New Delhi: Having saved the best for the last, a tepid September threw up its biggest movie surprise towards the very end. MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, director Neeraj Pandey’s biographical drama on the popular batsman, has emerged as the second highest weekend opener of the year after Salman Khan-starrer Sultan, with earnings of ₹ 66 crore. Khan’s wrestling film had notched up ₹ 180.36 crore at the end of its five-day Eid weekend.
“September is usually a slow but not particularly bad month to release films," said Ashish Saksena, chief operating officer-cinemas at BookMyShow. “This year, Dhoni released towards the end of the month and is the second biggest opening of 2016 after Sultan. The movie has very strong word-of-mouth and we expect it to continue its strong performance this week too."
Clearly, the Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer that has emerged as the biggest hit in a non-holiday weekend this year, has surpassed trade expectations. Beginning with the appeal of brand Dhoni, it has gone on to garner attention for its direction and the male lead’s performance. The other film to grab eyeballs this month was director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s courtroom drama Pink, featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Angad Bedi and Andrea Tariang, that has made ₹ 60.21 crore by the end of its third week.
Also Read: Film review: M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story
“It’s definitely the craft of the film (Pink) that has worked in its favour," said Girish Johar, head of global revenue, Zee Studios. “Everything from the performances to direction to script has been appreciated more than anyone imagined."
The same cannot be said for the other Hindi releases this month. While Sonakshi Sinha’s action flick Akira only managed ₹ 16.37 crore, much-hyped romantic drama Baar Baar Dekho earned ₹ 29.14 crore. Smaller projects like Raaz Reboot, Freaky Ali, Banjo and Wah Taj brought in ₹ 22.53 crore, ₹ 12.18 crore, ₹ 8.67 crore and ₹ 0.09 crore, respectively.
“Akira didn’t seem exciting right from the time the trailer was launched," Johar said. “Baar Baar Dekho, of course, just turned out to be confusing in its storytelling. While the general masses couldn’t understand the back-and-forth in the time travel, high-end multiplex audiences had already seen this stuff in Hollywood movies and found no novelty value," he added.
Not that too many of the Hollywood releases held up very well. The month saw some high-profile Hollywood outings like Antoine Fuqua’s action film The Magnificent Seven, a re-imagination of the 1960 classic of the same name, Clint Eastwood’s biographical drama Sully, horror flick Don’t Breathe and Renée Zellweger and Hugh Grant-starrer Bridget Jones’s Diary.
“The youth enjoyed Don’t Breathe and Sully was appreciated by a more mature set of viewers who craved for a sensible slice-of-life saga. Despite both films being extreme and diverse in their genres, they managed to capture the attention of the audience," Saksena said.
A couple of regional films like Telugu action flick Janatha Garage and Tamil science fiction thriller Iru Mugan may have notched up impressive numbers, but all attention is now geared towards the big Diwali weekend this month which will see the clash of Ajay Devgn-directed Shivaay and Karan Johar’s romantic drama Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
“The month should start on a good note with Mirzya this week and then there’s Tutak Tutak Tutiya that has generated a decent amount of curiosity," said Johar. “But it’s the big Diwali weekend that everyone’s looking forward to."
All figures in this story have been sourced from movie websites Bollywood Hungama and Box Office India.