The clash of two big releases has become a very common phenomenon, despite trade experts and single screen exhibitors requesting our filmmakers not to do so. This practise sometimes not just divides collections but also leads to negativity as the media and most of the time; their own PR strategy pits them against each other. Probably, this is why several clashes are memorable. One such clash took place exactly 20 years ago on this day between Mohabbatein and Mission Kashmir. Both films had a lot going on in their favour and there was tremendous excitement. Moreover, it was also the time of the Diwali festival which is an ideal time for box office business. What made this clash interesting was that while Mohabbatein starred Shah Rukh Khan as one of the leading actors, Mission Kashmir featured Hrithik Roshan, who had become an overnight actor. A tiff already existed between them which made the Mohabbatein vs Mission Kashmir clash worthwhile and unforgettable. Anupama Chopra in the book 'King Of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema' has thrown light on this episode.
20 years of Mohabbatein and Mission Kashmir: Analysing the now forgotten Shah Rukh Khan-Hrithik Roshan RIVALRY
Hrithik Roshan’s debut film Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai released on January 14, 2000 and emerged as a blockbuster. It earned Rs. 44.28 crore; if adjusted for inflation, it amounts to nearly Rs. 295 crore. One of the chief reasons behind its success was Hrithik’s presence. The young dashing actor was loved by people of all genders and age groups and thus saw a popularity of a rare kind.
A week after Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai came Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, starring Shah Rukh Khan. It was also his first film under his banner, Dreamz Unlimited, which he started along with actor Juhi Chawla and director Aziz Mirza. The film had its share of commercial elements but the concept of commercialization of media was too ahead of its times and didn’t find takers. It took a fine opening thanks to SRK’s association and the songs but soon fell. Ultimately, it managed to earn just Rs. 10.75 crore, which was one-fourth of that of monstrous collections of Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai.
Interestingly, Aamir Khan-starrer Mela was released a week before Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, on January 7, 2000. It is considered one of the biggest disasters of Aamir’s career and lead actress Twinkle Khanna leaves no opportunity to rip apart the film. But surprisingly, he didn’t become a target. Shah Rukh, meanwhile, got immense backlash for the debacle of Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and the rise of Hrithik’s stardom. What compounded the problem was Shah Rukh’s own criticism of the media after the release of his flick. The film press, hence, went after him. Stardust, for example, wrote extensively against him. India Today magazine, meanwhile, featured Hrithik Roshan on their March 2000 cover. The feature article of this issue mentioned that with the arrival of Hrithik, all the actors were looking “a little more tired, a little more jaded”. One section, titled ‘Vs The Khans’ compared Hrithik to the three Khans – Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir. As per India Today’s analysis, Hrithik was judged as being superior to them. For SRK, the article said that the superstar has “Great energy and sheer mannerism with flashes of histrionic ability......But Hrithik is more sophisticated. Finally you have an actor who is also a star”.
Shah Rukh’s wife Gauri tried hiding this cover from Shah Rukh, who then was in London for his knee surgery. She was heard saying, “It was so wrong. You can’t take away ten years of work. You can’t suddenly tell me one morning, ‘Hey, you’re displaced. You are too old, you are not good enough.’ I couldn’t go out of the house without someone asking me what I thought of Hrithik Roshan. It became shameless.” The reporting still continued, prompting Gauri, who had stopped giving interviews, to be the cover girl for Savvy magazine. In a lengthy interview, she hit back at SRK’s critics, “The reason why people are putting you down is because they're fed up with your success…People who are writing all this (criticism) are non-achievers compared to Shah Rukh.”
2 months later, Shah Rukh Khan’s new Pepsi ad further fuelled the rivalry with Hrithik. In the TVC, a pretty girl (played by Tara Sharma) plays a game of spin-the-bottle and choses to kiss SRK over a nerdy Hrithik Roshan lookalike, replete with braces. This was seen as a move by SRK to get even with Hrithik for stealing the thunder from him. Also, Coca Cola had then signed up Hrithik and hence, even Pepsi got a chance to take a dig at their rival’s brand ambassador.
Hrithik and his father, filmmaker Rakesh Roshan, obviously were not happy with the ad and found it in bad taste. The criticism was so huge that Pepsi had to issue a statement that the model in the commercial was not intended to look like Hrithik. Even the director of the Pepsi ad, Prahlad Kakkar, agreed and advised the Roshans not to throw tantrums!
Mohabbatein and Mission Kashmir finally arrived in cinemas. Surprisingly, the latter got more screens (400) than the former (315). Mission Kashmir even opened better at Rs. 1.64 crore, compared to Mohabbatein’s Rs. 1.19 crore. Mission Kashmir had a weekend of Rs. 4.86 crore and this along with its first day earnings were the highest ever for a Bollywood film then. But as the days passed, the collections dropped. Just like Fiza, Mission Kashmir earned praises from the critics but the violence and the theme put off family audiences. Also, the not-so-exciting script also ruled out repeat viewing. Mission Kashmir’s lifetime earnings were Rs. 22.99 crore and it still emerged as the third biggest grosser of the year despite the ‘Average’ verdict.
Mohabbatein, meanwhile, earned the number 2 spot. It netted Rs. 3.54 crore in the weekend and Rs. 7.62 crore in first week. While Mission Kashmir’s second week collections fell by half as compared to week 1 earnings, Mohabbatein sustained very well. The film’s excessive length (215 minutes) was universally panned but it was loved for its SRK-vs-Amitabh theme, the performances, music and the light moments. It was a true blue family entertainer. Also, the concept of a scorned lover returning to college as a music teacher to teach the dean the meaning of love was novel. Mohabbatein had a healthy run and ultimately accumulated a huge Rs. 41.88 crore. Apart from Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, it was the second and the only other blockbuster of the year 2000.
With both the actors getting a huge grosser each, the rivalry between them soon eroded. They soon signed for Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which also starred Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor Khan. It was released on December 14, 2001 and is one of the greatest blockbusters of Indian cinema. Moreover, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan played brothers and their chemistry was superb.
7 years later, Shah Rukh Khan appeared in a special song in Krazzy 4 (2008), produced by Rakesh Roshan. As time passed, this rivalry got forgotten and became a distant memory but it got reignited in 2016-17. Hrithik Roshan’s action thriller Kaabil was scheduled to be released on Republic Day 2017. SRK, too, decided to clash with his actioner Raees on the same day. Rakesh Roshan made his displeasure clear but SRK didn’t relent. The clash took place and unfortunately for them, Kaabil and Raees both underperformed at the box office.
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