3 min read.Updated: 18 Dec 2019, 12:39 PM ISTLata Jha
The Prabhu Deva-directed film has not managed the best trade or social media excitement since the release of its trailer and songs
Salman Khan’s uneven box office record of late is the primary reason for the dismal projection
With only two days to its release, the third installment of Salman Khan’s iconic Dabangg franchise, Dabangg 3, has so far failed to generate the kind of buzz it should have. The Prabhu Deva-directed film has not managed the best trade or social media excitement since the release of its trailer and songs and in a shocking turn of events, film trade agencies that normally peg the opening day of Khan’s starrers at a minimum of ₹45 crore have projected ₹31-32 crore in business for the action comedy.
To be sure, Khan’s uneven box office record of late is the primary reason for the dismal projections. He has not seen a bonafide blockbuster since action thriller Tiger Zinda Hai that came out in 2017 and made ₹339 crore. His last three releases—Kabir Khan’s Tubelight ( ₹114.57 crore), action thriller Race 3 (Rs166.15 crore) and Bharat ( ₹197.34 crore) have neither recouped their investment nor crossed the ₹200 crore mark. The Rs100 crore mark is no longer considered an achievement for Khan who, ironically, has the most number of Rs100 crore grossers to his credit.
“Of course there is noise for the film but that is true for all his releases. But there is definitely something missing this time," Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said. Mohan pointed that ironically it was Dabangg in 2010, along with Wanted in 2009 (incidentally directed by Deva) that had put Khan on the superstardom map. His comedic turn as the cocky cop, Chulbul Pandey has spawned thousands of imitations besides coming to symbolize the signature Khan mannerisms that pull in mass, single screen audiences in huge numbers.
Mohan points out that it’s not like big-ticket or star-driven films no longer pull people to theatres. For sure, slice-of-life dramas and comedies with social messaging like Bala, Chhichhore and Dream Girl have made huge numbers but the highest grosser of the year so far is Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff’s high-octane action film War that had made ₹292.71 crore at the last count.
“It’s not like that genre is dying. It will be there for times to come but it (the spectacle and star power) should be supplemented by content that is up to the mark," Mohan pointed out.
To be sure, it is the content of Khan’s last few films that has fallen short with people calling them out for inconsistent writing and lackluster performances. Adding to Dabangg’s woes is lead actress Sonakshi Sinha who made her debut with the first installment in 2010 but hasn’t seen a hit since 2014. Mohan adds that last week’s releases including Mardaani 2 and Jumanji: The Next Level are both going strong. This has led to a division of screens between them. Besides, the next installment of Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker is also out this Friday, considering Hollywood no longer fears clashing with big Bollywood films. At a run time of 2 hours 42 minutes, the long film will also notch up fewer shows at multiplexes.
“The team might be looking at 4,700-5,000 screens earlier but I don’t think that’s practically possible anymore. They are likely to target around 4,200 now," Mohan said.
A lot of people still see value in the popularity of the franchise though.
“People are in love with the character of Chulbul Pandey and his antics. The past two films were a perfect mix of action, comedy, drama and romance with some great music. The team has created a very successful franchise and everyone is waiting to see what the Dabangg team has in store for them with the upcoming film," said Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas.
The film made at a budget of around ₹90 crore has earned around ₹50 crore from the sale of satellite rights to the Star network and another ₹40 crore from the sale of digital rights to Amazon Prime Video, both of which have long-term deals with Khan. But as trade experts point out, ancillary streams cannot be seen as compensation to box office failure.
“To gauge the success or failure of a film, you will still need to look at the box office numbers," said Mohan, who expects ₹25-30 crore day one for the film. “Collections may see a jump next week during the Christmas holiday but it all depends on audience response to the content."
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