The Hindi film industry can’t hide its excitement. Almost like a young girl going out on her first official date with her childhood crush. The buzz in Mumbai is that ‘Acche Din’ are finally here and there’s now no looking back at what has been a disastrous, to put it in polite words, first few months of 2015 at the box office. With not a single ‘Super Hit’, forget about Blockbusters, and hardly a couple of clean ‘Hits’ in the Jan-May period, the industry was clearly looking down the barrel in terms of business and revenue. But, with Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR) getting a phenomenal response from the audiences all across the country, we are all set to witness the first Blockbuster of 2015. Yes, you read it right. That elusive blockbuster is finally off the block!

TWMR Poster 3TWMR’s weekend collection was over 38 Crores INR, the biggest opening weekend of the year, closely matching the collections of a much-bigger film like Gabbar Is Back. In the overseas market, the film raked in close to 15 Crores, again the highest opening weekend in overseas this year, beating the previous best of 12 Crores set by Piku couple of weeks back. On the face value, these numbers may look pretty healthy but not exactly path-breaking. However, if you dig a little deeper and analyze the overall film business scenario, you will realize that TWMR is nothing less than a thunderstorm in this prolonged period of dryness at the Box Office.

If the weekend business of TWMR came as a much-needed relief to the industry, the film’s historic collections on Monday must have sparked off jubilation’s in the film circles. The film collected 8.5 Crores INR on its first Monday, which is equal to/slightly more than its Friday business. Such a strong hold of collections on Monday is literally unheard of in recent times and this ensures that the film will have long and strong run at the ticket windows for at least a couple of weeks. Now, 100 crores, that much-abused and much-publicized number, is definitely on the cards and the sky is the limit for TWMR, given the excellent trend at the box office.

But, for Bollywood, success of TWMR and Piku (expected India Business to be more than 80 crores), another actress-oriented film that released in early May, signals a huge paradigm shift and a definite changed pattern in what differentiates success from failure. We list down a few box office lessons from TWMR and Piku:

  1. Get the Budget Right: Before the release of Piku on 8th May, Bollywood only had three clean hits – Badlapur (Budget: 25 Crores INR, Business: 52 Crores INR), Dum Laga Ke Haisha (Budget: 15 Crores INR, Business: 30 Crores INR) and NH10 (Budget: 13 Crores INR, Business: 32 Crores INR). Badlapur and NH10 found limited appreciation among the multiplex audience and still managed to yield profits largely because of their sensible budgets. Contrast it with Bombay Velvet which is struggling to touch 25 Crores lifetime business and was made at a humungous budget of over 100 Crores INR! This period also saw the release of two films of Akshay Kumar, a huge star across India, but both of them – Baby and Gabbar Is Back – could only be best described as semi-hits with lifetime collections in the 80-90 Crore INR range. Needless to say, a little discipline from the producers, in terms of budgeting, could have easily sailed these two films into the ‘Hit’ category.
  2. Content is (Still) the King: Dum Laga Ke Haisha probably had the best word of mouth of the year before Piku and TWMR hit the screens. A good word of mouth for these films ensured that even though these films didn’t open to record-breaking collections on day one, but eventually gathered steam and came into their own on their first Mondays. While TWMR pulled off a stunner by not dropping at all on its first Monday, Piku and Dum Laga Ke Haisha witnessed a miniscule 30% drop in collections compared to Friday. Piku showed how a topic as drab as motion could be the key subject of a motion picture! If your content is genuine, out-of-the-box and most importantly, as per the understanding and likes of the audience, you are very much in the game. So, grand scale, lavish sets, star power and a ‘Hollywood-ish’ look and feel would lead you nowhere! It’s no coincidence that Piku (story of a Bengali family living in CR Park), Dum Laga Ke Haisa (set in Haridwar) and TWMR (set in Haryana/Delhi/Kanpur) are all earthy and genuinely ‘Indian’ stories. Point to note for screenwriters out there?
  3. Piku Poster 6Girl Power on the Rise: Anushka Sharma debuted as a Producer with NH10 and the film went on to become a solid hit at the box office despite an off-beat theme, no prominent male lead and an ‘A’ certificate. Ditto for Piku, which was brilliantly marketed as a Deepika Padukone film. The initial marketing of Piku was solely driven by Deepika, given the limitations of brand Bachchan and Irrfan Khan’s niche face value. Similarly, Tanu Weds Manu Returns was marketed as an out and out Kangana Ranaut film who is at a Vidya Balan-like high post the success of Queen. Kangana’s star pull can be gauged from the opening day collections of TWMR which are better than two Akshay Kumar films that have released this year.
  4. Khans Still Rule: You may not exactly like the kind of films they do each year, but all the three Khans still rule the roost at the Box Office. In fact, only Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman can ‘guarantee’ a box-office success in truest sense of the word. If first half of 2015 was very disappointing for the industry, it was mainly because there was no Khan film in the offing. Akshay Kumar is still a big star but only ‘certain’ types of his films go on to become huge box-office grossers. Hrithik Roshan is another huge star but his frequency of releases has been very low. Ranbir Kapoor, considered to be the youngest superstar, perhaps needs to think over the choice of his films as his last three releases have bombed at the box office.

All these key pointers make TWMR and Piku significant box office successes of 2015. Just when we thought that the first half of the year will mostly go dull and dry, and the box office will have to wait for something like a ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ to light up the proceedings, then came the much-needed respite in form of these twin hits. These films have not just set the cash registers ringing but have also reaffirmed the audiences’ and the makers’ faith in this old adage – quality content will eventually find its place in the heart of the audience. And these two films have also sent out terse and clear reminders to those who believe that mediocre work mounted on grand scale and starring a popular actor will yield them dividends. Let this get it straight – only the Khans can sell off ‘anything’ to the audience right now. Nobody else.

Ashish Anant