Baahubali 2, Dangal box office challenge: Tubelight faltered; will 2.0, Thugs of Hindostan rise?
Tubelight is now nearing the tail end of its stay in Indian theatres, and unless it gets a widespread China release that helps add to its coffers in a major way, its box office collection will settle somewhere in the vicinity of Rs 200 crore (around Rs 117 crore of this from the domestic market, and the rest from overseas).
Tubelight's earnings are respectable enough, taking into account its production costs of around Rs 100 crore, and as per this Deccan Chronicle report, pre-release business that amounted to roughly Rs 227 crore.
Yet, there seems to be a general air of despondency that hangs over discussions of Tubelight's box office fate.
When contrasted with Salman Khan's previous films, Tubelight has been labelled an 'underperformer'.
In terms of collections across its opening day and weekend, and first week (as well as total earnings at this time), it does not compare favourably with Salman's previous Eid blockbusters like Sultan (2016), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), Kick (2014), Kick (2012) and Bodyguard (2011).
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh, who has been tracking Tubelight's box office performance, had put up these figures on Twitter:
Tubelight, of course, carried a tremendous weight of expectations. Not only was it a Salman Khan film; it was a Salman Khan-Kabir Khan film (the pair had previously reset box office records with Ek Tha Tiger and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, in addition to winning critical acclaim — arguably a first for a Salman-starrer) and a Salman Khan-Kabir Khan film moreover, which was releasing on that hitherto magic date for the superstar: Eid.
But of course, there was more to it.
Sometime between 28 April 2017 and 23 June 2017, something had changed: The signposts of what constitutes blockbuster success.
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion released at the end of April in theatres worldwide, Dangal finally opened in China, and the Rs 100 crore club became redundant. Then, as these films surpassed even the Rs 1,000 crore mark to finally clock in at around Rs 1,690 crore (as per KoiMoi.com) and Rs 1,864 crore, respectively (and they're still running in some theatres, so there's a chance to add some 'spare change' to those massive collections), there was a sense of collective awe — among audiences, and those connected with the film industry in some capacity or the other — that Indian films could achieve this. The success of Baahubali 2 and Dangal induced a dizzying euphoria.
The euphoria was bound to come crashing down sometime, and in a sense, it happened with Tubelight.
Even when contrasted with Salman's previous films, Tubelight's box office collection may have come off looking much better than it did — but the standards it was being held to were not the pre-April ones. Now, it had the 1,000-crore spectre to overcome. Perhaps it was bound to fall short.
One may argue that Tubelight's business had something to do with the film being an experiment of sorts in how Salman's onscreen character was portrayed. But Salman's films have long been considered 'critic proof' (by the star himself, and based on empirical evidence) — routine drubbings and negative reviews have hardly dented his box office standing. Was this the one time that 'Bhai's' fans themselves felt let down by their star, or is there more to the perception about Tubelight's 'dim' box office showing than the response to the film itself?
It was believed that its excellent 'pedigree' would garner Tubelight collections similar to those of Baahubali 2, and Dangal. That hasn't happened — but Tubelight was only the first of the many big-ticket films that hope to enter the Rs 1,000 crore club. From Bollywood to the Telugu and Tamil film industries (the troika responsible for most of India's highest grossing movies), there are a handful of releases that will be held up to the 1,000-crore benchmark.
These are films that will have to either match the grandiose scale of Baahubali, thereby ensuring that audiences are drawn to the theatres for the spectacle, or they'll need the cross-cultural pull that Dangal now owes much of its success to. Films that are released in more than one language, and with an eye to unconventional overseas territories may have an edge.
Matching those criteria, are films like:
1. Randamoozham aka The Mahabharata (English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu; releasing in early 2020)
Mollywood — as the Malayalam film industry is colloquially referred to — just had its first Rs 100 crore hit in Mohanlal's Pulimurugan in 2016. But it has raised the stakes exponentially with what is considered to be India's most expensive film to date — Randamoozham aka The Mahabharata, which is reportedly being made at a budget of Rs 1,000 crore. The film is based on MT Vasudevan Nair's book of the same name, and stars Mohanlal as Bheema, from whose perspective the events of the Mahabharata are being told. There's already a fair bit of buzz around the project, with superstars from industries outside of Mollywood being considered to play the other Pandavas. A casting coup with superstars across industries would ensure a widespread appeal for Randamoozham, as would the mythological backdrop. On the downside, that production budget means for the Mohanlal-starrer, hitting those Baahubali 2, Dangal numbers is a matter of necessity, not choice. It will have to make Rs 1,000 crore merely to cover its costs. Plus, 2020 is still some distance away.
2. Ramayana (Telugu/Tamil/Hindi, release date unknown)
When producers Madhu Mantena, Allu Aravind and Namit Malhotra announced that they would be making a 'Rs 500 crore Ramayana' in May 2017, the conclusion was that the success of Baahubali 2 had prompted this project. The script, however, has been in the works for over a year now. Few details have been revealed about the project thus far, apart from its budget, the fact that it will be a trilingual, and mark one of the most ambitious retellings of the Ramayana for the big screen. It will also be — taking a leaf out of Baahubali 2's book — be released in parts; three to be precise. There's no word on the cast just yet.
3. 2.0 (Tamil, releasing in January 2018)
Enthiran/Robot, starring Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai, was a phenomenon when it released back in 2010. It took in over Rs 289 crore at the box office, and was one of the highest-earning Tamil films of all time, until it was unseated by Baahubali: The Beginning in 2015, and the superstar's own Kabali (2016). Currently, it stands fourth on the list of top Tamil films, with Baahubali 2 in the lead. As Enthiran's sequel, 2.0 has raised the stakes. For one, it buttresses the power of Rajinikanth (as though it needed any!) with Akshay Kumar. Kumar's presence ensures the film a widespread reach in the north — away from the core Rajinikanth market. The film's visual effects, tie-up with Anil Thadani's AA films for the Hindi/North India distribution rights (Thadani had also distributed Baahubali 2's Hindi version, along with Karan Johar), targeting of overseas market (Brazil, France, Japan, China, Korea) are all steps in the right direction. Will they help 2.0 do unprecedented box office business? Read this in-depth report on Firstpost to find out:
4. Thugs of Hindostan (Hindi, tentative release date: Diwali 2018)
Aamir Khan's next sees him team up with Dhoom 3 co-star Katrina Kaif, Dangal actress Fatima Sana Shaikh — and Amitabh Bachchan. Director Vijay Krishna Acharya comes off the success of Dhoom 3, and even the brief snippets that have emerged from the film's sets — Amitabh Bachchan's Instagram posts, Fatima Sana Shaikh's 'look' from the audition — have gone viral. It's really an Aamir Khan vs Aamir Khan contest now — apart from Dangal, his PK is currently the third highest-earning Indian film, while his Dhoom 3 and 3 idiots are also placed within the top-10.
5. Kaala (Tamil, tentative release in December 2017)
Kaala, also known as Kaala Karikalan, brings together the winning Kabali team of Rajinikanth and director Pa Ranjith. Interest in Kaala has been high — it could possibly be the last film the superstar ever shoots for (the 2.0 schedule has long since wrapped up) before he takes the plunge into politics. It's being termed a 'quickie' because it tells a story that Rajinikanth fans are familiar with — don with heart of gold — and the setting itself is far more intimate than the superstar's other magnum opuses. It certainly won't have the visual razzmatazz of any of the above mentioned films on this list. Then why may it prove to be a match for Baahubali's challenge? Because: Rajinikanth. If the film manages to generate as much hysteria as Kabali, then it has a guaranteed box office collection of at least Rs 400 crore. Whether fans, desperate for the last great onscreen glimpses of their idol, could fuel a mass rush to the theatres — and a surge for Kaala's business — remains in the realm of conjecture.
6. The other contenders
These films don't all match up to the criteria that made Baahubali 2 and Dangal such monster successes, but they do have a shot. These include:
Tiger Zinda Hai (Hindi) — Can Salman Khan plus a legacy franchise and Sultan director Ali Abbas Zafar touch 1,000-crore?
Padmavati (Hindi) — It's been plagued by innumerable issues, but then again even the path to Bajirao Mastani's release was not exactly rosy, and it is among the top-10 earning films in India. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's vision triumphed, and Ranveer Singh-Deepika Padukone's onscreen pairing got an additional boost after Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela. Will the winning team repeat their feat with Padmavati?
Vivegam (Tamil) — Superstar Ajith's international espionage caper has fans thrilled with its trailer. The film meets global benchmarks in terms of looks. Now will it meet the global box office standards as well?
Saaho (Telugu/Tamil/Hindi) — There's an intense amount of curiosity about Prabhas' next film after Baahubali. Saaho, being made in three languages, and reuniting Prabhas with his Baahubali co-star Anushka Shetty, should benefit from the pre-release buzz.
Vijay's Mersal (Telugu) may be worth keeping an eye on — as will SS Rajamouli's next, whenever he announces it.