Conventional wisdom in Bollywood suggests that the cricket world cup and films should never be talked about in the same breath. A case in point: For long it was considered foolish to release a film while the carnival is playing out anywhere in the world. And this had nothing to do with India's chances, the performance of the boys in blue, or even the eventual winner.
This time-tested logic, however, is now being turned on its head. Two recent films, Badlapur, followed by Dum Laga Ke Haisha, have proved all pundits wrong. And how!
Take, for instance, Varun Dhawan's coming-of-age film Badlapur. The film hit the screens on February 20, just two days before the much-hyped India-South Africa clash. India had already beaten Pakistan and thus the frenzy around our next match was at an all time high. The film opened its first day account with Rs 7 crore, followed by Rs 8.50 crore on Saturday. But its the film's Sunday collection that surprised many. A big match day (India played South Africa), Badlapur raked in Rs 8 crore on that day.
Elated with the response his film has got, Dinesh Vijan, Badlapur's producer, is more than willing to share the strategy he followed for the Varun Dhawan-starrer. “See, there are only 52 weeks in a year, and you need to put up your film in any one of these. Now, even in this lot, big weekends and festive occasions are taken care by the Khan films. It is therefore imperative that you have a plan that ensures bigger viewership for your film. Afterwards, it’s about the content of a film. We had to ensure a good reach for our film and that’s why we looked at releasing it in 1,600-1,700 screens. Now, we have earned Rs. 45-50 crore, which is fantastic for a film like Badlapur which has extreme content.”
Vijan continues: “Badlapur's success tells us a lot of things. It’s about the audience’s receptivity towards the new kind of cinema. It is our biggest victory. We also got phenomenal support from the media; rave reviews helped us a lot. Then there was tremendous word-of-mouth publicity. In a nut shell, Hindi films and cricket can co-exist together. Also, if you make a good film, you’ll find the market.”
It was an entirely different scenario because Roy, which released on February 13, just ahead of the India-Pakistan match, had turned out to be a cold turkey at the ticket window. It had a bankable starcast and the music was also hit, yet it failed to leave any impression.
Soon after Badlapur, director Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha started making right noises. Despite being an YRF presentation, its score was totally dependent on a positive word-of-mouth publicity. “I don’t think the Cricket World Cup will affect the film’s business. In fact, it’s the ideal time to release our film as no other big films are releasing and that gave us the freedom to choose the number of screens. See, if you’re confident about your film, then its release timing doesn’t matter much. We are banking on the word of mouth publicity and are confident of its merit. Big starrers can get you openings but there onwards it’s about the film’s content,” says Katariya.
Similar to Badlapur, Dum Laga Ke Haisha also braved the India-UAE match, and is continuously soaring at the box office. Not much was spent on its production and publicity and thus it’s likely to start making profits in next few days. Currently, its collection has gone over 8 crore which will only get better in the coming days.
It may look quite normal to some, but the track record claims otherwise. Big ticket films such as Patiala House, 7 Khoon Maaf, Tanu Weds Manu and Game released during the last Cricket World Cup alongside some small budget films, but none, except Tanu Weds Manu, actually raked in moolah.
Initially, the Indian Premiere League also scared producers but things are more or less back in their place after seven seasons of the small version of cricket.
Probably, this has prompted Navdeep Singh to go public with his upcoming project NH10 during the World Cup. “I don’t think it’s about cricket versus Bollywood as I believe that both are separate entities. See, in any case, most of the matches finish by the evening, so if a film is making good noises then it will be watched by the audience.”
Given the limited budget of NH10, it may turn out to be a smart move. However, the threat is still looming large because MSG, Roy, Qissa and Ab Tak Chhappan 2 have already bitten the dust. Actor Rahul Nath, who was last seen in Happy Ending, aptly describes the scenario, “Cricket is the No 1 sport for us Indians and the euphoria that surrounds the World cup is so energetic that it takes over the country. People even go to lengths of missing work, calling in sick and even youngsters putting off school and their favorite activities. So what chance then do we Bollywood actors have against the Cricket stars? I hate to say it but the business of Bollywood films does suffer immensely and though watching movies is probably one of the best pastimes in India, it takes a backseat when the Cricket World Cup is on.”
During the last World Cup, most of the matches consumed the viewer’s evenings, but it’s different this time. India is winning and the matches are getting finished by the afternoon which leaves the potential consumers with many hours and a ‘happy’ feeling. This is probably enticing them to flock the nearest theatres.
One thing is quite evident that with a range of content being offered to the audience, the situation is likely to tilt in favour of the producers as the viewers are ready to accept the novelty with open hearts. Now, the onus is on films like NH10, Hunterrr, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, Broken Horses and Ek Paheli Leela to make it worth releasing during the Cricket World Cup.