The Pathaan Phenomenon
Box Office Laughs at ‘Boycott Pathaan’ Trolls
Cinema is as much magic when one watches it, mesmerised by the experience, albeit for a couple of hours. But Shahrukh Khan’s ‘Pathaan’ produced under the Yash Raj Films banner, released unscheduled on a Wednesday instead of the regular Friday, is showing its magic in other areas also.
One of them is in the distribution-exhibition strategy where across the country, the largest democracy in the world, exhibitors of single-screen theatres and multiplexes have been directed NOT to screen any other film wherever ‘Pathaan’ is being screened! Exhibitors are ready to comb out SRK’s long and straggly hair straight and, in complete compliance, are sticking out their invisible thumbs at regional filmmakers who are left high and dry.
These single screen runners and multiplex operators have immediately pulled even housefull-running regional films out to make way for ‘Pathaan’. This has never happened before in the history of Indian cinema exhibition.
Those who have watched ‘Pathaan’ in Kolkata theatres, woke up much before the break of dawn to catch the 6.30 a.m show at Kolkata’s Menoka cinema, bringing garlands to decorate Shah Rukh Khan’s huge cut-outs and even the posters of the film before the show began. The same was the scene at Basusree, one of the city’s oldest single screen theatres with a cultural history of its own.
The city has millions of SRK fans who are not bothered that housefull drawing films like ‘Projapoti’ featuring Mithun Chakraborty and Dev in the lead and Koushik Ganguly’s edge-of-the-seat thriller ‘Kaberi Antardhan’ have been pulled out quite unceremoniously from all theatres that ran them.
Media reports just coming in state that some theatres are even running a late night 12.30 p.m show because the demand is beyond imagination. The industry people are very angry but the exhibitors are laughing all the way to the banks. And so will the producers and SRK.
Directed by Siddharth Anand, ‘Pathaan’ released in theatres on January 25 in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and even Arabic. The advance bookings already broke several records. And surprisingly, though the south market is known to be averse to Bollywood, and their own industry is thumping all the way to Golden Globe and Academy and even the Oscar runs, the regional cinema market in the South has been a major contributor.
In this context, it would be pertinent to point out that Thalapathy Vijay's ‘Varisu’, Ajith Kumar's ‘Thunivu’, Nandamuri Balakrishna's ‘Veera Simha Reddy’ and Megastar Chiranjeevi's ‘Waltair Veerayya’ are the Pongal/Sankranti releases that have collectively earned Rs 700 crore worldwide.
Trade expert Ramesh Bala said in a recent interview that ‘Pathaan’ is getting a good release in Tamil and Telugu. The Hindi version of ‘Pathaan’ is also releasing in Tamil Nadu and Telugu-speaking states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, on a considerable number of screens.
The official figures are in and SRK has arrived in a grand way at the box office. ‘Pathaan’ has earned around Rs 54 crore on day one, with an additional Rs 1.50 crore coming in from the dubbed versions. With these figures, ‘Pathaan’ has managed to beat the opening day collection of Hrithik Roshan’s ‘War’ (Rs 50 crore) and Yash’s ‘KGF: 2’ Hindi (Rs 52 crore).
The film has earned huge figures from the Mumbai and Pune markets, but ‘Pathaan’ has underperformed in Gujarat / Saurashtra. Is this because Hindu Right Wing parties are angry? Time will tell its own story.
This action entertainer has managed to achieve this feat on a non-holiday opening. In South India, the Hindi film has earned decent in the Nizam / Andhra circuit and UP-Bihar markets have also earned phenomenal collections. If one includes the takings from ticket sales in screens beyond Indian shores, the figure will amount to a neat Rs.100 crore from the first day’s sales itself.
Within one week of its release, ‘Pathaan’ will recover its invested sum said to be Rs.250 crore and some more. Any Hindi film bringing in revenue of Rs.100 crore on the first day’s takings is said to be a record in the history of Indian cinema.
So whatever happened to the ban and the protests against the release of the film? A couple of days prior to the film’s release, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra objected to the use of "saffron costumes" and "objectionable scenes" and called in for a correction in the film’s new song.
Soon after, members of "Veer Shivaji Group" staged a protest against the upcoming Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham starrer Pathaan and its song 'Besharam Rang' in Madhya Pradesh's Indore. They gathered at a road intersection and set effigies of actors Deepika Padukone and Shah Rukh Khan on fire, PTI reported. They demanded to ban the film, set to hit the screens, alleging the Hindu community was offended by the content of the ‘Besharam Rang’ song.
The MP Home Minister had said in a tweet that the costumes are highly objectionable and the song has been shot with a dirty mindset not elaborating on what they mean by the phrase “dirty mindset.” "The scenes and costumes of the songs should be corrected, otherwise whether the film should be allowed in Madhya Pradesh or not, it would be a matter of consideration," he said.
A little before this, Swami Chakrapani Maharaj, National President, All India Hindu Mahasabha, took to Twitter to share his disappointment with the movie. He said that there has been an insult of saffron in Pathaan. If one were to take a closer look, the very skimpy costume Deepika wears is not quite “saffron” but a blend of saffron and yellow. So what is the brouhaha all about?
Madhya Pradesh's Ulema Board also expressed its displeasure and demanded that the film should not reach the theatres soon after. The board's chief said that Pathaans were a highly respected community and the film disrespects Islam. The board's president Syed Anas Ali said that he had received calls and complaints about the vulgarity in the film adding that Islam has been propagated with an incorrect approach. In what way has the image of the “pathaan” been “disrespected” however, he did not care to explain as he had not watched the film then.
Twitter began trending with ‘Boycott Pathaan’, and was flooded with people who feel that Bollywood is stripped of ideas. Some users on the social network platforms were also comparing the film to ‘Kantara’.
However, the tremendous commercial success of this film has come like a boost to Bollywood and its people who were getting panic attacks about their very existence and survival in the face of the tremendous success of Southern hits like ‘RRR’ and ‘Kantara’. They are breathing a big sigh of relief for Pathaan’s fight to sustain the Bollywood industry and the cinematic aesthetics, narrative and everything else can go to Timbuktu!
‘Pathaan’ has most certainly hit the box office. “It is a high-tech, high-level SFX film that looks like human actors working in a Marvel comic strip in cinema. So, what’s wrong? It is offering a lot of fun through fantasy which people are finding entertaining so who are we to complain?” asks Atanu Ghosh, a national-award-winning film director who mainly makes off-mainstream films in Bengali.
Regional filmmakers are disturbed by the overriding of regional cinema in their home ground. This is quite unethical and also partly explains the box office returns that are mind-boggling. If yours is the single film playing in all shows in all theatre in the country, then is it not expected that a Shahrukh Khan starrer with Deepika Padukone skimpily dressed as a spy will fill in the box office coffers? Add to this the macho muscles of a John Abraham, the cameo appearance of Salman Khan and you may well forget about regional films for the time being say Aditya Chopra of Yash Raj Films, Shahrukh Khan and company.
The last word goes to a former banker who is reported to have said, "I've been a banker for 40 years. And you can trust me on bankruptcy! When there is bankruptcy of ideas, talent and morality, the only option that remains is to auction your assets to public!" To find out for yourself, go to your nearest theatre and watch the film.