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Kangaroos And Kiwis

It is not just their child-carrying sacs or their hopping skills that make the kangaroo a rather unique creature. At birth, these animals are merely an inch in size and weigh just about a couple of grams, yet adult males can attain a height of over five feet and weigh in excess of 80 kilograms. For the mathematically inclined, that’s an almost 100,000-fold increase over their weight at birth.

In contrast, the Australian kangaroo’s trans-Tasman Sea neighbour, the kiwi bird native to New Zealand, multiplies its body weight just about four times from infancy to adulthood. In this regard, we humans are closer to the kiwi than the kangaroo – typically gaining 15-20 times our birth weight over the course of our lives.

As regular readers of this page would have probably guessed by now, this recounting of zoological facts is merely a lead-in to what really matters to the patrons of this publication – the Indian box office and the trends therein!

What we are discussing this week is a similar contrast in the ultimate size of various films compared to the scale of their respective openings. To do so, we are looking at the ratio between the day one and lifetime collections of all Hindi films released over the course of the last decade, to see which ones went the kangaroo way i.e. multiplied their debut numbers manifold, and which ones grew only marginally a la the kiwi.

Check out the table below that lists the 25 films that emerged at the top of this analysis as also those at the bottom of the pile. Please note that only films with a lifetime business of over `25 crore at the domestic box office were considered for this study. 

*Still running. Collections as of March 14, 2019

It is an easy table to read: this year’s smash hit URI: The Surgical Strike, for example, not only had a decent opening day of `7.8 crore at the domestic box office, it also went on to multiply that start by an impressive 30 times en route to its lifetime collections of over `232 crore. In contrast, another recent centurion, GOLD, could only slightly more than quadruple its day one of almost `23 crore.   

Somewhat surprisingly, the top spot is taken – and by a large margin at that – by the Hindi version of the 2014 animated film, Chaar Sahibzaade, that was able to multiply its opening day collections by an astounding 150 times. What may not be as unexpected is last Diwali’s disappointing Thugs Of Hindostan taking the wooden spoon – being unable to even triple its day one takings.

That said, we need to be mindful that in both these cases, perhaps the multiples are a tad distorted and seem better or worse than they really are because of the unusual opening numbers recorded by both films – Chaar Sahibzaade had a miniscule day one while Thugs Of Hindostaan registered the highest opening day ever. It is also pertinent to note that a low multiple, as illustrated in the right half of the chart, doesn’t necessarily mean that the film in question failed at the box office.  

However, the general theme that comes across quite visibly in the data is that films strong on content – Queen, AndhaDhun, Hindi Medium, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Vicky Donor, Kahaani, Stree, Badhaai Ho, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Neerja, Pink, Raazi et al – are the ones that are able to maximise their opening potential. While for some films this is primarily because they start slow because of lack of ‘face value’ and then pick up steam as word-of-mouth spreads, it is also true for star-led films with substantial openings – as demonstrated by 3 Idiots and Padmaavat.  On the other hand, films with low multiples are typically those whose content was rejected by the audience and, again, this generally holds true irrespective of whether a film has a gigantic opening or an average one.  

So ultimately, like much else in our business of late, it all boils down to the quality of content. Get that right and your film can defy expectations – much like a kangaroo that can leap up to 30 feet, which is five-six times its average height. Fail that test and your film is relegated to the fate of the kiwi, a bird that cannot fly.


- Nitin Tej Ahuja

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