Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar's 2.0 faces sky-high expectations after Baahubali 2, Dangal's success

Sreedhar Pillai

Jun,19 2017 11:13 10 IST

The mega worldwide success of SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Aamir Khan’s Dangal, has put the spotlight on Lyca Productions. They are the producers of the Rajinikanth-Akshay Kumar starrer, 2.0 (directed by Shankar), scheduled for a worldwide release on 25 January 2018 in Tamil, Hindi and Telugu — just in time for the big Republic Day weekend.

Lyca Productions is under pressure from Rajinikanth fans and the trade to make 2.0 a bigger hit than Baahubali 2. It is touted to be one of the last releases of Rajinikanth, who is now all set to step into a different avatar — that of a politician. As of now, the superstar’s Kaala, for which shooting is still going on, will only release in the summer of 2018. Hence, a lot is riding on 2.0. Baahubali 2 has grossed more than Rajinikanth’s all-time blockbuster Enthiran (aka Robot) and beaten its seven-year-old record in the superstar’s home turf: Tamil Nadu.

Posters of 2.0, starring Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar. Images via twitter

Posters of 2.0, starring Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar. Images via twitter

Earlier, the only records 2.0 would have had to break would have been those for Rajinikanth’s Enthiran and his last release Kabali. However in the post-Baahubali 2 era, things are different and the expectation meter has gone through the roof. At last count, Baahubali 2's worldwide gross stood at around Rs 1,684 crore (after 50 days of its theatrical release) while Dangal was inching towards the Rs 2,000 crore mark (having already earned Rs 1,930 crore at the time of publishing this column) thanks to its gargantuan business in China. Compared to Baahubali2 and Dangal, the worldwide business of Rajinikanth’s last release Kabali was around Rs 600 crore — not even in the Rs 1000 crore club!

2.0's production costs and pre-release business are already being compared to Baahubali 2. Now the big question being asked in the trade and on social media is whether the combined power of Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar will be able to come near or surpass the blockbuster business of Baahubali 2 and Dangal. Already, Zee has bought the 2.0 satellite television rights in all three languages it is releasing for a whopping Rs 110 crore — more than what Baahubali 2 was purchased for.

In the second week of June, Anil Thadani’s AA Films — which distributed Baahubali 2 along with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions — took over the Hindi/North India distribution rights for 2.0. As per sources, it is a distribution deal whereby AA Films will do the theatrical distribution of the film in North India territories for Lyca Production on a commission basis. Raju Mahalingam, the creative head of Lyca Productions tweeted: “Glad to announce our association with AA Films. Lyca Productions to distribute the Hindi version of 2.0 through AA films of Bahubali 2 fame”. But there are unconfirmed rumours that AA Films has purchased the rights on an MG of Rs 80 crore.

Lyca Productions has said that 2.0 is the costliest Indian film made so far, at Rs 400 crore, which is higher than the combined budget of Baahubali 2 and Dangal.

Speaking with this writer in an exclusive interview, Raju Mahalingam said, “The 2.0 shoot is over. Now we are doing special effects and VFX in state-of-the-art studios in the US and other places. The film will also be in 3D and will have a grand audio launch in Dubai sometime in October and that’s why we had earlier (made a mention) about a '3D Diwali'. Already, we have worked out an association with AA Films for the Hindi distribution in Northern India. In the south, we will be distributing it ourselves, through our network of trusted distributors.”

Lyca Productions is planning a first of its kind meet-and-greet '2.0 3D Mela' in Chennai in the first week of July 2017. The invitees would include south theatre owners, 3D equipment manufacturers from glass makers to projectors, and bankers. Raju Mahalingam said, “The idea is to make more theatres across the south 3D enabled with the latest sound technology. By the time 2.0 releases, at least 1,000 new screens should have the latest 3D equipment. Today in China, there is a craze for 3D films. It has 40,000 odd screens — out of which 10,000 are 3D equipped.”

Raju agrees that Baahubali 2 and Dangal have opened up the market and now they have scaled up expectations and are working out new strategies. The buzz is that 2.0 in 3D will have far superior special effects and VFX than Baahubali 2. And regarding the genres being very different (sci-fi vs mythology), Raju Mahalingam pointed out: “Let me make it clear, 2.0 has got a emotional core and value which will attract all sections of the audiences. Shankar is a director who always has a strong emotional message in all his films and here it is a universal message — which is that the world is not only for humans.”

Lyca Productions is going all out to woo the overseas market. After the phenomenal success of  Dangal in China, many Chinese distributors are trying to procure 2.0 as they feel it has the right mix of sci-fi, emotional core and 3D. Says Raju Mahalingam, “The overseas market is the game changer for Indian films as proved by recent hits. We are also looking to expand in key overseas markets where there is potential — like Brazil, France, Japan and Korea. Our market research has shown that sci-fi is the number one genre in many countries like Brazil and probably we will have a Spanish , French, Korean, Japanese along with Chinese version, hitting the screens simultaneously. We are in talks with local partners who have connections with our parent company  Lyca mobiles to make the 2.0 release truly global.”

Raju says, contrary to market rumours which say Kaala's release will be advanced while 2.0 will be postponed to the summer of 2018, the team intends to stick to Republic Day weekend release. However, Raju refuses to discuss the numbers and projection. He concludes: “We want to make 2.0 the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon from India.”