Clash of the Titans
By Vanaja Banagiri
28th October 2012 12:04 PM
Diwali has traditionally seen some of the biggest releases in the Hindi film industry. 2012 is no different, with Yash Raj’s romantic saga 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' (JTHJ) having a face-off with the action comic caper 'Son of Sardaar'. The party spirit, however, just got dampened with the sudden demise of the doyen of Yash Raj Films, Yash Chopra. The big question now is — will YRF release JTHJ on its scheduled date of November 13? Although we have not got any official communication from YRF yet, industry bigwigs and trade pundits don’t feel that the film will be delayed as Aditya Chopra has already taken over the reins of YRF and he will direct the last yet-to-be-shot song of JTHJ.
So what gives? Which film has what it takes?
Trade analyst Atul Mohan says, “Till now it was always speculated that both the films will get an equal share of business. The logic: Indian public loves both the comic and romance genres. And the celebration mood around Diwali may just allow audiences to shell out extra bucks to check out both the films. However, a senior industry trade pundit, on the condition of anonymity, claims, “This tragedy will help tilt the balance of power in favour of Yash Raj as I don’t recall anything like this happening in history of Indian cinema... May be Yashji’s untimely demise will do what Amitabh’s injury did to 'Coolie'. Also we might see a similar film reaction as Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination turned the wave in Congress’s favour in the national political scene.”
Another reliable source says although there was a lot of positive talk in the industry regarding 'Son of Sardaar' (music buzz), insiders feel with Yashji hanging his gloves with JTHJ and its super casting of Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif (riding the 'Ek Tha Tiger' crest) and Anushka Sharma, JTHJ always had the edge and now you add the sympathy factor. “What will also work for the film is that the production house inked agreements with exhibitors during 'Ek Tha Tiger' times which promises them lion’s share of screens during Diwali,” says trade guru Komal Nahta.
However, not all are of the same view. Veteran Hindi journalist Shanti Swaroop Tripathy says, “Son of Sardaar’s main target is Punjab and audiences from that territory are very loyal, so they will watch it come what may.” He also does not think hard-core action buffs across all territories will switch their loyalties to romance.
'Son of Sardaar' director Ashwini Dhir is undaunted. “Big-ticket clashes always happen during Diwali (for example, 'Gadar' vs. 'Lagaan', 'Dil' vs. 'Ghayal') and both films always end up doing well. Our film is not your regular slapstick comedy but more situational. The casting is also spot on. Ajay Devgn is a very talented actor, hence can do justice to any role. Even Sanjay Dutt is also a fabulous actor. I also think this is the best film of Sonakshi Sinha. Although she has worked in 'Dabangg' and 'Rowdy Rathore' before, 'Son of Sardaar' will be her coming-of-age project.”
Presence of biggies around Diwali ('Ra.One' in 2011) ensures that no small film-maker will ever try to compete with the mega releases. For their offerings stand no chance in securing screen-space in multiplexes. Also, they will not be able to match up to the huge promotional overheads of big-budget productions. Last year, Hema Malini’s 'Tell Me O Khuda' had to bear the brunt of clashing with 'Ra.One' and suffered heavy losses. Not that 'Ra.One' broke even. The marketing spends of films today are as much, if not more, as the production cost.
According to industry insiders, both 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' and 'Son of Sardaar' would have been made in a budget of around Rs 70 crore, including prints and promotions. This huge investment means they have to get massive crowds in just to break even. Dhir says, “Leave aside inclusion in the exclusive 100-crore club, unless you gross around Rs 80 crore, you are obviously not making a profit.”
Although Dhir appears confident, he refuses to speculate on the moolah that 'Son of Sardaar' could eventually rake in. “One thing is sure: collectively both the films can do a business of Rs 350 crore. The super success of 'EK Tha Tiger' proves that business is on the rise and Diwali always sets the cash registers ringing.” Nahta also refuses to comment on the possible box-office returns: “We still have two weeks to go. And that is when the buzz regarding music and other promotional activities will tell who wins.”
Industry pundits also predict a hike of Rs 20 per ticket at the multiplexes during the festive season. Nahta says, “Those fans who want value for their money will have to wait a week for the mad rush and ticket rates to come down.”
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