Bollywood’s fabled male stars — Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan — are not pulling in the audiences as the movies they have released in the first five months of this year have either flopped or performed far below expectation at the box office.
Instead, South Indian regional language movies dubbed in Hindi featuring local stars are increasingly taking a substantial share of the Hindi box office sweepstakes.
Till now, this year, just two South Indian movies, dubbed in Hindi, have together earned Rs 683 crore in the Hindi domestic box office. one is RRR, with Telegu stars NT Rama Rao Jr and Ram Charan, along with Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt. The other is KGF2starring top Kannada actor Yash.
Compare Rs 683 crore with the combined Rs 230 crore box office earning of four Bollywood movies — Bachchan Paandey (Akshay Kumar) runway 34 (Ajay Devgn and Amitabh Bachchan), Gangubai Kathiawadi (Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn) and Heropanti 2 (Tiger Shroff). Ranveer Singh, whose Jayeshbhai Jordaar, made with a budget of Rs 90 crore, was released last Friday, seems to have collapsed in the box office with collections of Rs 3.5-Rs 4 crore on the first day, triggering shockwaves in the industry. By Saturday, it had inched up to Rs 7-8 crore.
This does not augur well for Singh whose last movie 83, which told the story of how Kapil Dev’s India cricket team won the World Cup, also performed below par.
Launched at the end of December 2021, most theater owners expected 83 to be a blockbuster that would turn the tide for their business by bringing audiences back to the screen after the disruptions of the pandemic. Despite critical acclaim, the film made only Rs 109 crore in the domestic box office from a budget of Rs 200 crore.
Akshay Kumar’s reputation for making hits also reported a hit this year when Bachchan Paandey flopped. Made with a budget of Rs 105 crore, the film failed to recover even half of this amount from the domestic box office.
In fact, the controversial Kashmir Files that has no stars, has been a huge hit primarily because of its content, making a stunning Rs 250 crore.
Shibashish Sarkar, producer of many blockbusters and former Reliance Entertainment CEO, said India is following a trend that started in Hollywood from 2010 when larger than life franchisees such as Marvel, Spiderman and others did well on the big screen, while social drama and comedy had limited audiences even though they might win Oscars.
“In India too, larger than life movies whose full value is offered only on a big screen and which is language-agnostic are doing exceedingly well such as RRR or KGF2. But for other movies, consumers prefer to wait for them to come to an OTT channel especially as, till June, they can be shown just four weeks after their theater release,” said Sarkar.
He believes that audiences for such large than life movies are not limited to cities but are popular in smaller towns where even the morning shows are full.
So is star power waning in Bollywood? “It only proves again that the script and the story is the king. Star power can only do that much and not more and that is why they all flopped. And the dubbed movies which had regional stars, because of strong content, were preferred by the Hindi audience. Sure, a flop affects stars but losing your reputation is a long-term process,” said film trade analyst Komal Nahta.
But he points out that the production houses which have made these star-studded blockbusters will not lose money because they have already pre-sold their OTT and satellite rights at a hefty price.
Exhibitors say that with dubbed movies doing well, they have a larger inventory of movies to choose from.
“While it is true that dubbed movies have done well and Bollywood movies have not, the fact is audiences are coming back in droves and we have more content to choose from,” said Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures.