The biggest release of 2016, Sultan, is finally here. Great hype, terrific buzz, dream starcast [Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma], picture perfect mounting [Yash Raj Films], interesting concept [Ali Abbas Zafar], catchy music [Vishal-Shekhar, Irshad Kamil, Eid arrival [July 6], no competition from past or present, no challenge from Hollywood either, record number of screens [~5000] - just about everything is fitting in well for Sultan. Of course, eventually the entire package has to work as a whole as well than just the sum of parts. However, till then, one expects the five day extended weekend to do the talking.
Question in the trade is - Will Sultan do the unthinkable and record Rs. 150 crore before it enters weekdays? If the temperature on the surface is anything to go by, it could well hit that mark. In fact there is also an element of positivity that the film could scale much greater heights. However, taking one step at a time and going by a conservative scale, Rs. 150 crore pretty much seems plausible for now.
Says Girish Johar, distributor and film business analyst, "Sultan is a tsunami waiting to hit the Box Office; I can already feel it. The lull before the storm is already there now, what with the present days seeing the lowest turnover in the recent days. Yes, the film will definitely have one of the 'top openings of all times'. As a matter of fact, I personally wish that it does a half century in one day."
Now while that would be some height to scale, no one is contesting the fact that the film is set for nothing less than Rs. 120 crore and well placed to hit the Rs. 150 crore mark between Wednesday and Friday.
"It is likely to cross Rs. 130 crore as everything is in its favor, be it the release date, stars, look and even the music. I would not be surprised if it crosses Rs. 140 crore," says distributor Ramesh Sippy.
If that happens, the lifetime total of Bollywood's biggest grosser of 2016, Airlift [Rs. 129 crore], would be crossed in 5 days flat - something that would only spell great news for the Box Office which is reeling with quite a few under-performers this year.
Agrees trade expert Atul Mohan, "There has been no new film in last so many months that has done bumper business. Even Airlift was 6 months back and other than that only Housefull 3 crossed Ra. 100 crore. This means for audiences as well as exhibitors, the wait has been way too long for a biggie to arrive. Everyone is banking on Sultan and wants to earn from it. Expect theaters to run back to back shows right through the day for the Salman Khan starrer."
In fact it has been a fortnight since a film did really well at the Box Office. The last film to do some sort of business wasUdta Punjab, though that too started fizzling after the first four days. Ever since then, over a dozen films have released and all have turned out to be disasters galore.
"Exactly," Akshaye Rathi (exhibitor and distributor) acknowledges the fact, "The cinemas have no other significant film to play and almost all the shows across multiplexes as well as single screens shall be given to Sultan. This would virtually leave the film as the only option for movie-goers!"
This makes the situation much better for Salman Khan when compared to his last All Time Blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan which arrived on Eid 2016. Back then, it had to face massive challenge from S.S. Rajamouli's Bahubali which was doing great guns too and eventually prevented it from going past the lifetime total of Bollywood's biggest grosser ever, P.K. [Rs. 340.8 crore]. The Kabir Khan directed film had to stop in its tracks at Rs. 321 crore mark though forSultan, all gates are currently open to steam ahead.
No wonder, the buzz is on.
"With a five day weekend, collections can be in the range of Rs. 120 crore to Rs. 150 crore, if the content is good. It is the Eid period and a Salman Khan film is coming after a while. Moreover, promos are making the film looking further exciting," says distributor Rajesh Thadani. His thoughts are echoed by distributor and exhibitor Harsh Jain, "Sultan is coming on Eid itself, which is a big plus. Looking at the craze around the film, the opening day itself can be more than Rs. 40 crore. Going ahead, the weekend would be somewhere around Rs. 130 crore. Beyond that it all depends on the merit of the film."
It would be a record for Salman Khan as well. Last year, his Bajrangi Bhaijaan had brought in Rs. 102.6 crore over the weekend while Prem Ratan Dhan Payo had seen his biggest ever opening day [Rs. 40.35 crore]. However, the biggest milestone for him was the four day weekend of the Sooraj Barjatya film that had seen Rs. 129.77 crore coming in. Now given the fact that Sultan has an additional day available for it due to five day weekend, it seems quite possible that Rs. 150 crore is a milestone waiting to be crossed.
"Yes, you can do the maths," says Girish, "On an average, Sultan - if accepted by the audiences - will have a five day run clocking Rs. 150 crore at the Box Office. Come on, a Salman film - especially on Eid - is not just a film, it's a 'ritual' now. 'Eidi with Bhai' is a mandate for all fans - be it any religion, caste or creed."
"Also, it has been a while since Salman did an out and out massy film," continues Atul, "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo had him in a sophisticated part and even in Bajrangi Bhaijaan there were no quintessential Salman Khan antics. The last time he pleased the masses in a major way was Kick. Still, he hasn't removed his shirt for long (laughs). Now he is compensating for that by removing his pants too. I can imagine audiences roaring once that happens. Rs. 130 crore would be very comfortably crossed by Sultan in its first five days and I won't be surprised if Rs. 150 crore is surpassed too, provided Ali Abbas Zafar's content works big time."
This is exactly what is keeping everyone super excited as the countdown begins for the film which is the first major on-screen story being told with wrestling at the center-stage.
"Considering the multiple factors such as the Eid advantage, popular music, Salman Khan's massive popularity among the masses and the extended weekend, I wouldn't be surprised if Sultan crosses Rs. 40 crore on Wednesday itself! If the film's content lives up to the massive hype around it, the film could easily set new benchmarks for the business and even notch up as much as Rs. 140-150 crore in the extended weekend," Akshaye continues to be mighty positive about the film.
With such major expectations around the film, how does the man at the hot seat - director Ali Abbas Zafar - feel? After all, the hype here is way beyond what his first two directorial outings, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Gunday (both successful affairs) had garnered.
"Definitely, there is a lot of hype," Ali says with a smile, "That said, at the end of it all, the film has to stand on its own feet. If it gets appreciated and loved then automatically it would create those big numbers that you speak about. Look atBajrangi Bhaijaan; it got all the love and went on to do such great business. Same with PK as well. After all, business is directly proportionate to all the love that audiences give to a film."
True that, and here is to some fireworks at the Box Office later this week and beyond!