Why the Biggest Films in Bollywood Are Fail at the Box Office

The disappointing box office performances of the “Forrest Gump” adaptations “Laal Singh Chaddha” and “Raksha Bandhan,” respectively, have alarm bells sounding in Bollywood despite the star power of A-listers Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar.

Both movies came out on August 11. The occasion was ideal for “Raksha Bandhan,” a movie on brother-sister ties, as it fell on the day of the Raksha Bandhan holiday, which honors sibling relationships. Industry estimates indicate that the movie, which had a $9 million budget and included Kumar, one of India’s most bankable performers, had grossed about $6 million in its first week of release.

The statistics are more ominous for “Laal Singh Chaddha.” Three of India’s all-time box office winners starred Khan, including the No. 1 film “Dangal” ($311 million), the No. 6 film “Secret Superstar” ($154 million), directed by Advait Chandan of “Laal Singh Chaddha,” and the No. 7 film “PK” ($140 million). However, “Thugs of Hindostan,” his most recent film, also received poor reviews.

With a roughly $22 million budget, “Laal Singh Chaddha” has produced $11.3 million in revenue worldwide in just one week. It debuted at No. 12 in North America, where it earned $1.8 million, and at No. 7 in the U.K., where it earned just under $500,000. The movie was broadcast by Paramount in both regions.

Ranbir Kapoor’s lead role in the July movie “Shamshera,” which cost around $18 million to make, brought around $8 million.

Elara Capital analyst Karan Taurani explains that the audience’s tastes have changed after two years of being exposed to top-notch content at home during the epidemic as the reason for these movies’ underwhelming box office returns. “The star alone is insufficient. A lot of audience behavior and taste preferences in terms of the content they want to view have changed over time, according to Taurani, who also noted that foot traffic is down at least 30% from pre-COVID times.

Taurani cited the only three Bollywood movies that had box office success in 2022, “The Kashmir Files,” by Vivek Agnihotri, and “Gangubai Kathiawadi,” by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, which earned $43 million and $26.5 million, respectively. He claimed that these movies succeeded because of their compelling stories. Due to its status as a sequel, the horror-comedy “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2,” starring Kartik Aaryan and Tabu, brought in $33.5 million.

A backlog of movies that were delayed because of the epidemic, according to the expert, are “appearing old in nature.” Taurani added that negative social media, such as calls for a boycott of “Laal Singh Chaddha” on Twitter in response to Khan’s alleged criticism of India’s religious intolerance in 2015, also had an impact on box office traffic.

A few Indian films produced this year in South Indian languages, as opposed to Hindi, the language of the Mumbai-based Bollywood industry, have also achieved success.

Both the Hindi-dubbed versions of “RRR,” directed by S.S. Rajamouli and starring Ram Charan and NTR Jr., and “K.G.F: Chapter 2,” directed by Prashant Neel and starring Yash, were huge successes. “RRR” also premiered in those languages and garnered $150 million, while “K.G.F: Chapter 2” released in Kannada with dubbed Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, and Malayalam versions. The original and dubbed versions of the Tamil film “Vikram,” starring Kamal Haasan, Vijay Sethupathi, and Fahadh Faasil, brought in a total of $63 million.

However, by Indian standards, these movies had substantial budgets, and Taurani claimed that this kind of spending is neither normal nor sustainable. ‘RRR’ was made with a $73 million production budget. “K.G.F: Chapter 2” and “Vikram” both cost around $13 million.

These movies cannot be produced every month or every two months. It is unrealistic to anticipate five or six of these movies each year, according to Taurani. On September 9, “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva,” a high-profile Bollywood film starring Ranbir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, and Alia Bhatt, will be released. Taurani anticipates a strong start for the movie, with word-of-mouth ultimately determining its performance.

In comparison to a prior slump in 2017, Taurani compares the present phase of Bollywood box office. Bollywood’s Hindi films faltered after the release of Rajamouli’s “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” which was produced in Telugu and Tamil and earned a combined $278 million. These featured the star-driven films “Jab Harry Met Sejal” (Shah Rukh Khan), “Thugs of Hindostan,” “Tubelight” (starring Salman Khan), and “Jagga Jasoos” (Kapoor). In the years that followed, there was a resurgence.

We are in a transition now, but we will undoubtedly make a great comeback in 2023. In terms of how to adjust the specifics of the material, I’m confident that the directors, creative producers, and scriptwriters are well-aware.

However, “Laal Singh Chaddha” may yet have more episodes still to air. Should the movie be released in China, where Aamir Khan is a popular box office attraction (China contributed a sizeable portion of the box office for “Dangal” and “Secret Superstar”), it might still be a fairy tale ending for the fairytale.