Has Neeraj Pandey fallen out with Akshay Kumar?
The filmmaker, an erstwhile friend and business partner of the actor, is said to be deliberately taking on Pad Man at the box office with his Aiyaary
While December 2017 was dominated by Tiger Zinda Hai and to a lesser extent by Fukrey Returns, there are no other major Hindi releases until the middle of January 2018. This is bad news for Bollywood, and a great opportunity for the big Hollywood releases like The Greatest Showman and Jumanji 2 to find their feet at the Indian box office.
Trade experts say this famine of new Hindi releases is a direct consequence of Padmavati being pushed out of the release zone.
A normal flow of releases will begin only in the middle of January when on January 12, director Akshat Verma's Kaalakaandi and Anurag Kashyap's Mukkabaaz, two long-delayed dark tales of vigour and humour get released together.
But the actual battle at the box office in 2018 begins on January 26 when, for the slot now owned by Akshay Kumar (he ensures his films are released for Republic day or Independence Day or both every year), the actor's erstwhile friend and business partner Neeraj Pandey makes a claim with his release Aiyaary.
A trade insider who wants to remain unnamed says this is a deliberate attempt to take on Akshay. "Neeraj Pandey is very much aware that Akshay's Pad Man is releasing on January 26. He still went ahead with the same date for release of his film because the two have fallen out over financial issues. Their proposed fourth film together Crack which was to be made and released on Independence Day, has also been shelved."
Will Aiyaary be able to take on the mighty Akshay Kumar? Chances, say trade pundits, are bleak. Akshay's reputation as the hero of the masses has already generated massive interest in Pad Man whereas Aiyaary with Sidharth Malhotra, who hasn't had a hit in a long time, and Manoj Bajpayee, a brilliant actor with no box office clout, stands a distant second in terms of audience appeal.