Even as the big box office clash between 'Bajirao Mastani' and 'Dilwale' inches closer, the makers seem to be increasingly getting embroiled in a tussle for maximum screen count
Battle lines have been drawn, and it's going to get intense. And dirty, perhaps. The upcoming 'Dilwale' versus 'Bajirao Mastani' clash has set off a tussle for single screen theatres, in what may appear as a repeat of the 2012 box office face-off involving Shah Rukh Khan-starrer 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' ('JTHJ') and Ajay Devgn's 'Son of Sardaar'.
A still from 'Dilwale'
When big-ticket projects take on each other, box office collections are as important as the number of screens. Devgn, at that time, had dragged Yash Raj Films (YRF) to court for allegedly misusing its dominance to deny enough single screen theatres to 'Son of Sardaar' — the film had released on nearly 500 screens less than 'JTHJ'. According to sources, YRF had made a package deal — 'armtwisting' exhibitors into booking maximum theatres for 'JTHJ' in return of their Eid release 'Ek Tha Tiger' starring Salman Khan.
A still from 'Bajirao Mastani'
Now, a similar scenario has emerged in 2015's year-end contest. Eros International, which released Salman's 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan', had apparently laid down a pre-condition before owners of single screen theatres owners — they had to screen 'Bajirao Mastani' too. In 2012, Eros had been at the receiving end with 'Son of Sardaar' losing out to 'JTHJ' in terms of screen count (and also box office collections). They are, at present, determined to have an upper hand over 'Dilwale' makers, claim sources.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra says, "The theatre owners have no choice. They all signed an agreement before Bajrangi Bhaijaan's release. Eros rightfully refuses to share timings. No exhibitor or Shah Rukh Khan had supported them (Eros) during 'Son of Sardaar'."
To get to the math, single-screen theatres still contribute a lot to the box office collections of a big banner film, despite the multiplex culture. And because the fortunes of single-screen owners are tied to one film, unlike their multiplex counterparts that have other films running at the same time, they refrain from taking risks and upsetting distributors.
Exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi, says, "The two films will ultimately balance out the number of screens that they get, since both are backed by big production houses and deserve equal number of shows. For instance, 'Dilwale' may dominate the Kolkata region, but 'Bajirao Mastani' will hold fort in the Delhi sector."
Rathi also points out that the two films have almost equal runtime (a little over two and a half hours), so both can get the same number of shows in multiplexes where there are screenings few minutes apart.
But with the 'biggest Friday of 2015' just 48 hours away, last-minute adjustments and arm-twisting tactics are likely to come into the picture.
Who's got the edge?
Incidentally, SRK's production house, Red Chillies Entertainment is distributing 'Dilwale'. Since this is the first film that they are independently releasing, they have to compete with veteran players on the field and sell their film to individual distributors. PVR Pictures is one of the distributors and there is buzz that 'Dilwale' will take over most screens in the multiplex's chains across the country as compared to Bajirao Mastani. Shah Rukh and his co-stars have had their film's promotional events at the multiplex including launching PVR's new brand of cinematic experience.
Advance bookings for both films opened on Monday and according to sources, there has been a brisk sale of tickets. Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR Pictures, points out, "Dilwale has created a buzz, thanks to its music and promos. The sales are terrific. We are hoping for it to grow further."
Rajender Singh Jyala, VP Programming and Distribution, Inox Leisure, says, "Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol are back after a long time.
The buzz is strong as expected which has translated into strong advance booking."
Spreading the word
When it comes to the publicity game, 'Dilwale' seems to have an edge over 'Bajirao Mastani'. The former's star cast comprising Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon has been making appearances on various TV shows like 'Kumkum Bhagya', 'Jamai Raja', 'Yeh Vaada Raha', 'Tashan-e-Ishq' and 'Saath Nibhana Saathiya'. SRK even came to the rescue of ACP Pradyuman in 'CID'. King Khan and his gang have also been to the 'Comedy Nights Bachao' sets. This weekend, SRK will feature with his friend-turned-foe-turned-friend Salman Khan on 'Bigg Boss 9' for two consecutive nights and then feature on 'Comedy Nights With Kapil'.
Ranveer Singh promoted 'Bajirao Mastani' on 'Crime Patrol' and along with Deepika, visited the sets of 'Comedy Nights With Kapil' and 'Comedy Nights Bachao'.
Alexander, 19, student
I’d prefer Bajirao Mastani since I found its trailer more interesting than Dilwale’s. It promises a better story. Plus, it stars my favourite actress — Deepika Padukone. Dilwale, on the other hand, seems to be a regular Bollywood potboiler.
Nirmala Joshua, 53, banker
I will watch Dilwale because it features the magical pair of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. Their chemistry is unparalleled. Of course, I will be watching Bajirao Mastani too, but only after having seen Dilwale.
Krati Mangal, 26, HR executive
My choice is Diwale since it is bringing SRK and Kajol together after a long gap. Besides, it looks like an out and out entertainer packed with comedy, drama, romance and action. Period films like Bajirao Mastani mostly tend to be a tedious watch.
Geetha Sampath Narayan, 62, retired teacher
For me, it will be Bajirao Mastani. I am really looking forward to the film since it’s a historical story being portrayed by Gen-Y actors. I am sure it will be a treat.
Pavitra S, 29, medical writer
I would definitely like to watch Bajirao Mastani. I am a fan of Deepika Padukone’s acting, and also can’t wait to see how Ranveer Singh portrays the great Maratha ruler. I hope I won’t be disappointed.