It would seem that Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees has dodged a bullet only to find itself in oncoming box office traffic at rush hour. The Rahul Dholakia-directed film has cancelled its Eid release and booked the Republic Day weekend of 2017. In doing so, Raees has averted meeting Salman Khan’s Sultan, still releasing this Eid, but will now face a binary threat – Ajay Devgn’s Baadshaho and Hrithik Roshan’s Kaabil also open on January 26 next year.
This state of affairs was summed up by two Twitter trends on Wednesday. ‘ONLY SULTAN KI DARING THIS EID’ announced the first in upper case, ‘DON’T DARE BAADSHAHO IS THERE’ warned the second, also in uppercase – presumably lower or title case simply wasn’t emphatic enough.
“A film of such magnitude requires appropriate showcasing,” read a statement from the co-producers of Raees – Excel Entertainment’s Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, SRK in his capacity as Red Chillies’ boss. As such, the rescheduling makes perfect sense – going up against Salman would likely make Bollywood’s mightiest quail. But what of the collision course Raees is now set on?
The industry has lately fallen into the habit of reserving three of the calendar’s biggest festivals for the three Khans – traditionally, it has been Eid for Salman, Diwali for SRK and Christmas for Aamir. Diwali this year is already occupied by one Ajay Devgn film, Shivaay – a film that Raeesreportedly didn’t want to test itself against. One imagines that Baadshaho was picked as the softer enemy, even with the additional frontline opened up by Hrithik’s Kaabil.
As far as box office clashes go, this triplicate tangle is as epic as it gets. There’s history to Raees vs Baadshaho – SRK and Ajay have faced off before, when their films Jab Tak Hain Jaan and Son Of Sardar released together in 2012. It was an acrimonious time, with Ajay accusing SRK’s movie and its producers Yash Raj Films of using their clout to keep Son Of Sardar out of theatres.
Last year, SRK’s Dilwale emerged slightly worse for wear from a showdown with the Sanjay Leela Bhansali-made Bajirao Mastani – a clash thatDilwale had been expected to easily win, in a repeat of the events of November 2007 when Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om bested Mr Bhansali’s box office turkey Saawariya.
In battlefield box office, no matter which marquee names the skirmishes involve, there is one clear winner – the ticket-buying public. It is to them that the spoils of war will go because the multiple choice menu on offer means that those who fill Bollywood’s coffers get to decide which potential blockbuster’s riches they want to contribute to (or not), instead of having the decision made for them.