It is being speculated that there might be a battle of the beasts at the box office on the Christmas weekend with Prabhas’ Salaar expected to clash with Shah Rukh Khan’s Dunki, and the fraternity is divided over this development.
While an official announcement is awaited, trade insiders have revealed that Salaar Part 1: Ceasefire — helmed by KGF hitmaker Prashanth Neel — will be released on December 22, which was already reserved for Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki.
The year has been great for Hindi films with Pathaan, Gadar 2, OMG 2 and Jawan breaking the lull of the big screen brought in by the pandemic crisis. While some are confident that the clash would not make much of a difference because both the films are of different genres, others opine that it would impact business.
NOT A HEALTHY TREND
Many opine that at a time when industry has finally started to stand on its feet, there’s no reason to take the risk and invite losses. According to trade expert Taran Adarsh, a lot is at stake when it comes to big releases, so clashes aren’t always healthy. “These are big projects with big stars. If Salaar makers indeed go ahead and do this clash, it will be a cause of concern for the exhibitors, distribution fraternity, further dividing the audience and screens. It will be a tough fight between both the parties to get the best showcasing, which comes with a slight negativity.”
There is a three way clash with the sequel of superhero film Aquaman also releasing during the same period. “Also, Project K starring Prabhas is announced for January next year. You can’t have two Prabhas films back to back in a gap of four weeks. Apart from that, the economics of Salaar don’t permit it to come on that day. You can’t be a mammoth budgeted film and be the third option in the critical market,” says trade expert and producer Girish Johar, adding, “It won’t be an easy ride for Salaar. If they release alongside, there will be a business hit of minimum 20 per cent for both the films. The potential will get impacted. It is a practical move to avoid a clash.”
The calls to avoid the clash is also backed by high ticket prices, with trade experts mentioning that “families won’t watch two films in a week. It will be a big blow to their monthly budget”.
Explaining the exhibitor dilemma, exhibitor Akshaye Rathi notes that a clash puts a dent in each projects’ revenue by at least ₹100 crore. He explains, “They deserve the widest possible release across the country, which will not happen if they clash. For single screens, more prevalent in the south, it will be a question of choosing one over the other. We don’t want to see Bollywood’s winning streak to break or Prashanth Neel’s success track record to get hampered with the clash.”
Devang Sampat, CEO, Cinepolis, feels that having more than two mega blockbusters releasing on the same date will cannibalise some amount. “India is largely an under screened country, and having three mega blockbusters will eat into each other’s pie, increasing the potential to hamper the good box office business report card till now,” he notes.
BOLLYWOOD IS UNSTOPPABLE
Given Shah Rukh Khan’s run so far in 2023, many are confident that Dunki has the potential to wipe off Salaar buzz. Trade expert Atul Mohan says, “Shah Rukh Khan will be the first preference of the exhibitors, and that is also because Prabhas is not having a great graph and gave back to back flops with Radhe Shyam and Adipurush. No exhibitor will pick Salaar over Dunki. Shah Rukh has found a new fan base in the south after Jawan, which will further work in the favour of Dunki. Also, SRK was the first to announce the release date, and it would be wrong to expect him to push,” says Mohan.
PRABHAS IS WAITING TO BOUNCE BACK
Contrary to SRK’s back-to-back successes, Prabhas is waiting for the opportunity to come back with a bang after the debacle of Adipurush, so many are insisting that Salaar should not be postponed.
Trade expert Ramesh Bala asserts that Prabhas has nothing to fear, and will have an edge because of the genre. “Dunki is expected to be a feel-good drama with social commentary, while Salaar is an out and out action film coming from the world of KGF. Prabhas has an edge with the big makers and the entire south backing them. Dunki might not work in the south market,” he states.
A repeat of 2018?
This is not the first time that the production house will be releasing their action project alongside Shah Rukh Khan’s film. Back in 2018, they released KGF part 1 along with Zero in the same time period. At that time, KGF, featuring Yash, emerged as the winner at the box office, with the film amassing more than ₹204 crore at the domestic box office. Aanand L. Rai’s Zero turned out to be a damp squib.