After coming off a career high in 2007 when both Chak De India and Om Shanti Om (2nd Highest Grosser Ever at that time) became Blockbusters, a string of unlucky events, incidents and controversies have affected every Shahrukh Khan release since 2008. Whatever be the reason, fact is Shahrukh has not had the highest grosser of the year since 2007 owing to a lot of factors. Let’s discuss the unfortunate, unlucky and sometimes unnecessary incidents that have rocked SRK films and then we’d notice how Chennai Express seems to be devoid of all those problems.
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi: This film was supposed to release on 12th of December and a major marketing campaign was planned for two weeks leading up to the release. But the unfortunate and ghastly events of 26/11 which killed 166 people happened. Owing to this, YRF and Shahrukh put off all the promotional activities related to the film. Anushka Sharma was introduced to the media formally only after the film released. Also, Rab Ne.. had SRK in the look of a common man which the nation wasn’t used to. Even though the film did a business of 84 cr, it was clearly overshadowed by the marketing blitzkrieg of Ghajini and Aamir Khan. As a result, Ghajini (which occupied the crucial Christmas release date) became the first Hindi film ever to cross the 100 cr mark. It can be said that if RNBDJ was promoted like a normal film and enjoyed a holiday release, it COULD have been the first film to do 100 crore nett business in India.
My Name Is Khan: The film dealt with a very non-commercial subject and did not have an universally appealing subject, which meant the box office prospects of the film in India were limited. Apart from this, there was huge uncertainty about the release of the film because Bal Thackerey and Shiv Sena opposed the release of the film and massive protests were held in many places. SRK’s only fault was saying that all cricketers, including Pakistanis, should be allowed to play in the IPL. People were afraid to go the theatres in its first weekend fearing protests and demonstrations which limited the box office collections in India. However, My Name Is Khan did scorching business overseas and became the 2nd highest grossing film of all time outside India.
Ra One: Shahrukh decided to spend almost all of his hard-earned fortune to fulfil his dream of making a futuristic Superhero film. The only problem was that Superhero films have never been a popular genre in India (Krrish is the only film which has worked so far). SRK decided to carry out the biggest marketing campaign in Hindi film history which ended up doing the film more harm than good. The marketing overkill lead to a Ra.One fatigue even before the release of the film and there was immense negativity all over even before the film was revealed. As a result, the audience rejected Ra.One (amusingly it registered the highest single day collections ever on its second day of release). The film had potential to break 3 Idiots’ record of 202cr but the negativity (both pre and post-release) bunged it from doing so.
Don 2: The bad-will earned from Ra.One badly hurt the chances of Don 2 because it released less than 2 months after Ra.One. Don 2 did not have any commercial hit music nor did it have a commercial storyline or treatment. It was a bland film which was modeled on Hollywood action thrillers. The length and pace of the film also hurt the film badly. Also, the romance track between SRK and Priyanka Chopra was very heretical. A film like Don 2 did not have any chances at the mass theatres but it still went on to earn a hefty 106cr back in 2011. Experienced trade analysts believe that if Don 2 was released before Ra.One, it would have earned a lot more money than it eventually did.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan: This was Shahrukh’s most ill-fated film yet. 3 weeks before the release of the film, the director of the film Yash Chopra passed away. It clashed with a massy action comedy film like Son of Sardaar and was 3 hours long. It released in only about 2600 screens (in comparison, Dabangg 2 released in 3600 screens in India). The Shiv Sena scion Bal Thackerey died and there was a Maharashtra Bandh which led to theatres being closed in Maharashtra on the first Saturday and Sunday of JTHJ’s run (Maharashtra circle was doing the best business for the fulm). The clash and the bad publicity leading up to the clash hurt the film negatively. And on top of that, the music by AR Rahman left a sizeable portion of the audience disappointed. Also the chemistry between SRK and Katrina Kaif wasn’t appreciated by the general audience.
The negative factors, therefore, which have affected SRK’s last 5 films are: 26/11 terrorist attacks, no promotion, too much promotion, poor content, massive protests by a political party against SRK, negative publicity, clash, non-holiday release dates, non-massy films, average soundtracks. Chennai Express does not have any of those problems affecting it right now, except probably a mediocre music album.
Chennai Express seems to be ticking all the right boxes which should give it a very favourable release: a holiday release, no clash, a huge number of screens (3500-3600), the length is rumoured to be around only 135-145 minutes, there have been no major controversies surrounding the film so far, the treatment of the film is massy, the film is directed by the Rohit Shetty whose last 3 films have all crossed 100cr, it stars the current audience favourite Deepika Padukone opposite SRK, it is co-produced and distributed by arguably the No.1 production house in India – UTV. And oh, the last big film (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) to release would already have been 4 weeks old when Chennai Express releases.
The favourable release conditions would ensure that Chennai Express will take a bumber opening, but at the end of the day the film has to meet audience expectations and it has to entertain everyone to fulfil its true potential. Even if a film releases on a holiday and has 8 open weeks, has super-hit music and is massy it is NOT guaranteed to earn big money if the appreciation is lacking. If it manages to appease the audiences, then more than a few records will be broken this Eid. If it doesn’t there will be serious question marks over Shahrukh Khan’s super-stardom!