It’s safe to say that the Hindi version of Tamil superstar Ajith Kumar’s latest film Valimai has tanked at the box office. As per some estimates, the film didn’t even manage to garner Rs 2 crore during the first four days of its release at a time when south Indian movies, starring A-list actors, seem to be in demand at the Hindi box office.
“The content (of Valimai) is not something that the Hindi audience has not seen (before). Bollywood has been making hardcore commercial entertainers with fast-paced, sleek action sequences. Hindi belt is also exposed to the Hollywood kind of filmmaking. For them (the audience in the Hindi market), it was another regular film,” explained producer and trade analyst Girish Johar.
Johar added that unlike Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise, the Hindi audience was not able to relate to Valimai. Pushpa sprang a surprise when its Hindi version registered an over Rs 3 crore opening day collection, and went on to earn more than Rs 100 crore in north India alone.
“The mood of the nation was in favour of Pushpa. No big competition at the box office (at the time) and ‘Oo Antava’ song became the talk of the nation. All those factors do help. Some are Samantha fans, some are Allu Arjun fans and some are fans of masala films. These things count,” said Johar.
The general consensus among Mumbai-based distributors and exhibitors seems to be that Valimai and Ravi Teja’s Khiladi failed at the Hindi box office because they had very little to offer that was new and entertaining. “There was a lack of promotion and publicity (for Valimai). The reviews by the press were not very encouraging. Then other Hindi and Marathi films also released. Hero is not very well known in the north. Music was a drawback,” Nitin Datar, president of the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India, told Indianexpress.com.
In the north region, Valimai faced serious competition from Alia Bhatt’s big-budget period drama Gangubai Kathiawadi, which is written and directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. And the Marathi film Pawankhind further added to Valimai’s troubles at the box office.
Post the release of the movie, the makers of Valimai trimmed the Hindi version by 18 minutes. The movie was also made 12 minutes shorter in Tamil. And it’s unclear how much of this trimming will help change the movie’s box office prospects at this stage.
The subpar theatrical performance of Ajith Kumar’s Valimai in the Hindi belt has a valuable lesson for all south stars, who nurture an ambition to expand their stardom towards the north.
“Ajith doesn’t do interviews and promote it in Tamil Nadu. That’s fine because he’s a big superstar there. But, Hindi is still a virgin market for him when it comes to theatrical draw. See, RRR is one of the biggest movies in the history of Indian cinema. Despite that, you have Rajamouli garu, Tarak, Ram Charan, Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn promoting RRR aggressively in the Hindi market. It is because they know that Hindi is a virgin market when it comes to Tarak and Charan. I really wish that Ajith Kumar had made that extra effort to make inroads into the market. He could have come down here (Mumbai) and familiarized himself with the media, and the audience. It would have helped the business of Valimai in Hindi,” Akshaye Rathi, a film exhibitor and distributor, opined.
The elusiveness of Ajith is one of the appealing factors of his stardom in Tamil Nadu. The only place his fans can see him is on the big screen in cinema halls. But, the demi-god like popularity in one state maybe not be enough to sell tickets in another part of the country.
“For a Chhattisgarh native or a Sardar in Punjab or a Bihari in Bihar, Ajith is the guy who they occasionally see on Set Max. For them to go to the theatre and buy tickets on the day of release, there needs to be more awareness and euphoria on the ground level,” Akshaye added.
Pawan Kalyan is also now set to test his luck in the Hindi belt with his latest movie Bheemla Nayak, which has become a huge hit at the box office in the Telugu states. The Hindi version is due in cinemas on March 4.
What will Pawan Kalyan and his team do differently than Valimai to capture the attention of the audience in the north?