When Ranbir Kapoor appeared on screens after four years in Karan Malhotra's 'Shamshera', that too along with the flawed star he played in the blockbuster 'Sanju', audience expectations were sky high. But at the end of its first week on a record 5,250 screens worldwide, it has not even been able to surpass a collection of Rs 40 crore.
And it seems to have not much of a chance, thanks to the pincer attack of the John Abraham-Arjun Kapoor-starrer 'Ek Villain Returns', which is expected to wrap up its first weekend with Rs 24 crore, according to the trade media, and Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep-led 3D film 'Vikrant Rona', which has garnered Rs 37-38 crore.
For Ranbir, who's now better known as 'Mr Alia Bhatt', 'Shamshera' is the sixth flop of his career, starting with his debut film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 'Saawariya' (2007), but for the banner behind the Rs 150-crore period action drama, Yash Raj Films (YRF), it will be the fourth flop in succession.
The production house, whose brand name carries the imprimatur of one of the most successful hitmakers, Yash Chopra, and is helmed by the late producer-director's son, Aditya Chopra, has had a bad run ever since Siddhant Chaturvedi's 'Bunty Aur Babli 2' (despite the appearance of one of the original hit's stars -- Rani Mukherjee -- with Saif Ali Khan), released on November 19, 2021, could net a measly Rs 12 crore (gross collection less taxes), according to 'Box Office India..
That is a little more than a quarter of the film's budget -- Rs 45 crore.
Adding insult to injury, in a year when dubbed southern films are making cash as if it is going out of fashion, Ranveer Singh's
'Jayeshbhai Jordaar', released on May 13 this year, could net just Rs 16.6 crore, against a budget of Rs 90 crore.
This was Ranveer's second screen debacle after the much-hyped Cricket World Cup 1983 drama, '83', where the actor essayed Kapil Dev, the captain of the victorious Indian team.
Then came what was to be the film that would equal, if not beat, Vivek Agnihotri's 'The Kashmir Files' because it was to appeal to the same constituency -- 'Samrat Prithviraj'. Its lead actor is the pre-Covid hit machine, Akshay Kumar, who was fresh from the middling success of 'Sooryavanshi', it was supported by the leading lights of the BJP, and its script, according to its maker Chandraprakash Dwivedi, was in the making for 18 years.
Clearly, the audiences did not relate with a ruler in the distant past, even if he had been elevated to the rank of a 'Samrat', who ended up losing to a foreign invader. In the post-Covid world, they were looking for heroes with the brawn and heft of the characters played by Ram Charan and Jr NTR in 'RRR' -- heroes who took on the mightiest empire of their time and won.
'Samrat Prithviraj', despite being made tax free in three states, has netted Rs 68 crore since its release on June 3 this year. Its budget? Rs 150 crore.
Not that YRF isn't used to its films failing, but it must be remembered that out of its filmography of 65 releases, starting with the Anil Kapoor-Sridevi-starrer 'Lamhe' (1991), 11 have been blockbusters, including the iconic 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge', which launched Aditya Chopra as the new hitmaker, and 'Dhoom 3', 13 have been hits or superhits, and seven semi-hits, according to Box Office India data.
Still, compared with 31 blockbusters to semi-hits, YRF has logged 34 'flops' or 'disasters'. Let us crunch the numbers a little more and focus only on the time after the passing of Yash Chopra in 2012.
Our analysis indicates 14 out of the 29 films released from 2012 onwards were in the 'disaster', 'flop' or 'below average' zones, but YRF also rolled out five blockbusters -- 'War' (released ironically on Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary in 2019; Rs 292 crore); 'Tiger Zinda Hai' (2017; Rs 339 crore); 'Sultan' (2016; Rs 301 crore); 'Dhoom 3' (2013; 261 crore); and last, 'Ek Tha Tiger' (2012; Rs 186 crore). All the earnings cited here are net collections, not inflation adjusted, listed on the Box Office India website.
What should get YRF worried, however, is that it has not had a single hit since 'War'. Before its post-Covid disastrous run, the last half-way decent success was the Rani Mukherjee-led 'Mardaani 2', a low-budget film with a relatively known cast.
It must be making Aditya Chopra nostalgic about the banner's humongously successful run between 1993 and 2000 with 'Darr' (1993), 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' (1995), 'Dil To Pagal Hai' (1997) and 'Mohabbatein' (2000).
Of these, of course, the unforgettable SRK-Kajol star vehicle, 'DDLJ', has made an inflation-adjusted net collection of Rs 461.33 crore, making it the fourth highest-earning Hindi film of all time after 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun', 'Baahubali 2: The Conclusion' and 'Gadar: Ek Prem Katha'.
It is said that it was SRK who revived Yash Chopra's fortunes with 'Darr' and 'DDLJ'. Will his magic work all over again for the banner with 'Pathaan'? For the answer, we'll have to wait for January 25, 2023.