When Bollywood locks horns

Deborah Cornelious discovers that it’s the box office that suffers the most when two big-ticket films like Raees and Kaabil release at the same time

It’s been exactly two weeks since the two films that marked 2017’s first Bollywood clash released. As of Tuesday, Raees had raked in Rs. 110 crore net to Kaabil’s Rs. 65 crore, according to Box Office India. And the lead is clear: the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer is ahead in the game by a whopping 67.4%. When both films started screening a day before Republic Day, there was already a fair amount of acrimony surrounding the release. For instance, it was reported that Rakesh Roshan was upset that the producers of Raees (Ritesh Sidhwani Farhan Akhtar) refused to change their release date despite Kaabil’s date being finalised earlier.

In the end, when January 25 rolled around, Kaabil released in 2,550 screens and Raees screened in 3,400 theatres, according to Which makes for another bone of contention for the Roshan camp. “Obviously, a factor like higher screen count helps,” says Amul Mohan trade expert and editor-in-chief of Super Cinema, referring to Raees’s lead at the box office. He added that the collections so far are fairly good for both. But trade experts do agree that neither of the films is extraordinary in terms of content. “Raees has been good for the masses and Kaabil for the families,” says trade expert Komal Nahata. “Mass films open bigger and so therefore Raees opened better.” So far, the negative feedback has been limited to SRK’s film seeming repetitive in the second half and Kaabil being derivative of the ’80s Bollywood revenge films.

In spite of the (very few) naysayers, Raees had Khan’s bigger star status and the fact that this is yet another big-budget venture, working for it. The ban on Pakistani artistes furthered the film’s (which co-stars Pakistani actor Mahira Khan) hold in the spotlight. And a clever marketing and distribution strategy managed to tap into SRK’s pan-India appeal, especially in the South, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, where the actor has a strong fanbase.

On the other hand, Kaabil was more niche with a slightly urban feel, despite which it never secured a hold on multiplexes as would be inevitable. “Raees managed to get 60% of all the shows in single screens and in multiplexes around the country,” says Shailesh Kapoor, founder of Ormax Media, an insights firm specialising in media. “It gave the film a two-and-a-half to three times the edge.”

Alternatively, the buzz around Kaabil has been significantly quieter. “Hrithik Roshan has been going through a lull phase and Mohenjo Daro did more harm than good,” says Mohan. “But Kaabil is making up for it.”

Indeed, the actor received appreciation for his performance despite his film not burning up the box office. In fact, as per viewer feedback, Roshan’s film at the moment fares higher than Raees.

Data from Ormax Media reveals that the audience word-of-mouth rating of Kaabil is higher at 65%, while Raees is at 57% (the rating represents number of audience members who liked the film enough to recommend it to their friends or family). “The eight-point gap was not sufficient enough for Kaabil to catch up in the first week,” says Kapoor. “It could not translate into box office collections.”

The only other time that a film which opened to low figures managed to beat its competitor was in December 2015. Bajirao Mastani opened to Rs 12.3 crore net on the first day, while Dilwale managed Rs. 20.37 crore net, not a huge gap when all things are considered. At the end of both their theatrical runs, Ranveer Singh’s film won the lead with Rs. 183 core net over SRK’s Rs. 142 crore. (Figures from

As per Ormax Media’s research, Bajirao Mastani managed to catch up to Dilwale’s collections, but there, the word-of-mouth rating gap was a solid 20 points: 74 for Bajirao Mastani, 50 for Dilwale. “This kind of turnaround can happen,” says Kapoor. “But Kaabil has been playing the catch-up game since day one.”

Kaabil’s collected Rs. 8 crore net on its first day, while Raees did a whopping Rs. 20 crore.

Kapoor says that 50% of the box office returns of a film have now been reduced to the first week’s collections. “That’s when the damage was done,” he states, adding that Raees and Kaabil are looking at incremental leftover business, which will never amount to large numbers. “They can only get about Rs. 50 lakh to Rs. 1 crore a day, and Jolly LLB 2 releases this week.” The release of the Akshay Kumar-starrer perhaps signals the end of both films’ run at the cinema.

It all comes down to the curse of the Bollywood clash. Clearly, both films have been impacted. In a market where there was the potential to make Rs. 300 crore, as Rakesh Roshan once pointed

out in an interview, both films have affected each others’ earnings. Especially since January saw no big releases other than the big clash on Republic Day.

“It’s a loss,” says Kapoor. “Kaabil would have lost out on Rs. 35 to 45 crore and Raees, around Rs. 15 crore. That’s a substantial number for the box office.”

A clash in Hindi cinema has never gone down well for the industry and Kapoor agrees it’s silly, but does reveal that the rest of 2017 looks smooth, so far. Perhaps this year the box office numbers would go up instead of the increasingly low annual returns we’ve been seeing so far.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 10:03:20 PM |

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