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The stage is set (or so one hopes) for the first of the big guns of 2018 to come out blazing in a few days from now, with Padmaavat releasing on Thursday, January 25.

It has been a long and tortuous road for the beleaguered Padmaavat to keep its tryst with cinema halls –from vandalism on its sets to horrific threats by lumpen elements, to even state governments stalling the film’s originally scheduled release on December 1, 2017,  on the basis of mere speculation about the film’s content.

The drama did not end even after the film announced its new release date upon receiving its Censor certificate. Multiple state governments announced a ban on the film in their respective jurisdictions, a decision that seemed not only unfathomable but also unconstitutional, with the Censor Board having cleared the film as fit for exhibition.

It is a different story that the said Censor clearance came after the film had to be shown to an extended panel of ‘interested parties’ and with a ‘suggestion’ to make alterations to the film’s title. In our strongly-held opinion, there was no need for the film to be subject to any of these stipulations beyond the mandatory certification process.

As has unfortunately become the norm in our country, it required judicial intervention at the highest level to correct the acts of commission and omission by the executive. On Thursday, January 18, the Honourable Supreme Court struck down the state governments’ ban in unequivocal terms. With the highest court in the land having spoken, one hopes that Padmaavat will finally face the only reaction, opinion and judgment that really matters to a film – that of the bona fide ticket-buying audience.

And as a legitimate, tax-paying industry in a democratic country, one expects that the powers-that-be at all levels will ensure that the film, and the theatres exhibiting it, face no problems whatsoever in welcoming the audience to experience it.

As small compensation for all the trials and tribulations that the film has been through, Padmaavat can draw comfort from the positives surrounding its release window. First off, with Friday (January 26) being a national holiday to commemorate Republic Day, the film will seek to maximise the opportunities offered by the extended weekend. What Padmaavat will also hope to benefit from is the recent phenomenon of the Republic Day weekend gaining traction as an attractive release window.

Outside of the Big 3 (Christmas, Eid and Diwali weekends), the last few years have also seen the emergence of a few other favourable release windows that are more bankable than most weekends. Among these are the first weekend of June following the conclusion of the annual Indian Premier League (IPL) tourney, and the Independence Day and Republic Day weekends.

Check out the table below that traces the growing importance of the Republic Day weekend in the course of the last decade:

Republic Day Parade: 2009-2017

Year Republic Day Weekend Release/s Cumulative Domestic NBOC
2009 Raaz: The Mystery Continues Rs 30 crore
2010 Veer Rs 40 crore
2011 Dhobi Ghat Rs 30 crore
2012 Agneepath Rs 133 crore
2013 Race 2 Rs 96 crore
2014 Jai Ho Rs 110 crore
2015 Baby, Dolly Ki Doli Rs 100 crore
2016 Airlift, Kya Kool Hain Hum 3 Rs 150 crore
2017 Raees, Kaabil Rs 224 crore

 

The data quite emphatically brings across the rising stature of the Republic Day weekend – both in terms of the collections it yields as also the profile of the films that release during it.

The inflection point, very apparently, is the smashing success of the Agneepath remake following its release on January 26, 2012, from where it went on to become the 10th Hindi film to go past Rs 100 crore at the domestic box office and (at that time) only the 3rd film (after Ready and Singham) to achieve that landmark without releasing on a Christmas, Eid or Diwali weekend.

Post Agneepath’s 2012 breakthrough, the Republic Day weekend has yielded at least one film in each subsequent year that has gone on to net over Rs 75 crore domestically, and three more centurions (Jai Ho, Airlift and Raees) – which is a track record that not many other weeks can boast of.

Not surprisingly, the most productive Republic Day weekend till date was last year’s, that saw two high-profile releases, Raees and Kaabil, with both going on to record more-than-decent numbers.

A similar high-octane clash has been averted this year at the the proverbial last minute with Pad Man’s decision to shift its release date to February 9. However, there is every chance that with all the heightened anticipation around Padmaavat, last year’s numbers could well be bettered, thereby adding further heft to this release window’s growing momentum.

But while there may be no doubts about the box-office potential of the Republic Day weekend, l’affaire Padmaavat has unfortunately cast a question mark over the very reason we celebrate Republic Day – the freedoms guaranteed to us as citizens by the Indian Constitution that came into force on January 26, 1950.

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