|TARGET, 200 CRORE! Was that Shah Rukh Khan’s signal to the 1.5 lakh fans who had flooded City Centre New Town on July 27 for the Chennai Express promotional,
held in association with t2? Picture by Bhubaneswarananda Halder
@iamsrk: RT@shiekspear #ChennaiExpress is now officially No.1 film in all history of Hindi movies. Congrats to the whole team! #BiggestEver
Calcutta, Aug. 24: In the run-up to the release of Ra.One, when The Telegraph had asked Shah Rukh Khan why his films never fetched the box-office numbers to match the two other Khans, he had shrugged and said: “What do I know about numbers? I did a film back in 1995 (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge), and it still plays in the theatres (Mumbai’s Maratha Mandir)!”
Then, SRK had to peer two decades into the past to prove his box-office credentials.
Now, SRK can just glance back two Fridays (August 9).
Shah Rukh Khan became Bollywood’s real Badshah on Friday night (August 23) when his Chennai Express raced past 3 Idiots to become the biggest earner ever at the Bollywood box office. The two-week-old Rohit Shetty film produced by UTV Motion Pictures and Shah Rukh’s Red Chillies Entertainment notched up Rs 202.67 crore, leaving in its wake Aamir Khan at Rs 202.47 crore and Salman Khan (Ek Tha Tiger) at Rs 199 crore.
“A star is known by the last hit that he’s had at the box office and right now, Shah Rukh Khan is Bollywood’s biggest star,” was the verdict from Mumbai-based trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
Salman may have the maximum number of films (five) in the Rs 100-crore club and Aamir’s box-office appeal is unique, but for the moment, Shah Rukh is Bollywood’s boss. “In the box-office pecking order of the Khans, Shah Rukh was definitely the third before Chennai Express. But now, he’s bounced back and gone right to the top,” said Adarsh.
In a country where Bollywood and cricket are the two religions, for the SRK camp today’s feat is like India winning the World Cup. The Chennai Express scoreboard speaks for itself: highest paid preview collections (Rs 6.75 crore), biggest opening day (Rs 33.12 crore), highest second day (Rs 28.05 crore), highest third day (Rs 32.5 crore), biggest weekend (Rs 101 crore), fastest to Rs 100 crore (in three days) and biggest first week (Rs 156.7 crore)….
An outsider with unconventional looks, Shah Rukh grabbed attention when he first came in (Deewana, 1992) with his ability to take risks. At a time when Aamir and Salman were playing it safe, the boy from Delhi went negative in films like Baazigar and Darr. His turn as a romantic in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge made him a heartthrob overnight.
But over the years, with Aamir reinventing himself and Salman becoming the darling of the masses, Shah Rukh found himself lagging behind at the box office. Till this August, his biggest earner was Jab Tak Hai Jaan (November 2012), with Rs 120 crore.
“It’s been 22 years that I am working here and I work very hard to entertain the people of this country,” he had said days before Chennai Express chugged in. And now, all that hard work has paid off. Literally.
“I am not surprised that the film is such a big hit. When you put in the kind of hard work and effort that Shah Rukh, Rohit Shetty and Deepika Padukone have put in, it just had to be. Shah Rukh, without a doubt, is one of the most hardworking people in the industry,” designer Manish Malhotra, who did Deepika’s look for the film and is one of SRK’s closest friends, told The Telegraph.
So what clicked for Chennai Express? “It was the combined effect of locking the release date on Id, blocking the maximum number of screens (3,500-plus in India), and a promotional blitz both before and after the film that really contributed to the numbers,” said trade analyst Kumar Mohan.
What Mohan missed was how the ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) entertainer seems to have worked as an escape valve for millions in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of grim economic indicators and uncertain political portends.
Then there was the Rahul-meets-Rohit Shetty factor. Chennai Express is Shah Rukh’s eighth film as Rahul. And that’s the way the director, with five hits under his belt, wanted it.
“Rahul is your name. I am a fan of the original Shah Rukh Khan. I want you as Rahul, the way you were,” was Rohit’s brief to the superstar.
“I wanted to do a Rohit Shetty kind of film. The film is very entertaining. Rohit master hai uss mein. Thodi bahut meri bhi contribution hai.... It’s not heavy on the head, it’s nice on the heart,” was how Shah Rukh had pitched the film that opened to scathing reviews.
“There are far too many critics now and everyone has an opinion. It’s just a summer Bollywood blockbuster, yaar. It’s a film that has elements that will make people smile and enjoy their time in a theatre and that’s what matters,” was how Bolly’s biggest brand had defended his most successful film.
“Chennai Express’s howling success has given Shah Rukh the brand a new lease of life. His endorsement fee will definitely go up and I see a lot of new brands signing him up,” said ad guru Alyque Padamsee, who believes that Shah Rukh has always been the biggest bet for endorsers among the three Khans.
“Aamir has been a little niche and Salman too massy. Shah Rukh is the only one who has managed to strike a balance. He can be a hero, a lover boy and a funny man all at once,” said Padamsee.
And now, he’s also the undisputed King Khan.