It’s going to be an eventful Friday at the box office in India with the release of Kamal Haasan’s action drama Vikram, Akshay Kumar’s costume drama Samrat Prithviraj and Adivi Sesh’s biopic movie Major. And it would be safe to say that the Kamal-starrer has captured the imagination of the majority of the movie patrons across the country for all the right reasons.
Vikram marks the comeback of Kamal on the big screen after a gap of four years. The last film of Kamal that generated such a scale of anticipation and interest across the country was Vishwaroopam I in 2013. And that feels like a lifetime ago.
“Vishwaroopam generated a lot of buzz due to several controversies. But, Vikram is generating interest among the people purely on its merits. The content and packaging, it has everything going for it. All 4 am shows on Friday across Tamil Nadu are houseful. That’s phenomenal,” said film producer G. Dhananjayan.
After Vishwaroopam, Kamal did a few medium-budget remakes like Papanasam, Thoongaa Vanam and a self-indulging movie like Uttama Villain. There was nothing extraordinary about these films. Even Vishwaroopam II in 2018 didn’t have an impact on the collective psyche of movie patrons. The idea of big-screen experience, however, has since evolved in the pandemic era.
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A big star in the lead is not enough to ensure a big opening. A movie that promises anything less than a sheer emotional and visceral experience disappears into oblivion without much fight, especially in the Hindi belt. And the trade believes that Vikram has all the qualities to fit the redefined definition of big-screen experience.
“It’s not just a star-driven movie like Annaatthe or Beast. People are expecting it to be content-driven and a director’s movie. This year so far the other language films have given bigger hits, KGF, RRR. Only Don has performed very well in Tamil Nadu. Again, Don was a regular commercial movie. People here are looking forward to something new that they can boast about,” said Rakesh Gowthaman, who manages Chennai’s popular twin-screen cinema Vettri Theatres.
The trade has high hopes for Vikram to end Tamil cinema’s protection in the “pan-India hit” category. The film has a huge star cast, including Kamal, Vijay Sethupathi, and Fahadh Faasil. And Suriya has also played a key cameo in the movie. Director Lokesh Kangaraj’s last film Master, starring Vijay, was also a hit in southern states. Kamal also left no stone unturned in promoting the movie in every nook and corner of the country. And all these factors will contribute to ensuring Kamal will have the biggest ever opening in his career with Vikram. The trade pundits predict a whopping Rs 25 crore opening for the movie in Tamil Nadu alone. But, it seems everyone would be just as happy if the film manages to breach the Rs 15 crore mark on its opening day. Of 1100-odd screens in Tamil Nadu, Vikram will be available on 800 screens.
The remaining screens will be shared among Major, Samrat Prithviraj, and Sivakarthikeyan’s latest film Don, which is surprisingly still doing well in cinemas.
Rakesh is also happy with the advance booking he has been receiving for Vikram. And he’s confident that all shows of the movie will go houseful during the film’s opening weekend on both screens. The film’s expected business has come as another huge break for the stakeholders in the box office business after being battered by the lull caused by the pandemic.
“In April and May, we had the best run. It is best even for the pre-Covid times. Usually, one big movie would release in a month. But, this year, we had three big movie releases in a single month. It only happened because of the backlog of movies for over two years. After Baahubali 2, April and May saw the highest occupancy on my screens,” he added.
The Telugu version of the movie under the title Vikram Hit List is also set to open on around 400 screens in the Telugu states. And the film is also set to get a huge launch in Kerala, given that the movie has little competition at the box office there. Actor Nivin Pauly’s Thuramukham, which was due in cinemas on June 3, was postponed, allowing more screen count for Vikram in Kerala.
It is, however, said the film’s booking is yet to take off in rural and suburban areas in Tamil Nadu. Some believe that it is also the case in the Hindi belt. “At face value, Vikram is more appealing to multiplex audiences. The single screens are favorite Samrat Prithviraj and even Major. The trailer (of Major) was very well appreciated. Vikram is also on the radar. If any other film backfires, it could come up on the stop. We have to wait and watch,” said film producer Girish Johar.
However, others think the stylized look of the film is not a drawback but an advantage. “Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff’s War had a stylized look”. And it did well in mass belts. Vikram has an urban look and feel but the storytelling syntax seems very mass friendly. Kamal’s recent movies were abstract and intellectually inaccessible for many. Vikram is a simple, hard-hitting, commercial cinema. It is as mainstream as it gets,” said Akshaye Rathi, film distributor and exhibitor.
The stakes are, however, very high for Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj. The film is releasing at the time when seasoned Bollywood filmmakers are struggling to respond to the fast-evolving nature of the movie market in the country. In recent days, movies of some of the biggest Bollywood stars, who are considered box office magnets, such as Ajay Devgan, Tiger Shroff and Ayushmann Khurrana opened to disappointing responses from the masses.
And Akshay seems to be pulling all the stops to avoid such a fate for Samrat Prithviraj. The trade expects the film to open with Rs 9-10 crore collection. Anything less would add to the woes of Bollywood. “It is expected to open around Rs 10 crore mark. Otherwise, predicting a box office opening at this point in time is like shooting in the dark because nobody could have thought that films featuring some of the top stars like Ajay Devgn, Tiger Shroff, and Shahid Kapoor will open at the kind of numbers that they did,” said Akshaye.
Prithviraj will also be released in Tamil and Telugu. The film has not created enough buzz to pose a challenge to Vikram and Major in the south. However, Vikram and Major have the potential to expand their business in the Hindi belt, if Prithviraj fails to secure a good word of mouth on Friday.
This trend is also quite visible in the advance bookings for these movies. Vikram and Major are doing very well in terms of advance booking than Prithviraj. “Samrat Prithviraj is made on a humongous budget. It has been under production for quite some time, so the interest cost of the film is also there. The trailer has not been overwhelmingly received. The traction of the film is also pretty much decent, but not great since people have been seeing a lot of such kinds of historic films in recent times,” said Girish.
Major will release on about 600 screens in the Telugu states. The filmmakers also held a series of paid previews across the country to generate a good word of mouth to help the film’s opening this Friday. Tollywood star Mahesh Babu, who has also produced the film, had his weight thrown behind the movie’s promotions. He had traveled along with Adivi Shesh to promote the movie across the country. It remains to be seen how much of their efforts would translate into a good opening for Major this Friday.
“Irrespective of how each of these films does at the box office, this scenario needs to be celebrated by not just the Indian entertainment industry but also the audience all over. Some interesting things are happening here. Prithviraj, which is a Bollywood film, is releasing in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. Major, which is a movie that’s been produced out of Hyderabad is being released in Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam. Vikram, which is made by the fraternity based out of Chennai is releasing in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. In the true sense, we can say Indian cinema is arriving on the horizon where these linguistic barriers are being shattered and artists from different fraternities are coming together,” Akshaye added.
(With inputs from Arushi Jain)