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Not such a cracker
The festival of lights doesn’t always light up the box office these days

Krishna Gopalan

It’s not for nothing that Shah Rukh Khan has a soft corner for Diwali — some of his biggest hits (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Om Shanti Om) were released on the festival; the latest is Jab Tak Hai Jaan. It’s the season for spending and there’s a huge appetite for entertainment, but in the past five years or so, the ‘Diwali release’ has lost some of its sparkle. Last year’s Ra.One was pipped to the post by the two top grossers of 2011: Salman Khan’s Bodyguard (released to coincide with Eid, like Dabangg in 2010 and Ek Tha Tiger in 2012, all superhits) and Ready, which opened in June. “The month-long Ramzan is the perfect build-up for new releases,” says Manoj Desai, a producer and the owner of G7 multiplex in Mumbai. “But increasingly, every holiday or festive season is proving equally important.” 

No guarantees
Diwali releases aren't necessarily hits

Earlier, superstars used to ensure that their big films were released during Diwali. But two factors have rendered a Diwali release undesirable. The first is, massive budgets, which have doubled from 30 crore to 60 crore on average in just three to four years. Second, the age of the solo superstar is over — Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh Khan aside, even Hrithik Roshan and Akshay Kumar are competing for the same screen space. Big names, therefore, are spread over separate holidays. Aamir Khan released Ghajini during Christmas 2008, and 3 Idiots a year later — both were the biggest hits of their respective years.  

“Diwali still brings in an assured opening,” sums up Mukesh Bhatt, chairman and MD, Vishesh Films, who never releases his films during Diwali since he doesn’t work with big stars, preferring to spread his budget smartly.

“But it’s no guarantee of success. We believe in releasing our films when there are no other big releases.” That means even during IPL cricket matches, which was a no-no just two or three years earlier. As Bhatt’s experience proves, IPL cricket has now become irrelevant to the box office. He released Jannat 2 amid this year’s IPL and it turned out be a hit. Perfect timing now comes with several options. Diwali is just one of them.

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