gowariker has enjoyed in the recent past — his What's Your Rashee (2009) and Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se (2010) had received a critical and commercial drubbing in the time since.
Mohenjo Daro is Hrithik's first film in two years. His last was Bang Bang (2014), the remake of Knight and Day, that earned Rs 180 crore at the box office, but didn't get any critical acclaim for its star.
And while the successes of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Agneepath (2012) and Krrish (2013) haven't been forgotten, Mohenjo Daro is already being compared to the two high-profile flops Hrithik had just before these films — Kites and Guzaarish.
If Mohenjo Daro's business picks up over this weekend, and during its second week at the theatres, then Hrithik can head in to 2017 — and his major clash in that year: his Kaabil vs Shah Rukh Khan's Raees — with a whole lot more confidence.
Failing that, he'll certainly have to rethink his strategy of taking on another big Bollywood production.