The Conclusion? Fight to the finish in China

Great Wall puts Aamir above Prabhas but Bahubali is donning 6000-screen battle gear

By PRIYANKA ROY
  • Published 4.07.17
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Bahubali: The Conclusion (Rs 1,725 crore and counting) vs Dangal: 'Chandni Chowk to China' (Rs 1,864 crore and counting).

That is the biggest box-office battle in Indian movie history being played out at a cinema near - or not so near - you.

Just when Prabhas's giant leap over the Rs 1,000-crore-mark within 11 days of the April 28 release had seemed unbeatable, Aamir Khan's Dangal decided to marry wrestling to Chinese Checkers and vault closer to the Rs 2,000-crore bar.

" Dangal and Bahubali 2 are classic examples that have proved that good content will bring in numbers, no matter what. A strong storyline in both cases, a theme and template that appeals across sections of audiences and the fact that both films have tremendous repeat watch value have contributed to these huge numbers. Bahubali 2 is playing in cinemas even two months after release, while Dangal is breaking records eight months after it first hit screens. This is unbelievable," trade analyst Komal Nahta said.

Latest figures suggest that Dangal's second coming - it was released in China on May 5, more than four months after its December 23 India release - has crowned it the clear winner over Bahubali: The Conclusion with a gap of nearly Rs 140 crore opening up between the two.

While Dangal is still setting and breaking records in China, Bahubali 2 has been given an unlikely lifeline in Indian cinemas by Aamir's box-office rival Salman Khan.

With Tubelight limping to Rs 100 crore almost seven days after release and being declared a "no-show" by the trade, multiplexes are ditching Salman's movie and rewinding to S.S. Rajamouli's epic. "Tubelight failing means there's hardly any content in cinemas this week and so we have fallen back on Bahubali 2," said Subhasis Ganguli, regional director (east), INOX.

Ganguli added: "We have drastically cut down on Tubelight and increased Bahubali 2 shows in a few plexes and brought it back in a few others."

Bahubali: The Conclusion , riding on the back of massive hype created by its prequel Bahubali: The Beginning, smashed records left, right and centre when it released.

From the biggest first-day numbers (Rs 141 crore in India alone) to breaching the Rs 500 crore-mark in just three days, from the biggest Indian film opener in the US (Rs 65.65 crore) to the first Indian film to cross the Rs 1,500-crore box-office milestone, the Rajamouli spectacle that combined substance with style, opened big and went huge.

The answer to the all-important question, 'Katappa ne Bahubali ko kyon maara ?' drew in eager crowds initially, but footfalls quickly became a flood thanks to a compelling story, jaw-dropping special effects and the presence of a hunk in leading man Prabhas. The result? Bahubali 2 surged right ahead of Dangal and PK - both Aamir Khan starrers - to become the biggest Indian blockbuster ever.

But just when everyone thought Bahubali 2 would have an unchallenged run to the Rs 2,000-crore mark, Aamir pulled out his A-card - or rather, his C-card - releasing Dangal in China, a stronghold of the Khan ever since 3 Idiots and PK ruled the box office there.

"Aamir is not only a great actor, but a master strategist who understands the box-office game very well. He planned a release in China, where he's massively popular, just a week after Bahubali 2 hit screens worldwide so that it would give a sudden surge to Dangal's numbers," said an industry insider.

That's exactly what happened. Released in an unprecedented 9,000 screens in China - to put things in perspective, Dangal had released in 5,500 screens across India - Shuai Jiao Baba, which means "Let's Wrestle, Dad" - has reportedly earned Rs 1,291 crore in China. Compare that to its earnings in India - Rs 387.38 crore - and the Aamir-China love story has become the stuff box-office dreams are made of.

"For China, Bollywood only means Aamir Khan. His films - Dhoom:3 to PK - have all done very well, but Dangal has become something else, primarily because the audience there have connected as much to the theme and emotions of the film as they have connected with Aamir," said Nahta.

According to the trade analyst, Dangal 's emphasis on women's empowerment has also helped the film connect with an audience, as has Aamir's personal touch - the superstar, popular among his Chinese fans as "Uncle Aamir", made a special trip to China ahead of the release and connected with millions of fans. Today, Dangal stands 16th among the all-time grossers in China, a list that includes both Hollywood blockbusters and Chinese money-spinners.

Aamir's box-office blitzkrieg comes at a time when the other two Khans, Shah Rukh with his last few releases and now Salman with the flicker called Tubelight , have fallen behind in the numbers game. The true master of the Bolly box-office game, Aamir - whose films win both critical acclaim and commercial returns - hasn't had a flop in the last 15 years, barring Mangal Pandey: The Rising.

"The biggest numbers and the best content belong to Aamir. Even a relatively smaller film like Talaash (starring Aamir, Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor Khan) made money. This is a superstar-actor whose very touch turns everything to gold," trade analyst Kumar Mohan said.

If the bazaar buzz is to be believed, Aamir, who has a profit-sharing agreement for all his films, is said to have taken home a neat Rs 257 crore for Dangal .

So, can D for Dangal be crowned the undisputed lord of the ring over B for Bahubali 2 ? Hold on, for Prabhas is set to leap across 6,000 screens in China later this month, by when Aamir's China bout would be done and dusted.

So this is one battle where The Conclusion remains to be scripted.