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Club 100: Admit Two

As we motor on towards Diwali, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story continues to light up the box office with its crackling performance. With a three-week tally of Rs.118 crore (excluding dubbed versions) and counting, the film’s collections’ trajectory is not unlike that iconic innings that first brought the subject of this biopic to popular attention – M S Dhoni’s first international ton at Vishakhapatnam in April 2005, where he just refused to take his foot off the pedal even after crossing the coveted three-digit mark.

While the film’s success is not surprising given the huge and universal popularity of both the sport as well as the person it is based on, it would be unfair to suggest that these reasons are solely responsible for the numbers being clocked. After all, just a few months back, we witnessed the rather lackluster performance of another biopic on another iconic cricket captain, whose life story was arguably even more dramatic and had, on paper, fabulous cinematic potential.

So credit where it is due, to director Neeraj Pandey’s masterly curating of the vast reservoir of source material at this disposal and for pulling off the remarkable feat of keeping us engrossed and guessing in a story that we already knew the highlights of. And one really cannot laud enough the truly sensational performance of leading man, Sushant Singh Rajput. It is one thing to play a fictitious character or a figure from the ancient past for whom the audience really has no fixed reference point, and quite another to fill the boots of one of the most recognised people in the country whose image, body language and mannerisms are known to everyone and reinforced each day on mass media. In a film that has a run time of over three hours and features the central protagonist in virtually every scene, not once does the line separating the actor from his character ever become visible and that is a stupendous achievement indeed.

Kudos and congratulations to everyone associated with this memorable film and it is in the fitness of things that MS Dhoni: The Untold Story marks the first film to cross Rs.100 crore at the domestic box office for both Neeraj Pandey and Sushant Singh Rajput. To mark this occasion, here is the updated hall of fame for Hindi films, in the order of their month and year of release:

The Centurions 

Now that is one power-packed roster indeed! If you take the time to really study the table, a host of interesting insights become visible. For example, how we are yet to see a February or a March release breach the Rs.100-crore barrier, or how the month of June has been a pretty prolific one in delivering century makers in addition to the usual suspects – the Eid (July/August), Diwali (October/November) and Christmas (December) release windows.

However, coming back to the film of the moment, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, and the entry of its key architects – Neeraj Pandey and Sushant Singh Rajput – into Rs.100-crore club, let us focus on a pretty remarkable coincidence or trend.

Each year – bar 2009 which in any case saw only one film crossing the Rs.100-crore mark – we have had at least one film that achieves the coveted milestone, and in doing so, marks the first such instance for both the director as well as the leading man (or the leading lady in the case of a women-centric film). Such films are highlighted in the table above and surprisingly account for a healthy one-third of the entire list. Now that should be encouraging news for upcoming releases that do not have the luxury of featuring box-office centurions in their key cast and crew.

On another optimistic note, perhaps we can dare to dream of 2016 emerging as the year that delivered the maximum Rs.100-crore films. While we are only half way there yet, we could potentially double the tally with films like Shivaay, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Dear Zindagi, Befikre, and Dangal and a bunch of franchise properties waiting in the wings.

It’s a tough ask, but for inspiration on the art of finishing, we need look no further than Captain Cool, Mahendra Singh Dhoni!

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