Bollywood’s legendary male stars – Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan – are failing to attract audiences as the movies they released in the first five months of this year failed or fell far short box office expectations.
Instead, South Indian regional language films dubbed into Hindi featuring local stars are increasingly taking a substantial share of Hindi box office draws.
So far this year, only two South Indian films dubbed in Hindi have together earned Rs 683 crore at the Hindi domestic box office. One is RRR, featuring Telegu NT stars Rama Rao Jr and Ram Charan, as well as Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt. The other is KGF2featuring Kannada’s best actor, Yash.
Compare Rs 683 crore with the combined Rs 230 crore box office gain of four Bollywood films – Bachchan Panandey (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 on a budget of Rs 90 crore, released last Friday, appears to have collapsed at the box office with first-day collections of Rs 3.5-Rs 4 crore, sending shockwaves through the industry. On Saturday, it had risen to Rs 7-8 crore.
This doesn’t bode well for Singh whose last film 83, which chronicles how Kapil Dev’s Indian cricket team won the World Cup, also performed below par.
Launched in late December 2021, most theater owners expected 83 to be a blockbuster that would turn the tide of their business by bringing audiences back to the screen after the disruptions of the pandemic. Despite critical acclaim, the film only earned Rs 109 crore at the domestic box office with a budget of Rs 200 crore.
Akshay Kumar’s reputation for success also suffered this year when Bachchan Panandey flopped. Made on a budget of Rs 105 crore, the film failed to fetch even half that amount at the domestic box office.
In fact, the controversy Kashmir Files which has no stars, was a huge hit mainly due to its content, making a stunning Rs 250 crore.
Shibashish Sarkar, a producer of many blockbusters and former CEO of Reliance Entertainment, said India was following a trend that started in Hollywood from 2010 when larger-than-life franchisees such as Marvel, Spiderman and others got well successful on the big screen, while the social drama and comedy had limited audiences even though they could win Oscars.
“In India too, larger than life films whose full value is only offered on the big screen and which are not language dependent are doing extremely well, like RRR or KGF2. But for other movies, consumers prefer to wait for them to come to an OTT channel especially since, until June, they can be streamed just four weeks after their theatrical release,” Sarkar said.
He believes the audience for larger-than-life films is not limited to cities, but is popular in small towns where even morning shows are full.
So, is star power waning in Bollywood? “It proves once again that script and story are king. Star Power can only do that and no more and that’s why they all failed. And dubbed movies that had regional stars, due of their strong content, were preferred by Hindi audiences. Of course, a flop affects stars, but losing reputation is a long-term process,” said film trade analyst Komal Nahta.
But he points out that the production houses that made these star-studded blockbusters won’t lose money because they’ve already pre-sold their OTT and satellite rights at a premium.
Exhibitors say that with dubbed movies doing well, they have a bigger inventory of movies to choose from.
“While it’s true that dubbed movies have done well and Bollywood movies haven’t, the fact is that audiences are coming back in droves and we have more content to choose from,” said Kamal Gianchandani. , CEO of PVR Pictures.