Bombay Showcase

Is Rajini just a southern star?

Rising fortunes:As of August 2, Kabali ’s Hindi version added an additional Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 crore to the Rs. 22 from last week.  

When Rajinikanth-starrer Kabali released on 22 July 2016, some areas of south India declared a holiday, so people wouldn’t skip work or come in and be unproductive. In Mumbai, the revelry began with 6a.m. shows, a procession with elephants and all around excitement. Even for a film-crazed nation, this seemed a tad excessive.

According to, the Rs. 75-crore film began raking in the rupees even before its release, earning Rs. 225 crore from theatrical, satellite and audio rights. When the box office figures came in, Kabali — on its first day, in Tamil Nadu alone — had made Rs. 47 crore net. Compare that to Salman Khan-starrer Sultan , Bollywood’s biggest 2016 release, which made Rs. 36.54 crore net.

But while Kabali easily beat Sultan ’s first-day earnings, will the film be able to ascend to the top of the all-time charts? As of now, Sultan ’s overall earnings are an estimated Rs. 568.76 crore net in a month. Kabali , over ten days, has taken in an estimated Rs. 262 crore net (all-India, all languages). How has the south Indian film fared in northern markets? Is Rajinikanth legitimately a superstar all over the country? Here’s what the trade experts had to say.

Superstar or not?

Kabali was comparatively staid, lacking the trademark Rajini histrionics. “He’s saving that all for Robot 2 ,” says Mohan. (The sequel to the sci-fi film will also see Akshay Kumar as a villain, hopefully bringing in southern and northern fans. But despite the average reviews and bad word-of-mouth recommendations have been bad, “his fan following and charisma is such that people are flocking theatres.”

“It’s a very big number,” says Amul Mohan, trade expert and editor-in-chief of Super Cinema , of Kabali ’s first weekend’s net earnings ((including oversees numbers) of Rs. 109 crore. “It’s the highest three-day total a film has seen in India, and numbers are good.”

Smartly, Kabali has been dubbed in other languages — Hindi, Telugu and even Malay — and subtitled versions are releasing too. “First week earnings [for these versions] are going to be Rs. 20 to 21 crore, and its lifetime earnings will be in the range of Rs. 30 crore,” says Mohan. “ Robot , his last film in Hindi did Rs. 22 crore net in its lifetime.” For comparison, Irrfan Khan-starrer Madaari , which released on the same day as Kabali , made about Rs. 9 crore net in its first four days, including the weekend.

Mohan says Rajinikanth’s fandom in Mumbai is tremendous. “He’s one of the few universal stars.” Language barrier notwithstanding, even youngsters want to see the actor because of what his aura, “Which is not the case with the other actors.” It isn’t surprising that the film did well in Tamil in Tamil Nadu, but even in Bangalore, where the Telugu-dubbed version was more popular, the film earned Rs. 20 crore net. The success, Mohan says, rides purely on Rajinikanth’s stardom. “A bad film can hurt Salman Khan, but that’s that is not the case here.” That said, the superstar’s last couple of films — Lingaa and Enthiran — didn’t have this much hysteria going for them and haven’t done as well. It also helps that this time around, Kabal i ’s director, Pa. Ranjith, is well-regarded in the south. Plus, there’s the advance booking effect. “The first four days won’t cement facts for me,” says Mohan. “Now will they want to watch it again? Are there people who haven’t watched it yet? All of these factors will determine how Kabali will fare during its lifetime.”

The founder of Ormax Media, Shailesh Kapoor agrees with Mohan’s prediction, “ Kabali ’s (Hindi dubbed) Week One numbers are Rs. 22 crore across North Indian and non-south markets. [The Hindi version] opened at Rs. 3.5 crore and it’s been okay through the week.” Compared to Bahubali “it didn’t; have a big opening in Hindi but it picked up and there was a lot of word-of-mouth around the film.” Bahubali a historical fiction film with visual effects so far unseen in Bollywood, “didn’t have a star cast,” Kapoor says. “It worked on the fact it was closer to Hollywood, yet it was Indian.”

While Kapoor thinks the Hindi-dubbed Kabali isn’t going to reach Rs. 50 crore net in its first week, he says that it is still decent. “South Indian films releasing in Hindi have limited success.” For instance, Eega (Makkhi) and Indian (Hindustani) barely did a estimated net of Rs. 15 to Rs. 20 crore; Bahubali is an exception. Besides, all that hype on television and social media about Kabali ’s success hasn’t really translated into footfalls in non-south markets. People have and always will steer towards content and a cast that they are familiar with. The trade verdict is that the Hindi version has been moderate.

As of August 2, Kabali’s Hindi version added an additional Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 crore to the Rs. 22 from last week. The Tamil and Telugu versions across the country’s non-south markets only managed to bring in Rs. 5 crore. Additionally, despite the huge numbers in southern markets, Like Mohan, Kapoor wants to hold his verdict for now: “You need to look at the second weekend numbers.”

Kapoor says while Rajinikanth’s following in the south is “unparalleled,” it’s community-driven everywhere else, small pockets across the country who religiously follow his every move. “Even though he is Maharashtrian, he’s not tried to encash it.” He says that it’s like there are two different worlds operating in the same country when it comes to cinema; evidenced by the fact that no Hindi stars have a following in the south.

Box-office earnings

Hindi: Rs. 25 crore

Tamil: Rs. 200 crore

Telugu: Rs. 30 to 35 crore

All-India: Rs. 262 crore

Source: Ormax Media (as of August 2)

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 4:22:52 PM |

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