Given the lacklustre journey of Bollywood in the first half of 2015, a remunerative miracle at the box office is much-awaited. All eyes are on Salman Khan's Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which deals with Indo-Pak relations, to break the dry spell, say trade analysts. With only two films - Tanu Weds Manu Returns and ABCD 2 - crossing the Rs 100 crore mark in Hindi cinema in 2015 so far, expectations are high from this Kabir Khan directorial which is set to hit the screens on July 17.
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What's interesting is that the movie releases with a U/A certificate a day before Eid, an occasion which has always reaped gold for Salman at the box office, proven by the success of films like Kick, Ek Tha Tiger, Bodyguard, Dabangg and Wanted. "Expectations from Bajrangi Bhaijaan are really huge. We are hoping that it may cross Rs 300 crore. Pre-booking of the film has been fantastic, " Delhi-based film distributor Joginder Mahajan told IANS.
Releasing on more than 5, 000 screens across 50 countries, including the US, Britain, Pakistan and Australia, Bajrangi Bhaijaan also stars Kareena Kapoor Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in pivotal roles. The film is a story of a man discovering love during a journey from India to Pakistan, as he takes a deaf and mute girl back to her country. According to Devang Sampat, business head, strategy, Cinepolis (a theatre chain), the anticipation from Bajrangi Bhaijaan is "humongous and the opening will be as grand as it could get".
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"Right from the time when the teaser was released till the cusp of the release date, the buzz has been getting stronger and stronger. The film is expected to outperform Salman's previous releases and may make a box office record of Rs 300 crore plus numbers, " Sampat told IANS.
He added that more than 70 per cent seats are booked and he is confident that the opening weekend will go houseful for the movie. "Eid and Salman have been a lethal combination, " Sampat told IANS . Another trade expert, Mumbai-based Rajesh Thadani, also said, 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan will break Salman's earlier records."
Currently, SS Rajamouli's southern magnum opus Baahubali: The Beginning is breaking all Indian box office records. But it's success won't impact Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which co-incidentally has been written by Rajamouli's father KV Vijayendra Prasad, who also penned Baahubali, pointed out experts.
"Overseas too, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is releasing on a record number of screens. The Baahubali competition is there, but Salman has a big fan following overseas, " Thadani said.
"Nothing can stop Salman from taking an opening, and that too on Eid. Both movies can survive and perform at the box office. Salman has been a hero of the masses. It's a given that the film will work in tier-II and tier-III towns, " added Sampat.
However, the only place where the film might face some trouble is the national capital, where the state government has hiked the entertainment tax. "It's sad that the Delhi government is increasing the entertainment tax from 20 per cent to 40 per cent. Whenever there is a hike in entertainment tax, people skip going to cinema halls. But the business of the film will be huge pan-India, " Mahajan said.
Till now, Bajrangi Bhaijaan is riding on word-of-mouth publicity, and Salman's friends in the industry, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, did their bit by publicising the first look of the film on Twitter. It now remains to be seen whetherDabangg Khan is able to spin his magic on the pious occasion of Eid once again or not.