Raees vs Kaabil: SRK, Hrithik's films have opened a Pandora's Box of Bollywood clashes

Karishma Upadhyay

Jan 27, 2017 14:48:49 IST

Shah Rukh Khan’s gangster film Raees arrived in theatres along with Hrithik Roshan’s revenge saga Kaabil this week. To have two big films releasing on the same weekend might mean variety for the audience, but it’s never good news for producers, distributors and exhibitors. Competing films inevitably cannibalise each other’s profits.

For the makers of Raees (the film is produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment and Shah Rukh’s Red Chillies), it was simple. They had no other choice. The film was originally scheduled to open during Eid last June but wasn’t ready and the release was postponed.

“But there's no other date, yaar! I have tried my best to shift it around. We were initially supposed to come on Eid in June, then I tried to get it in September-October, but Ae Dil and Shivaay were coming. Then I tried to come on December 9, but Befikre was coming. In between, I had Dear Zindagi, too. So unfortunately because of the delay and my injury, it is what it is now. Otherwise, even if we had come on Eid, it would have still clashed with Sultan,” Shah Rukh said in an interview with DNA.

Raees vs Kaabil: SRK, Hrithiks films have opened a Pandoras Box of Bollywood clashes

Bollywood clashes over the years. (L to R) Kaabil, Lagaan & Gadar, Jab Tak Hai Jaan & Son of Sardar, and Raees. Images from Twitter.

Team Kaabil was clearly not happy with this clash at the box office and Rakesh Roshan, the film’s producer, has been very vocal about his feelings.

Look, I don’t own the date. People can do what they want. But if the tables were reversed, I would never do this to them. It’s an unethical thing to do. I am very hurt. My film was ready in August. I could have released earlier. I picked January 26 based on the slots that everyone else had already picked for their films. I had decided on this date last February. I don’t want to harm someone else’s film. A clash of this kind harms the film, the distributors, the exhibitors and even the audience. Many people can’t afford to watch two films in one week, so they have to make a choice. This situation is not fair on them either,” he said in an interview earlier this week.

Hrithik, while fully supporting his father, was more diplomatic when asked about the clash: “As a producer, my dad has taken good care to not clash with another other film in November and December. His film was ready but he decided to wait because he didn’t want to clash. Say if we had come with Dear Zindagi, that wouldn’t have been right. My father believes that but he can’t expect everyone else to have the same ideals.”

Both actors are making the right noises on social media but it won’t be a stretch to say that relations between the Roshans, Shah Rukh and Farhan Akhtar have been strained because of this clash. Things took an ugly turn when it was revealed that instead of a 50-50 screen share, exhibitors have picked Raees over Kaabil with 60-40 screen share. Early numbers indicate that of the two films Raees has taken a bigger opening.    

Box office clashes aren’t new to Bollywood. Sholay and Jai Santoshi Maa released on the same day in 1975. Initially, Jai Santoshi Maa had a clear edge over the Amitabh-Dharmendra starrer but Sholay eventually took over. Both films were blockbusters. Decades later Aamir Khan’s Lagaan and Sunny Deol’s Gadar released on the same Friday and both films were blockbusters.

So, what’s changed? It’s the longevity of a film.

Unlike the 70s and the 80s when films would celebrate silver and golden jubilees at the box office, the theatrical life of a film now is not more than three-four weeks. The first three days after a release determines the result of a film. In the case of a big-star vehicle, the first weekend audience doesn’t care about the quality of the film. It’s only Monday onwards that word-of-mouth either takes the film into a second week or signals its demise.

When two big-ticket films release on the same day, the best-case scenario is that both get equal shares of the pie but that rarely happens.

The last time both films had similar box office collections after a clash was 2012 when Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardar released on the Diwali weekend. But days before the release, makers of both films were involved in an unpleasant controversy. Ajay Devgn, who also produced Son of Sardar, filed a complaint in the Competition Commission of India (CCI) alleging that YashRaj Films (the producers of JTJH) used its dominant position in the market to get maximum screens for the film.

This resulted in Ajay’s film not finding enough screens. The complaint was eventually dismissed by the CCI but the controversy cost Ajay’s wife Kajol her friendship with YRF scion Aditya Chopra.  

Four years later, another Diwali box office clash cost Kajol another close friendship. At the core of Karan Johar’s big fall out with Kajol was the clash between Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Shivaay. In an industry that is already divided, these box office face-offs are only making things worse.

It was almost exactly a decade ago, when Bollywood witnessed it’s big ugly box office showdown. In 2007, both Shah Rukh Khan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali picked Diwali for the release of their films Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. Things got very ugly, very quickly. Shah Rukh said he will ‘destroy’ the competition. The Saawariya director said the actor had no right to ‘destroy the work of 150 people’. The relationship between the duo was fractured for years after that Diwali.

While Hrithik and Shah Rukh had locked horns over the Republic Day weekend for months, a massive clash was avoided with some ingenuity, down south. Veteran actors Balakrishna and Chiranjeevi both announced a Sankranti release for their films Gautamiputra Satkarni and Khaidi No 150. But instead of releasing the same day, they picked different release dates.

The Chiranjeevi starrer Khaidi No 150 hit theatres on Jan 11 and Balakrishna’s Gautamiputra Satkarni released on Jan 13.

The next time a box office face off is unavoidable, maybe Bollywood could give this a shot.  

Updated Date: Jan 27, 2017 21:32:27 IST