Last year, to filmmaker Rakesh Roshan’s consternation, Diwali fell on a Sunday. Ordinarily this would not have bothered him, but last year, he had a movie to release – Krrish 3, starring his son Hrithik – and it’s well known in the industry that the box office is dull in the days just before the festival of lights.
A year has 52 weeks, and almost all of the 200 films released annually, open in theatres on Friday. For filmmakers, the most coveted weeks for a release are those that include Diwali, Ramzan-Eid, Christmas, Republic Day and Independence Day. The box office seems to buzz during these periods.
Christmas is a relatively new addition to this list. While it’s not perceived as a huge holiday period in India, it is one abroad, where the eight-day-long festivities give Hindi film lovers plenty of time to catch the latest Bollywood release.
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On Ramzan-Eid, it’s well known that Muslim audiences go to the cinema in large numbers after their weeks of abstinence.
But why is Diwali a bountiful period for the box office? After all, aren’t Hindus busy with Laxmi puja at home and in offices? Don’t people visit family and friends to wish them a happy new year the day after Diwali? And aren’t brothers and sisters busy with the Bhai Duj celebrations the day after that?
That’s three days of pujas and rituals, so why is there such a mad scramble to release films in the Diwali week? Why is actor Shah Rukh Khan so excited about saying ‘Happy New Year’ to the world with his film Happy New Year?
But this is not a new trend. For years, producers have released their big-ticket entertainers in the week of the festival of lights because the occasion is supposed to add to a film’s revenue by anywhere between 10 and 15 per cent.
Legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra would invariably choose this festive week for his films if he could manage it. Whether it was his Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) or Veer-Zaara (2004) or even his last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), they were all released in the Diwali week.
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And because Shah Rukh Khan has acted in so many films made by the Yash Raj banner, by default, the Diwali week has become a Shah Rukh Khan week, just as the Eid week has become synonymous with Salman Khan and the Christmas week with Aamir Khan.
Shah Rukh’s Ra.One (2011) hit the screens on Diwali. His Chennai Express (2013) was also being readied for release during Diwali 2013 but when it was clear that Salman wouldn’t be ready with his Jai Ho by Eid 2013, filmmaker Rohit Shetty and Shah Rukh Khan sped up Chennai Express and brought it to the cinemas for Eid last year, instead of Diwali. And that gave Rakesh Roshan the chance to release his Krrish 3 on Diwali.
From HT Brunch, October 19
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