2 min read.Updated: 23 Jul 2020, 02:33 PM ISTLata Jha
Given the strong sentiments around the actor’s untimely death last month and the debate around nepotism it has stirred among industry members and lay audiences alike, the film had the potential to set the cash registers ringing, if released in theatres, experts say
NEW DELHI: Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film Dil Bechara that starts streaming on Disney+ Hotstar this Friday, could be a missed opportunity for producer Fox Star Studios and parent company Disney India, according to trade experts. Given the strong sentiments around the actor’s untimely death last month and the debate around nepotism it has stirred among industry members and lay audiences alike, the film had the potential to set the cash registers ringing, if released in theatres, they say. It would have definitely done well in Rajput's home state Bihar.
“The film would have created a frenzy in Bihar," said independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan based in the state calling it a definite hit elsewhere too but a potential ‘mind-blowing blockbuster’ in Rajput’s hometown where the past few weeks have seen multiple hoardings and tributes for the late actor. Chauhan said it was foolish to forego this opportunity.
Made with an investment of ₹25-30 crore, Dil Bechara would have required publicity and marketing budget of another ₹8-10 crore to find theatrical showcasing. However, even if the content had turned out average, box office returns, coupled with satellite, digital and music rights would have easily helped it break even, if not notch up substantial profits had the word-of-mouth around it been positive.
“It would now be seen as not just another movie but an event and a star’s last journey," said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.
Under ordinary circumstances, the film featuring Rajput and newcomer Sanjana Sanghi would be just another mid-sized offering not deemed worthy of surviving the wait for theatres to reopen.
The covid-19 lockdown that has shut cinema halls since the middle of March has seen umpteen small-scale, mid-budget and even big-ticket films bypass theatrical release in favour of direct-to-digital premieres. Rajput, whose comedy drama Chhichhore made ₹147 crore last year, would also, like Ayushmann Khurrana, Alia Bhatt, Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao and others, have had to see his film skip a theatrical release.
However, with conversations around the raw deal given to talented outsiders like Rajput has become a subject of national debate. In this case, Dil Bechara, trade experts say, could have easily reached out to a much wider audience base in theatres and gone beyond movie buffs or even Rajput’s own fans.
Announcing Dil Bechara’s direct-to-digital release, Uday Shankar, president, the Walt Disney Company APAC and chairman, Star and Disney India had called it ‘a celebration of his (Rajput’s ) life and his extraordinary work,’ adding that the film will be available to all subscribers and non-subscribers across India, unlike other movies that are part of the Disney+ VIP plan priced at ₹399 a year.
The move, however, did not sit well with fans on social media who have been demanding a theatrical release in memory of the actor. Earlier this month, the film notched up the highest number of likes (surpassing a crore) for a movie trailer on YouTube, beating Hollywood blockbuster Avengers: Endgame.