The sudden announcement that Akshay Kumar is all set to release his film Bellbottom in cinemas, that too as early as July 27, led to unprecedented excitement in the trade and industry. He’s one of the biggest actors who never fails to pull audiences to theatres. What’s more, he has 3-4 releases every year. Bellbottom was shot abroad as soon as things opened up. Post Bellbottom, he started and finished many films and also completed pending projects. If all goes well, he has 8 upcoming films releasing in cinemas in the next 12 to 18 months – Bellbottom, Sooryavanshi, Atrangi Re, Prithviraj, Bachchan Pandey, Raksha Bandhan, Ram Setu and OMG Oh My God 2. A few more projects are already in the pipeline and will be announced soon. Lastly, he’ll soon shoot for his Amazon Prime Video series, The End. No other actor has such a long lineup.
The one man saviour of Bollywood?
While Akshay Kumar will have 8 releases by 2022-end, the other big stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan etc. will barely have a release or two in the same period. So is he the one man saviour who can revive Bollywood post-Covid-19 pandemic? Trade analyst Taran Adarsh says, “He has got the most impressive line-up. And the best thing about him is that he completes the film on time and also he ensures that those films release on time. Bellbottom was one of the first films to be shot during the pandemic. It was completed in record time. He also shot for Bachchan Pandey, completed Atrangi Re and I believe is about to finish Prithviraj. The bottom line is that he doesn’t waste time and his films are completed on time. It’s not like the other actors don’t do that. But he stands out as he completes it in a stipulated time and releases them accordingly. Since his films have been held up due to the lockdown, all these releases will come out as a saviour to the film industry.”
He then adds, “He is the one who has a good lineup, besides of course the South industry, which seems ready to bounce back. So I’d like to put Akshay Kumar and the South industry in the same bracket and their films will act as saviours. This is especially for the exhibition sector, which is already bleeding and still in the ICU. Exhibitors need help and if these films help restart the exhibition sector, then that would be great.”
Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor and distributor, explains, “Saying that he’s the one-man saviour would be unfair to other actors who are doing amazing work well. But there's absolutely no doubt that he’s the ATM machine of the Hindi entertainment industry. The beauty of Akshay Kumar’s model is that every 3 or maximum 4 months, he has a theatrical release. He shoots at a very rapid pace; he does not let the quality of the film be compromised because he shoots quickly. He’s easily dabbling between films that are as diverse from each other, from a Pad Man to a Housefull series. He thus caters to every section and strata while making very entertaining films, making them rapidly at a very reasonable budget and therefore making them very profitable. So this is very unique to Akshay Kumar. So I have no doubts about the fact that he’ll have a massive role in the revival of the sector. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that everyone else – Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Ajay Devgn, Ayushmann Khurrana, Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan etc – will have to go all guns blazing, make more films and release them as soon as possible in the cinemas for the sector’s revival. I am sure all of them are at it.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra disagrees as he says, “It’s just that he’s doing more work than others. He's always been doing four films in a year. He’s now got a backlog and hence, he has to make it up by releasing them soon. So there’s nobody who can change the fortunes of the industry by doing more films. Sometimes, the more films you do, it can go against you because you have overexposed yourself. Kabhi kabhi ek picture nahi chali toh dusri bhi average ho jaati hai. Aur film hit ho gayi toh aapki agli film, jo average hoti hai, woh bhi chal padti hai. So it’s a risk. Nobody can change the fortune of the industry just because he’s doing more films than the others.”
1000 crore+ riding on Akshay Kumar?
Surely a lot of money must be riding on him as all these are expensive films. Taran Adarsh takes a rough estimate of Rs. 150 crores per film. He however adds, “Of course, the Rs. 150 crores is an average figure as an action-packed film would cost more than a social film.” The total for 8 films then comes to around Rs. 1200 crores. Taran Adarsh says, “That’s a substantial amount. But more importantly, his professional attitude is coming as a saviour. Even during pre-Covid times, he used to have 3 or 4 releases in a year.”
Amod Mehra in agreement says, “There’s a lot of investment on his films. Each film costs around Rs. 150-200 crores. So you can calculate accordingly.” Akshaye Rathi adds to this point, “If we include theatrical, satellite, OTT etc, each of his films will be making Rs. 175-180 crores. Multiply that by the number of films he’s doing. And that’s a lot of money riding on him.”
Massive 1/5th contribution to Bollywood economy
A back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that his annual contribution to Bollywood is nearly 1/5th of the total earnings, and this makes him an industry in himself. Taran Adarsh agrees on this estimate, “Yes, you could say that. His contribution is enormous. Irrespective of how his films fare, the fact that he is pumping his films in the market. At a point in time, everyone labelled him, that he’s repeating himself. Even I did it. And now he has given audiences a wide variety to choose from. It’s a very good sign. When you go to a restaurant, don't you like to have different kinds of meals to satiate your taste buds? Likewise, you must give moviegoers different kinds of cinema. If you start repeating yourself, you tend to lose your charm. Your fans will still patronize you but after a point, even they’ll say, ‘Yaar ab kuch naya chahiye’.”
Akshaye Rathi makes an important point here, “It’s not like all his films will be released in a year. I assume it’ll happen over 18 months. But he definitely contributes a massive chunk of the turnover. At the box office, say if each of his films is doing Rs. 110 crores average, he’s contributing Rs. 440-550 crores a year, if he has 4-5 films releasing in 12 months. That’s obviously a huge chunk.”
Amod Mehra, however, vehemently disagrees, “Aisa nahi hota hai. Ranbir Kapoor is doing Brahmastra which costs around Rs. 300 crore. So one can’t gauge like this. Aamir Khan is just doing one film. That doesn’t mean he’s contributing less to the cinema.”
More Pages: Ram Setu Box Office Collection
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