Padmaavat vs PadMan: With the ban lifted, could possible violence prove to be a deterrent for viewers?
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Padmaavat vs PadMan: With the ban lifted, could possible violence prove to be a deterrent for viewers?

With the four-state ban on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavat finally lifted, the next big trouble is its clash with Akshay Kumar’s PadMan.

Padmavati Row Updated: Jan 18, 2018 17:10 IST
Padmaavat,PadMan,Padmaavat Ban
Will Padmaavat and PadMan be able to rake in profits despite the clash?

A controversial period drama based on a Rajput queen will clash with a biopic on the manufacturer of low-cost sanitary pads when two of the year’s biggest Bollywood films open ahead of the Republic Day weekend.

Film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, originally titled Padmavati, had been slated to release on December 1 before a row over its historical content forced its makers to delay the film. The new release date of January 25 was announced on Sunday, which means it will now go head-to-head with R. Balki’s Padman in a box office battle likely to affect revenues.

Padman, which had first dibs on the holiday weekend, tells the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man behind a low-cost machine for manufacturing sanitary napkins in rural India.

The film’s unusual storyline and its cast of Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte led to it being billed as a sure-fire winner at the box office. The makers of at least one Bollywood challenger - the espionage thriller Aiyaari - postponed its release to give Padman free rein over the extended Republic Day weekend.

That was until the long-delayed historical epic Padmaavat arrived on the scene.

“When two big films release on the same day, they both suffer because audiences are divided,” said Girish Johar, a film and trade analyst. “Padmaavat is a big release and has a big budget, so ideally it needed a solo release date.”

The film ran into trouble when Rajput organisations, critical of the project, accused director Bhansali of distorting history by showing Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji as the “lover” of Queen Padmavati.

Members of hardline Hindu fringe groups as well as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party criticised it. The censor board cleared the film ahead of the new year, suggesting modifications including changing the name to “Padmaavat” from “Padmavati” to reflect that the source material was the epic poem and not actual historical events.

But the modifications have not placated protesters. A school in Madhya Pradesh was vandalized this week after students danced to a song from the film. At least four states, including Madhya Pradesh had banned the film citing security threats. On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down the bans as illegal, a day after the producers of Padmaavat moved the top court.

The spectre of violence would still hang over Padmaavat when it opens in cinemas.

“Any possibility of violence at theatres will be a deterrent for people to go to theatres, and could affect Padman collections as well, but that is something we will know only on the day of release,” said Vajir Singh, a trade analyst.

Bhansali is no stranger to box office clashes. His 2015 film Bajirao Mastani opened in cinemas along with actor Shah Rukh Khan’s Dilwale, in a repeat of the 2007 clash pitting Bhansali’s Saawariya against Khan-starrer Om Shanti Om.

Studios behind most big-ticket Bollywood films announce release dates a year in advance, booking slots on coveted holiday weekends. Analysts say releasing movies together hurts both films, leading to fewer ticket sales than an otherwise solo release.

“There are just 52 weeks in a year, and it is obvious that some films will clash,” said Singh. “This doesn’t always work when it comes to bigger films, which have bigger budgets and therefore need a clear window to recover their costs.”

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First Published: Jan 18, 2018 13:35 IST