The Yash Raj Films production Thugs of Hindostan has reported box office earnings of Rs 123 crore over its extended opening weekend. Vijay Krishna Acharya’s period drama, starring Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Shaikh, was released on November 8 across an estimated 5,000 screens in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
The film opened strong, making a reported Rs 50.25 crore on Thursday, according to figures released by YRF, which has also distributed the movie. “The Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan starrer action extravaganza collected Rs 17.25 crore nett (Hindi) on Sunday,” the studio said in a press release. “It also collected Rs 0.75 crore from its Tamil and Telugu versions. The four-day total collection of the film including Tamil and Telugu is Rs 123 crore nett.”
Independent trade reports have pointed out that rather than selling more tickets between Friday and Sunday, Thugs of Hindostan suffered a steady decline after being drubbed by critics and lampooned on social media. The box office takings have been low compared to previous such solo releases during the festive season in the past few years. The landing cost of the period drama, which was shot in Malta and Thailand apart from Mumbai and Rajasthan, is unknown, with rumours pegging the final bill at anything between Rs 200 crores and Rs 300 crores.
Among the possible reasons for the indifferent performance of Thugs of Hindostan is the low buzz that accompanied the trailer release and the lack of a chart-friendly soundtrack (the music, by Ajay-Atul, has still not been released in its entirety). Yash Raj Films’ decision to keep the star cast away from media interviews and instead rely on self-produced promotional videos was an experiment in digital marketing that appears to have yielded mixed results. While the approach brought consumers of online videos closer to the world the film was attempting to build, fans felt distant from the A-listers who were the production’s main draw.
The other big festival release in the South, AR Murugadoss’s Tamil-language Sarkar, had a happier run. Sarkar, starring box office magnet Vijay, has earned an alleged Rs 200 crore from local and overseas territories since its release on November 6, according to the Hindustan Times. Sarkar underlined Vijay’s strong following not just in his home state but also in international markets with strong pockets of Tamil-speaking immigrants, including Australia and the United Kingdom.
The film’s commercial success came despite (or because of) a controversy surrounding its political themes and its portrayal of Vijay as a saviour of Tamil Nadu. Sarkar mounts a barely disguised critique of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa and the policies of her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Producer Sun Pictures agreed to cut a few scenes after protests and criticism by AIADMK leaders.
A critique of the national preoccupation with a movie’s box-office worthiness came from within the industry on Monday. In a lengthy thread on Twitter, Atul Sabharwal, who has directed for Yash Raj Films the cult television series Powder and the indifferently received Arjun Kapoor-starrer Aurangzeb, argued that the conversation must shift from how much money films make to their aesthetic merits.
“Commerce of movies should have always remained an internal headache of movie industry,” Sabharwal said. “I am hopeful and looking up to our eminent producers and studios to start the practice of not giving out the figures and put an end to using box-office records as a thing of publicity and brand equity.”