On the face of it, October 2 this year was just another routine public holiday, for many the first of the 5-day-long weekend they had packed their bags to get out of the city. But Bollywoodwise, a lot was at stake on this Thursday: Two of the industry's biggest releases for the year, Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif's Bang Bang, and Sahid Kapoor's Haidar locked horns with each other on the Box Office. In the beginning, the hype machines on both sides were working overtime and built it up as a clash of epic proportions: The combined stardom and glamour of Roshan and Kaif pitted against director Vishal Bhardwaj and actor Shahid Kapoor's 21st century interpretation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet!Closer to the release date, it was fast turning into a David and Goliath kind of battle. The accompanying numbers didn't spread much cheer in the Bhardwaj camp either: Bang Bang was assigned close to 4,500 screens, a first-of-its-kind for the industry. The Roshans pulled no stops and targeted at least 12 new overseas centres to achieve new box-office milestones. Cinema halls in the UK, USA and the Middle East were informed in advance to start promoting the film via posters and teasers.
Watch: Bang Bang trailer
The result, film promoters and pundits said, was a no-brainer: Bang Bang, everybody said, would severely dent Haider's business, and set new, difficult to emulate benchmarks in Bollywood. The title song of Bang Bang released at least 15 days before the release and it spread like wild fire. Hrithik's toned physique and those gravity defying dance moves added to the overall effect. Shahid Kapoor's suspect acting prowess and his dismal outings in the last few films didn't help either. Kaminey, his earlier outing with Bhardwaj, also presented him as an innocent youth, like most of his other films, but didn't do anything sensational. And, more than anything else, he was yet to prove his credentials as a 'serious,' 'thinking' actor actor fit for serious roles. In short, Haider was facing at the spectre of premature death, even before it was born!
Watch: Haider trailer
Finally, as expected, Bang Bang opened to packed halls, and Haider started with vacant front rows.
But, something had happened just before the release of the Film.
Haider, buoyed by positive reviews, was fast becoming the talk of the town, and that meant more footfalls to theatres showing the film. The Big Bang think-tank, in the meanwhile, refrained from going public before the actual release on October 2. In the last couple of years, the multiplex audience has divided into two clear cut groups: the first group has got a staple diet of good western films via internet and the other group which would see most of the big films irrespective of their reviews. Haider banked on the first while Bang Bang targeted the second.
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Bang Bang won the first battle, and it was very evident. The huge army of youths was lined up in front of multiplexes on the morning of October 2 and they helped the film rake up close to Rs 25 crore (may be more) on the first day. Haider garnered only around Rs 6 crore. One may not be sure of the Bang Bang’s business but it was clear that Haider suffered the Bang Bang wave on the first day.
But, those Rs 6 crore audience proved to be a great asset for Bhardwaj and Haider. The film started getting tremendous word-of-mouth publicity on the very first day. Bang Bang’s mixed reviews also contributed to it but the superstars were still there.
The social media pitched in and Haider proved to be a winner from the word go. Those who liked it, and even those who dissed it for its political leanings, ensured that the film kept trending for three days. Then protests started and Haider became the talk of the town. People had reservations against the film but not many doubted Haider as a weak film, not in front of Bang Bang at least. The craft of Haider was appreciated and the political ideology received support from opinion leaders.
The underdog strategy worked for Haider and some supported it just because it was rearing its head against a high profile venture. Bang Bang kept gathering big bucks but that was still insufficient because of the film’s big budget. Haider was happy with a steady run and it turned out that its business didn’t receive a dip in the graph.
At the end of week one, trade experts declared that Haider has made approximately Rs 35 crore, much more than what it cost. But Bang Bang is not out of the picture yet. If rumours are to be believed, Hrithik's planning to appear on TV shows to promote it, something he's stayed away from for any of his films till now. Obviously, when the stakes are high, it's only prudent that you revisit your strategy when you see the opposition running away with the title. (Follow the author at Twitter/@nawabjha)