Toxic masculinity and casteism bookend six-month collections

While Article 15 fares well, Kabir Singh carries the first half of 2019 into box office gold

In spite of fewer hits in the first half of 2019, this year’s box office collections are higher than 2018. Last year, we had Padmaavat (282.28 crore net), Pad Man (78.22 crore net), Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (100.80 crore net), Baaghi 2 (160.74 crore net), Raazi (122.39 crore net), Veere Di Wedding (80.27 crore net) and Sanju (Rs 334.57 crore net).

Yet, 2019 has fared better than last year. After Uri – The Surgical Strike which opened in January, this year at 8.49 crore net and made a whopping 244 core net, only Kabir Singh has managed similar numbers. The other successful films have been Gully Boy (134.21 crore net), Total Dhamaal (150.07 crore net) and De De Pyaar De (94.49 crore net). “If you look at January to June, last year definitely had more smaller better-faring films,” explains Shailesh Kapoor of Ormax Media, a firm that specialises in trade insights. “However, there has been a 9% increase in 2019’s revenue thanks to Kabir Singh’s collections”

The rise in numbers is in part due to a new trend that has emerged in the last few years. Stars who ruled the collections over the last few years are taking a backseat. Now, new narratives have box office relevance. A star-studded cast has always ensured collections, but today, A-listers alone cannot carry a film beyond opening day. Take Zero, Thugs of Hindostan and Tubelight for instance, all Khan films that were crushed at the box office. Instead, lower-budgeted fresh approaches like Raazi, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Gully Boy have triumphed. All the former examples have been made on relatively lower budgets and yet made more money than their large-scale counterparts.

Two exceptions

One of the last films to be released at 2019’s half-year mark, Shahid Kapoor’s Hindi remake of the Telugu Arjun Reddy opened at an impressive 20 crore net. In the three weeks, since its release the film has collected 243 crore net on a reported budget of 60 crore, released to more than 3,000 screens. “The film has done well everywhere,” says Kapoor. “You’d expect a Shahid Kapoor film to be multiplex skewed but Kabir Singh has performed exceptionally well in single screens as well.” The collections have been heavily skewed towards Northern territories like Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Usually an urban film comprises about 75 to 80% of a film’s collections, but in the case of Kapoor’s film, about 40% of the accrued revenue has been contributed by non-multiplex cinemas.

Sreedhar Pillai, a trade analyst focusing on Southern markets, echoes Kapoor’s thoughts on Kabir Singh. He says the film is a blockbuster, throughout the country, with an exceptional performance in South India, where ideally a Hindi remake of a Telugu film wouldn’t be so successful. “Kabir Singh would have run for a week at the most,” says Pillai. “People loved the original and Shahid Kapoor is not popular in the South at all, only the Khans rule in this market.” In spite of its glorification of toxic masculinity, as pointed out by several reviews and social media posts, Kabir Singh roped in audiences, most who were curious about the controversies it generated. Plus, the film’s music has been remarkably popular. “Tamil cinema is going through a bad phase at the moment and Kabir Singh is number one at the Chennai box office,” says Pillai. “Bollywood has made deep inroads into Southern markets, which could not be penetrated earlier. Lots of people are accepting Hindi films because of English subtitles,” he emphasises.

Standing apart

The last film for June was Article 15, which has been made on a reported budget of 30 crore, with a screen count of 1,500. Riding solely on the shoulders of Ayushmann Khurrana, the socially driven film opened at a respectable 4.75 crore net and in two weeks has made 47.49 crore net. As a reiteration to the ‘content is king’ principle, Article 15 was expected to make nothing more than 3 crore net based on initial reports, according to Kapoor. Thanks to favourable social media chatter, those numbers rose mid-day. Also, contrary to popular belief, Khurrana’s film did not poach ticket sales of Kabir Singh. “They’ve managed to co-exist,” says Kapoor. “Article 15 is driven by families and an older audience and Kabir Singh is entirely youth oriented. If they released in the same week, then Article 15 would have gotten lost in the hype.” Unlike Kabir Singh, Khurrana’s film on caste is getting most of its business only from urban territories like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Coimbatore.

The month of July though, has unfortunately begun with a whimper. Malaal has fared terribly, opening at 45,000 and making only 2 crore net.

Hopefully, Hrithik Roshan’s Super 30 continues the upward swing 2019 has been enjoying. As of now, Kabir Singh is predicted to end its theatrical run between 260 to 280 crore net, while Article 15 will mostly likely touch 60 crore net.

*Figures courtesy Box Office India

Box office collections: 2018 vs. 2019

Year

Period

Revenue in ₹ crore net

2018

January to June

1,760

2019

January to June

1,920

* Figures courtesy and Ormax Media

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