Years ago, in the 80s, the reigning superstar, Amitabh Bachchan, and the ex-superstar, Rajesh Khanna, were locked in a battle of sorts. Both Bachchan and Khanna wanted to be one-up on the other by releasing their film first.
Bachchan's INQUILAAB and Khanna's AAJ KA M.L.A. – belonging to the same genre – were being shot round-the-clock. INQUILAAB opened before AAJ KA M.L.A. did, but in the final tally, both met with the same response from cinegoers. Thumbs down!
June 7, 2002.
The two films on the life of Shaheed Bhagat Singh finally opened last weekend and, as was expected, 23RD MARCH 1931 SHAHEED and THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH cut into each other's business. It goes without saying that had the two films opened in two separate weeks, it would've been an altogether different story at the box-office.
I've been inundated with calls from film-makers/mediapersons and mails from Bollywood fans, wanting to know what went wrong. Why didn't the two films manage an opening in the first place? This question haunted one and all.
One of the reasons that can be attributed to the not-as-expected opening is that the films were 'hot' within the film industry. Not outside the film industry. The common man, let me put it bluntly, was waiting for the feedback by those who had seen the film and then decide whether he wanted to see either of the films.
Another reason being, confusion prevailed in the minds of a few who felt that they were not two different films but one film. Why, till a few days ago, a prominent film-maker went to the extent of asking me whether I'd seen the film (not films!) and who'd acted better in it. And was Ash cast opposite Bobby or Ajay?
All this, because the promos not only looked similar, but even the songs sounded alike, mainly the 'Mera Rang De Basanti Chola' track.
If one goes through the box-office openings of the past few weeks in Mumbai, you'll notice that all big-budget films – AANKHEN, COMPANY, AAP MUJHE ACHCHE LAGNE LAGE, NA TUM JAANO NA HUM, HUM TUMHARE HAIN SANAM and HUM KISISE KUM NAHIN – opened to a 95% to 99% response.
Which brings me back to the same point. Had any one of the films released without any opposition, it would've made a killing. Like it happened at places where 23RD MARCH 1931 SHAHEED and THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH did not clash. The opening day figures were excellent at those centres, but at a majority of places, where the 'Clash of the Titans' was witnessed, the audience got divided.
While 23RD MARCH 1931 SHAHEED opened to a fantastic response in Punjab (the two Deols were cast together, after all!), Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, the opening in other circuits ranged from decent to just about okay to dull.
On the other hand, the opening of THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH was the lowest for an Ajay Devgan starrer, at places as low as 30%. The distributors and exhibitors had panic writ large on their faces, thanks to the cold figures.
The film won rave reviews from every critic who matters and won tremendous appreciation from the common man, but what led to its misery was the clash. Had the clash been averted, T.L.O.B.S would've been a winner purely on merit!
Truly, this was one of the scariest Fridays I've witnessed!
Let's have a look at how the new releases performed at the box-office. An exclusive mid-week report by IndiaFM.
23RD MARCH 1931 SHAHEED
Its start in Mumbai city-suburbs was shaky. Despite formidable names in its cast, the film opened to a 75.55% response on its first day. The collections in Thane aren't encouraging either. Starting on a decent note, the collections started sliding downwards as days progressed, at cinema halls from the second day itself… In Pune, the film had a decent start, but the collections have started dropping… In Gujarat, the opening was excellent, but the film dropped from Monday. At places, the drop was about 30%… The opening at Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Jammu, Patiala, Pathankot and other key stations of Punajb, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh was fabulous… Released with approx. 60 prints in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the opening in Delhi city-suburbs, surprisingly, wasn't cent per cent. The film started sliding since the reports aren't encouraging. In Uttar Pradesh, the collections are good… The film started well at key stations of Bihar, but a drop was seen in the initial days itself… The film opened to a decent response in Kolkata, but the collections dropped subsequently… The film opened to a mixed response in Nagpur and the collections dropped as days progressed. At other centres of C.P. Berar, the collections are not too strong. The reports are not encouraging… The opening in Indore was good, but the collections have dropped sharply… The start in Jaipur was strong, but the collections have dipped subsequently.
THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH
The film started on a below-the-mark note (77%) in Mumbai city-suburbs and although the film won favourable reviews from all leading critics, the collections have not shown much improvement. In Thane, the collections are okay… In Pune, the collections are average. The reports are mixed… The opening at key stations of Gujarat was 60% to 65% and the collections have not shown any jump, despite appreciation… Released with approx. 40 prints in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the collections in Delhi city-suburbs are not up to the mark. Yet, there is a feeling that the collections may show a rise due to rave reviews. The collections have been affected in Uttar Pradesh due to the other film… The opening at several stations of Punjab was not up to the mark… The start in Kolkata was dull and the collections dropped subsequently… The opening in Nagpur was below-the-mark and despite appreciation, the collections have not improved much. The general feeling is that the film may fare better in big cities… In Indore, the collections are so-so… The collections in Jaipur are poor… The opening in Sri Ganganagar was excellent, but dull in Jodhpur… The reports in Hyderabad are strong… Ditto for Vijayawada, where the viewers have appreciated the film.
MERE YAAR KI SHAADI HAI
Released at some of the best theatres in Mumbai city-suburbs, the film opened to a 94% response. The film has been appreciated by the young generation and the collections are rock-steady… Released at multiplexes, the collections are strong in Ahmedabad. The gentry has liked the film… Due to the maker's track record, the film started on a good note in Pune. The collections are steady… The film started well in Delhi city and is maintaining well at several cinema halls. The collections in Uttar Pradesh are okay… The start in Kolkata was good and though the collections are strong at a few theatres, a drop was noticed in the suburban theatres… The opening in Nagpur was good, but the collections have started sliding from Monday… The film opened to a heartening response in Indore. The collections are steady… The collections are strong in Jaipur (Rajmandir).