The upcoming release of Tiger Shroff’s A Flying Jatt got me thinking about just how hard it is to launch a career as a Bollywood hero abroad. It’s difficult enough to succeed in India, but even more so overseas, where fans aren’t bombarded with the same kind of media saturation. That’s assuming that a distributor is even willing to put your film in theaters. Although Arjun Kapoor is a star now, his first picture — Ishaqzaade — didn’t release in the United States.
A Flying Jatt is Shroff’s third release since his 2014 debut, a promising sign for his Bollywood career prospects (at least for a while). I looked at some of his contemporaries from 2010 on to see how they’ve fared since their debuts. I only considered actors who launched under similar circumstances to Shroff: first-time actors without previously established entertainment careers (regional films, singing, TV, etc.) who were the sole male lead in their film, as opposed to, say, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra who launched together in Student of the Year. Also, the hopeful hero’s film needed to be released in the United States (which excludes Kapoor and Saqib Saleem).
That leaves us with six contenders, including Shroff. Here they are, in order of their debuts:
Debut film: Band Baaja Baaraat
Release date: December 10, 2010
US box office: $71,374
Of the 32 films that released in US theaters in 2010 for which I have data, Band Baaja Baaraat ranked 30th in total gross. That early hiccup didn’t hinder Singh’s rise to stardom. His most recent film — Bajirao Mastani — earned $6,653,317 last year.
Debut: Ramaiya Vastavaiya
Release date: July 19, 2013
U.S. box office: $52,200
While $52,000 is nothing to crow about, Kumar’s followup film — Loveshhuda — made just $1,787 in the US earlier this year. Might be time to accept that this dog won’t hunt.
Debut: Karle Pyaar Karle
Release date: January 17, 2014
US box office: $3,110
I have an inexplicable fondness for Karle Pyaar Karle because of how hilariously horrible it is, and Shiv Darshan is especially awful in it. The only reason I don’t recommend the movie is because it’s racist near the end (also, I have no idea where to find it). You may not have a future as an actor, Shiv, but I’ll always remember you.
Release date: May 23, 2014
US box office: $63,172
While Heropanti wasn’t a hit here, Shroff’s followup — Baaghi — made $437,243 earlier this year. If A Flying Jatt can come close to that, it bodes well for Shroff’s longevity.
Debut: Lekar Hum Deewana Dil
Release date: July 4, 2014
US box office: $10,529
Even after rereading my review of Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, I still have no recollection of having seen it. That’s the kind of impression Armaan Jain made on me: none at all.
Release date: September 11, 2015
US box office: $83,973 Hero did comparatively well for a debut film, but Pancholi’s personal/legal problems could make studios consider him a liability, especially if he’s ever convicted of a crime related to Jiah Khan’s suicide. The jury’s still out on Pancholi, in more ways than one.
The Tiger Shroff-Shraddha Kapoor action flick Baaghi hit all its marks in its first weekend in North America. From April 29-May 1, 2016, it earned $233,793 from 96 theaters ($2,435 average). It opened in the seventh highest number of theaters this year, posting the seventh best opening weekend average and eighth best opening weekend total. Not bad at all. Further, Baaghi‘s performance was leaps and bounds better than Shroff’s 2014 debut, Heropanti, which earned just $31,556 from 20 theaters ($1,578 average) in its opening weekend here.
Last weekend’s new release, Laal Rang, has the dubious distinction of being the first Hindi film of 2016 to exit theaters after just one week. A $5,874 opening weekend will do that to ya.
In its third weekend, Fan earned $91,376 from 87 theaters ($1,050 average), bringing its total to $2,246,220. That ends any chance of Fan wresting the top spot from Kapoor & Sons, which added another $5,560 from five theaters ($1,112 average) to bring its seven-week total to $2,656,169.
Ki and Ka took in $1,954 from five theaters ($391 average), bringing its total to $919,815.
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a ton of new additions to the catalog. Netflix kicked off 2016 by adding seventeen (!) Hindi movies to the streaming catalog, along with a number of movies in other Indian languages, most notably director Mani Ratnam’s 2015 Tamil hit OK Kanmani. I added a category for films in other Indian languages at the bottom of my Netflix page. (January 2 update: Dum Laga Ke Haisha is also now on Netflix!)
Here’s a list of all the Bollywood films added to Netflix today:
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! and Piku are two of my favorite movies of 2015, and I can’t wait to check out Randeep Hooda in Main Aur Charles, which didn’t open in US theaters. A number of these films — like Katiyabaaz and Kshay — were hits on the festival circuit, and this is the first opportunity for a wide audience to see them. Same for the Gujarati film The Good Road, India’s official submission to the 86th Oscars, which was also added today.
While I felt that there were more good Bollywood movies than bad released in 2014, the year did produce some truly awful Hindi films. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)
Some primarily suffered from poor story construction. In Jai Ho, Salman Khan inexplicably goes on a violent rampage when people fail to embrace his “pay it forward” scheme, resulting in Suniel Shetty plowing through traffic in a tank. Another Khan film — Kick — makes even less sense, as Khan transforms from a dopey slacker into Robin Hood overnight, and none of the supposedly intelligent characters in the film realize it’s him. Koyelaanchal‘s disorganized plot is a problem, but not as big a problem as its multiple flashbacks from the perspective of a baby.
I often write about gender issues in my reviews, so it’s no surprise that many of the worst movies of the year portrayed women negatively. The Xpose is essentially a morality lecture for women delivered by writer-actor-composer Himesh Reshammiya. According to Super Nani, a woman’s only real asset is her beauty, even if she’s old enough to be a grandmother.
A few lousy 2014 movies actually fancy themselves as socially progressive, even though they aren’t. Kaanchi inaccurately characterizes the heroine’s personal revenge as representative of a youth uprising against systemic corruption. The hero of Heropanti denounces arranged marriage while simultaneously affirming a father’s right to choose his daughter’s husband. Daawat-e-Ishq — the most disappointing Hindi film of 2014, given the quality of its cast and crew — depicts men as the real victims of dowry tradition.
The delightfully inept Karle Pyaar Karle could have been a perfect “so bad, it’s good” movie, were it not for a racist subplot. The movie’s heroine is threatened with forced marriage to a dark-skinned African man, a character introduced solely to represent the worst fate imaginable for an Indian woman. The hero and heroine use racial slurs, and the heroine’s mother proposes suicide for herself and her daughter as a way to avoid the marriage. It’s an offensive and frustrating end to an otherwise unintentionally hilarious movie.
The absolute worst Hindi movie of 2014 combines the shortcomings of the other films on the list and multiplies them exponentially. That film is the loud and tacky Humshakals. Offensive jokes are aimed at almost every group except straight Indian men, with director Sajid Khan’s preferred target being overweight women. As one can infer from the female characters Khan wrote for the movie, his ideal woman is a brainless sex object.
Unlike Karle Pyaar Karle, there’s nothing funny about Humshakals, intentional or unintentional. It’s a cynical film, pandering to the basest prejudices of the lowest common denominator. Sajid Khan writes the mean-spirited jokes he does because he thinks he can get away with them. It’s time for not only the audience but members of the industry to tell him that we deserve better.
Despite being lambasted by critics, Humshakals performed reasonably well in its first weekend in North American theaters. From June 20-22, 2014, Humshakals earned $262,502 from 165 theaters, a per-screen average of $1,591.
That $262,502 gross isn’t exceptional, but it’s in keeping with the total earnings of several Hindi comedies released in 2013 in North America.
Humshakals is likely to stick around for another week, so its total earnings will probably be closer to those of Besharam than Yamla Pagla Deewana 2. In 2013, a film only needed to earn upwards of $230,000 to finish in the top half of highest earning Hindi movies in the U.S. and Canada, so Humshakals is well-positioned to finish in the top half for 2014.
However, Besharam was considered a box office flop relative to expectations, so matching its total is nothing to brag about. In one crucial regard, Humshakals already lags behind. Besharam opened in an overly ambitious 217 theaters in North America, and its first weekend per-screen average was $2,323. Humshakals — whose 165-theater opening was also too ambitious — only averaged $1,591.
That’s a lower opening weekend average than director Sajid Khan’s last critically panned film: 2013’s Himmatwala, which averaged $1,998 on 99 screens in its first weekend before posting a final tally of $270,880.
While Humshakals‘ earnings aren’t horrible, they’re not great. Its performance — like the performance of Besharam — highlights the importance of correctly judging demand for your product and booking the right number of theaters accordingly.
One other Hindi movie opened in limited release in the U.S. on June 20, and its numbers are so bad that I can hardly believe they’re correct. Miss Lovely opened in three U.S. theaters, from which it earned just $558. Total. Despite a strong festival pedigree, its release wasn’t promoted in any meaningful way (unlike The Lunchbox), so potential moviegoers may not have known about it. Maybe Miss Lovely will have more success when it opens in Chicago and Austin this Friday.
Other Hindi movies showing in the U.S. and Canada from June 20-22 included:
Holiday: Week 3; $48,468 from 34 theaters; $1,426 average; $806,123 total
The Lunchbox: Week 17; $20,354 from 22 theaters; $925 average; $3,963,922 total
Filmistaan: Week 3; $90 from one theater; $45,013 total
Heropanti: Week 5; $82 from one theater; $63,172 total
With no new Bollywood movies showing in North American theaters the weekend of June 13-15, 2014, activity at the box office was pretty slow. Here are the numbers for all Hindi movies showing in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:
Holiday: week 2; $169,460 from 102 screens ($1,661 average); $706,893 total
The Lunchbox: week 16; $30,640 from 26 screens ($1,178 average); $4,094,681 total
Filmistaan: week 2; $5,776 from eight screens ($722 average); $44,307 total
Heropanti: week 4; $671 from one screen; $63,051 total
With nothing new in theaters, May 30-June 1, 2014, was a slow weekend for Hindi movies at the North American box office. Bollywood Hungama’s weekly box office chart appears incomplete, so I’m using Box Office Mojo’s numbers for my report this week.
A lot of competition from South Indian fare pushed Hindi films down the list in North America. For example, Kochadaiiyaan earned $89,042 in its second weekend to bring its total earnings in the U.S. and Canada to $817,192.
The Lunchbox — now in its fourteenth week in theaters — earned $55,420 from 54 theaters, a per-screen average of $1,026. It continues to increase its lead as the highest-earning Hindi film of 2014 in North America with total earnings standing at $3,972,118.
In its second weekend, Heropanti added another $8,454 from 11 theaters ($769 average), bringing its total to $57,150. If you want to get really nerdy, Box Office Mojo tracked Heropanti‘s daily earnings. I wish they had this info for every Hindi movie in the U.S.
While Heropanti‘s total earnings in North America are unimpressive, they’re right in line with what should be expected from a movie featuring a new hero. Its total topped those of movies with other little-known leads, such as Ragini MMS 2, Kaanchi, and Dishkiyaoon. But it lagged well behind the earnings of movies with more recognizable stars, like Gulaab Gang, Bewakoofiyaan, and Total Siyapaa.
If Tiger Shroff wants to get noticed in the U.S., he needs to spend some time playing second fiddle to A-listers before he can carry films on his own.
It’s incredibly difficult to launch a new Hindi film hero’s career in North America, where superstars have even greater box office value than they do in India. It’s no surprise, then, that first weekend returns for Tiger Shroff’s big screen debut, Heropanti, seem underwhelming. From May 23-25, 2014, Heropanti took in $31,556 from 20 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, a per-screen average of $1,578.
The truth is that Heropanti‘s numbers are actually good for a movie starring a newcomer. The first factor to consider is that Heropanti faced unusually tough and unexpected competition. Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiiyaan shifted its opening date to May 23 at the last minute. Kochadaiiyaan pulled in $491,643 from 122 theaters ($4,030 average), a figure that probably should’ve been higher given the Superstar’s clout and higher 3D ticket prices.
And both Heropanti and Kochadaiiyaan were blown out of the water by the Telugu film Manam. It earned $844,271 from 108 U.S. theaters for an average of $7,817 per screen.
Despite taking a hit from a pair of high-profile South Indian films, Heropanti‘s earnings hold up very well when compared to North American opening weekend performances by film’s starring other new or marginal heroes. Here are some examples from 2013 and 2014 (ordered by release date):
Rajeev Khandelwal in Table No. 21: $31,658 from 23 theaters; $1,376 average
Jackky Bhagnani in Rangrezz: $4,318 from 11 theaters; $393 average
Ajaz Khan in Ya Rab: $1,404 from 15 theaters; $94 average
Harman Baweja in Dishkiyaoon: $7,341 from 11 theaters; $667 average
Even with Priyanka Chopra as a costar, Ram Charan only grossed $81,117 from 79 theaters ($1,027 average) in the opening weekend of 2013’s Zanjeer. Only Dhanush had any success of note with his Hindi-film debut Raanjhanaa ($414,211 from 102 theaters; $4,061 average), and he had the advantage of having Sonam Kapoor for a costar.
The Lunchbox and 2 States were the only other Hindi films lingering in theaters over the Memorial Day weekend. With its theater count diminished to 57, The Lunchbox earned $86,749, bringing its total North American earnings to $3,706,362.
2 States earned $2,528 from five theaters to bring its total earnings to $2,190,307.