Master has done the trick. Its Tamil version is bringing audiences by hordes to theatres in the southern states. Initial estimates say that Vijay’s film netted more than Rs 100 crore during the five-day holidays that kick started with Pongal on Wednesday, January 13. Overseas, especially in UAE, the film is the biggest money-spinner since the coronavirus outbreak, surpassing collections of Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984.
Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi, Ranveer Singh's '83 and Salman Khan's Radhe are perhaps the most anticipated films of recent times.
Master’s success had triggered audio meetings and video conferences among Bollywood producers, exhibitors and trade, with everyone asking just one question: “is it time for the Hindi film industry to also open its gates?'
If a regional film playing at just 50 percent theatre capacity can do such good business, won’t an all-India release do better? If a film that arrived just with a teaser and not a single marketing or promotional event by its lead actor can draw the audience in great numbers, imagine what a 4-6 week campaign by a Bollywood superstar can do? If audiences down South satiate their appetite by visiting theatres for a true big-screen experience, can't Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities, too, get rid of their OTT fixation?
All these questions must be playing on the minds of those planning their next move for Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi, Ranveer Singh's '83 and Salman Khan's Radhe, the three most awaited films in recent times. Each film is a multi-crore affair and has the content to draw a pan-India audience out of their homes.
But the exercise needs to be done with caution.
For starters, they are expensive films, with a perceived market value of at least Rs 200 crore each. Had these been released in pre-pandemic times, one would have expected nothing short of a double century from each of them.
The fact that all the three have waited for almost a year, it makes sense for the next big step to be taken with a lot of deliberation instead of getting swayed by the Master’s impressive “opening”.
"Opening " is the keyword because frankly, even for Master, picture abhi baaki hai. Yes, it is off to a good start but again some people like their cinema to be the first day, first show. This is the “niche” audience at play here and it remains to be seen how family audiences step in.
Unlike films in the South, Bollywood films require larger traction from families, and that, too, those frequenting multiplexes, which account for a major share of the money that a film generates.
The game plan would need to take into account how a film would play after the opening weekend. This is where neutral audiences take over and when compared to the South, they form a larger chunk for a Bollywood film.
When it comes to Tamil and Telugu superstars, a far bigger “hero worship” angle comes into play—their fan-base ensures that the film recovers a sizable chunk of its costs. For Bollywood, star power plays a role but there is a definite need for a wider audience.
With Rohit Shetty at the helm, Akshay’s Sooryavanshi promises to be a complete commercial entertainer. Salman has already promised his fans that he would bring his Radhe on Eid, which is still some time away and is safer. Ranveer’s cricket saga '83 would need a lot of audiences from the “class zone” since Kapil Dev's heroics from almost four decades ago need to be set up with far more care.
These films have been made with a lot of passion and money. A cool, calm head in planning the release is called for. And, audiences are willing to wait.