Brahmastra: A Homegrown MCU Inspired Fireball Galvanises Mumbai Film Industry
As the seven-month-old war in Ukraine reached a tipping point there were reports last week of the mighty Russian forces retreating and exiting erstwhile captured towns in the eastern region leaving them back in control of the resilient Ukrainians. While closer home, in the arena of politics, a political party tried to find its feet by walking it out to piece together a vision for the nation. And upon a Juhu, Versova or a Worli seaface, the Mumbai Film Industry sat contemplating its own jigsaw puzzle gone horribly wrong, entrenched in dark cob-webbed shadows of sliding box office receipts over the past few months as much feted big budget bonanzas fizzled out with nary a whimper. The box office misfires led to industry watchers and even many within filmdom to rattle off premature obituaries on Bollywood, spawning tales of its impending doom. This pall of gloom was suddenly lifted by the advance numbers witnessed by the Dharma Production’s/Star Studios magnum opus "Brahmastra" which it had garnered over days prior to a worldwide release on Sept. 9.
Ka-Ching And A Sleepy Box Office Awakens
The online advance numbers that kept trickling in initially led to such a deluge later across the country that bleary eyed distributors and exhibitors reeling from the aftereffects of one disaster after another had to pinch themselves from their slumber and wonder if indeed there would be a reversal of fortunes. With much negativity floating around many were baffled by the thunderous advance booking numbers that the movie had opened to across leading multiplex chains in the country. The film went on to record the third highest advance numbers with Rs 32 crores; only behind KGF-2 with Rs 42 crore and Baahubali – The Conclusion with Rs 37 crore, being certified as the only original Hindi film to cross over Rs 30 crores in advances (the first two mentioned being dubbed films).
Specifically, ticket sales from national cinema chains for it clocked 3.02 lakhs topping Ranbir Kapoor’s earlier mega hit ‘Sanju’ (2.94 lakhs), what enthused everyone was that the strong advance sales were reported even in tier 1 and tier 2 cities and towns, key collection centers that would ensure that the masses too would come in for a watch and critically contribute to large footfalls that could sustain earnings if the film had some decent merits of its own. Prior to its release ‘Brahmastra’ had a worldwide screen count of 8,913 screens out of which 5,019 were alone from India, which could boost its earnings albeit for the initial first week. Based on its weekend box office collections and trends, despite some mixed reviews from critics, the film is slated to perform well and race through for the tag of this year’s first clean blockbuster ending a drought of sorts for the beleaguered Hindi film industry.
The 'Astranomics' - Go For Broke To Rake It In
The trailer of the film released over two months ago, had clocked a middling 21 million views on YouTube while Lal Singh Chaddha the big debacle from last month had over 51 million views of its trailer in comparison. Moreover the massive failure of Ranbir’s last release, ‘Shamshera’ had the industry licking its wounds while according to reports, this year itself it was staring down the dark barrel of having lost approximately Rs 1,000 crores from the failure of many big films. Therefore, ‘Brahmastra’ touted as one of the most expensively mounted Hindi film with Rs 300 crore (approx.) as its budget had its trajectory clearly mapped – of getting on the super hit highway and zooming away cutting out all the pessimism and bad vibes it was surrounded with. It did that and then some more, collecting around Rs 105 crores over its first weekend for its Hindi version alone and a combined total of around Rs 118-122 crore along with its dubbed versions, clearly being the only Hindi film to cross the Rs 100-crore mark over the weekend for 2022.
The three-day collection figures (all approx.) for Brahmastra are:
It easily beats other top weekend grossers this year including ‘RRR’ with Rs 74 crore, ‘Bhool Bhulaiya 2’ with Rs 55 crore, and ‘Gangubhai Kathiawadi’ with Rs 39 crore. The movie currently finds itself at eight in the list of the all-time top opening weekend grossers.
An Out Of The Universe Casting
What has indeed brought the audiences to flock back to the cinema halls is an Indianised concept revisiting early mythological tropes, a nod to the current vein of revivalism of ancient traditions, while marshalling inspiration from the Marvel Cinematic Universe oeuvre. This coupled with a very youthful vibe that lead stars Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt portray helped the makers to judiciously deploy all the elements to their advantage. The director Ayan Mukerji, a scion of an illustrious film family and a Ranbir Kapoor favourite, had earlier delivered two successes with him in ‘Wake Up Sid’ in 2009 and ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwani’ in 2013. ‘Brahmastra’ in the works for around eight years had its stellar star cast going for it with Amitabh Bachchan and Nagarjuna along with Ranbir and Alia with teases of other bollywood superstars appearing in cameos to keep the thirst for a trilogy franchise alive and aid in the kneading to string along the promised second and third parts. Two key positives going for the movie was the pairing of Ranbir and Alia, both superstars in their own right. Alia Bhatt with the success of ‘Brahmashtra’ has given her third success this year after ‘Gangubhai Kathiawadi’ and ‘RRR’, not to forget ‘Darlings’ that is streaming very successfully on Netflix. The real life couple who put in their paces around the nuptial fire early this year had the audiences waiting impatiently to see them in their first onscreen project together. The other was the song,’Kesariya’ that had ramped up 174 million views going on to become a craze with even its regional versions also becoming very popular.
Weaponry Of Marketing For Mass Attraction
Dharma Productions and Star Studios are usually known to leave no stone unturned to promote their offerings, this time perhaps to endear the product to fans from the south, they even got the ‘Baahubali’ and ‘RRR’ director SS Rajamouli and Jr. NTR (who starred in ‘RRR’) to pitch in and spread the good word about the film on social media and other related media and publicity events. In addition to building up the pre-release hype they had small introduction capsules released all over social media almost creating a frenzy amongst the audience leading up to the film’s release. The movie already having munched up a mammoth share of the producers pie chomped off more for its marketing and publicity campaigns. Therefore, for it to be termed as even as a hit, it needs to collect well on a sustained basis. The initial weekend run or even a decent first week run will need to continue for the film as it has a clear two-week open window before new Hindi films open at the box office. It is too early to say how much it should earn to qualify as a super hit or even a blockbuster yet, given its huge costs. Suffice to say that cine-goers lining up to watch the film at the movie halls itself is a sight for sore eyes for Bollywood especially the distributors and exhibitors, who have been bearing the brunt for so long.
Self-Belief, Honesty Ruptured The One-Eyed Evil Troll
There was an intense surge of dislike being built on social media against the film, directed mostly at Ranbir Kapoor and the producer Karan Johar. This lie-spewing, hate-filled haranguing morphed into twitter trends with "Boycott Brahmastra" hashtags. However, once the film began on a solid footing on Friday, these hashtags did a disappearing act, with insiders seeing this as a premature end to the boycott season in Bollywood, at least for the time being. In the end, good did triumph, and if the good is built on searing hard work, dedication, and passion for one’s craft, then how well-oiled any contrived troll army is, that lone "astra" from any well-meaning armoury can char it to ashes. The initial success of "Brahmastra", will surely pave the way for its impending future parts. A hat tip then to the unwavering belief that Mukerji, Kapoor, and Bhatt reposed in their project despite the arsenal of hate and propaganda that was trained on it. As film distributor and multiplex owner Raj Bansal said on Twitter on the film’s opening day, all that the movie loving audiences need to do is shut off the vile and noise and just ‘Go celebrate cinema’.
The past week then truly has been a week of the underdogs, be it tennis star Frances Tiafoe an immigrant whose parents escaped from strife torn Sierra Leone famously overwhelming the legend Rafale Nadal at the U.S. open, a much-reviled Kohli getting his first hundred in a T20 match or King Charles III now formally owning all the swans in England after the passing away of the Queen Mother. One cannot call the big banner ‘Brahmastra’ an underdog any which way, but in the hugely disappointing months that Bollywood has had, it would be happy to take on even that tag. That it went on to break records this year and keep the industry off any lurking ventilator support, nearby is a story for all true fans of Hindi movies to savor
Anand Mathew is a social development consultant based in New Delhi and writes on films.
The views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of BQ Prime or its editorial team.