Two big ticket films starring some of India’s biggest stars could possibly end the long dry spell that Bollywood is currently enduring at the box office, trade analysts predict.
In recent years, the cinema of South India, comprising the Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam language industries, has stolen a march over its hitherto more glamorous Bollywood counterpart in both content and box office. In recent months, big ticket releases from the Hindi-language Mumbai-based Bollywood have underperformed. In recent weeks, the trend has continued, with the Hindi-dubbed version of Kannada-language blockbuster “Kantara” outperforming its made-in-Hindi counterparts.
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The trend, understandably, has sent alarm bells ringing across Bollywood, but analysts have high hopes from “Cirkus,” starring Ranveer Singh, due a Christmas 2022 release, and “Pathaan,” headlined by Shah Rukh Khan, which is scheduled for a Jan. 25, 2023, bow, during India’s Republic Day holiday frame.
Reliance Entertainment, Rohit Shetty Picturez and T-Series Films’ “Cirkus,” directed by hitmaker Shetty (“Sooryavanshi”), features Singh in a dual role and also stars Pooja Hegde, Jacqueline Fernandez and Varun Sharma, with cameos from Deepika Padukone and Ajay Devgn. The film is a comedy loosely based on William Shakespeare’s play “The Comedy of Errors,” which has been adapted several times successfully for the screen in India.
Yash Raj Films’ “Pathaan” is directed by another hitmaker, Siddharth Anand (“War”). It also stars Padukone and John Abraham. The spy action thriller is part of producer Aditya Chopra’s spy universe, which also includes the “Tiger” franchise.
“There is a high likelihood that both these films will bring back cheer in terms of the Hindi box office numbers. If you look at the Hindi box office, films have been reporting a positive surprise very sporadically. In the last eight months, since we’ve moved out of COVID-19, and cinemas have unlocked, we have seen just about four films doing well and breaching that INR1.5 billion to INR1.7 billion [$18-20 million] mark at the box office. The last one was ‘Brahmastra Part One: Shiva,’ when we breached the INR2 billion mark,” film trade analyst Karan Taurani of Elara Capital told Variety.
Taurani points to “Cirkus” director Shetty’s track record, which includes the Golmaal and Singham franchises and says that the film being a family mass entertainer in the comedy genre will be a highlight for audiences. As for “Pathaan,” Khan’s most recent release as a solo hero was “Zero” in 2018 and Taurani feels that there will be high audience curiosity about the star’s comeback film.
“The ‘Pathaan’ teaser looks compelling, it looks like a large franchise, like we had ‘Dhoom.’ I’ve always maintained that it is not only star power which will work but a blend of star power and content is going to be the big driver for getting the numbers back to pre-COVID levels and beyond that, so we are moving towards that path slowly and steadily,” says Taurani.
Atul Mohan, editor of Indian trade publication Complete Cinema told Variety: ” ‘Cirkus’ and ‘Pathaan’ are the biggest hopes for the Hindi film industry in the coming months. Both films come with the right mix of star power and entertainment value. Shah Rukh Khan and Ranveer Singh are the last-standing superstars. They still command a massive craze among the viewers. Audiences trust them wholeheartedly. As the promotional campaigns kick in, and we get a closer look at these movies, I’m sure they will surpass everyone’s expectations and dispel all doubts about the industry’s survival.”
Box office analyst Ramesh Bala added: ” ‘Pathaan’ is a big-scale actioner offering a larger-than-life ride. It is also Shah Rukh Khan’s much-anticipated comeback. Meanwhile, ‘Cirkus’ brings together the superhit combo of Ranveer Singh and Rohit Shetty. The film is a comedy and audiences have been dying to see Ranveer in an all-out comedic role. Together, these two films will work wonders at the box-office and end Hindi cinema’s dry spell.”
Taurani predicts that the robust numbers for South Indian cinema and Hollywood, which has also been performing well in India, will continue and contribute to the overall growth of the Indian box office, with 2023 set to surpass pre-COVID 2019 levels. He also sees the Hindi box office catching fire from the May-June 2023 period, when Bollywood films based on concepts and scripts developed in line with changing audience preferences begin releasing.
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