'Darbar expected to be one of the biggest hits in Rajinikanth 's career'
While Rajinikanth's last Pongal release, Petta (2018), got a little over 3,400 screens across the world, Darbar will be getting a release in 7,000+ screens
Rajinikanth’s next film, Darbar, which is getting a release on Thursday, is set to be the Superstar's biggest festival release in quite some time. Notably, Darbar is the first Pongal release this year and has a free run till Dhanush-starrer Pattas, which is releasing on 16 January.
The AR Murugadoss-directorial also stars a host of Hindi actors and a big Bollywood name in Suneil Shetty, with an aim to make its presence felt in the Hindi belt. While Rajinikanth's last Pongal release, Petta (2018), got a little over 3,400 screens across the world, Darbar will be getting a release in 7,000+ screens. As a point of comparison, one of the biggest Indian films, Baahubali 2, got 9,000 screens across the world.
R Kannan, chief operating officer of Lyca Productions, which is bankrolling and releasing Darbar, says that the cop drama, rumoured to be made on a budget of Rs 200 crores, is also slated for release in small centres where Tamil films have not been released so far. "We are releasing Darbar in 4,000 screens in India alone. The overseas market will account for another 3,000 screens approximately. This will also include some usually overlooked minor islands. Our goal is to reach out to as many people as possible,” he says.
Kannan also adds that Darbar's marketing investment is one of the highest ever in Tamil cinema. "We are spending nearly Rs 8 crores to promote the film, as we are expecting the biggest ever hit in Rajini sir's career," he says.
Nearly 15 big brands such as SpiceJet, Cadbury’s, BookMyShow and Airtel have partnered up with Darbar. "This should work big time for the last-minute promotions," Kannan says. Four SpiceJet domestic flights are being flown with the movie livery as part of branding for the film. A limited-edition Darbar-branded Airtel SIM cards, replete with special offers, has also been launched.
Veteran distributor Tirupur Subramaniam predicts a phenomenal opening for Darbar because of many factors. "It's a solo release, so there won't be any other film eating into its collections. Also, it's been almost three weeks since we had an interesting release in Tamil. Though Hero and Thambi opened decently, they fizzled out soon. Also, there have been hardly any films to bring the family audience to the theatres in the last two months," he says. Subramaniam also sees this strategy of releasing the film on a weekday, ahead of the Pongal holidays, as a smart move. "The fans have made sure that 95 per cent of the first day's shows are full and the families will start filling the screens from Saturday. The Friday in between also won't see a major dip in the collection as most of the theatres have opted to avoid special shows and go with the regular schedules that day," he adds.
Vettri Theatres owner Rakesh Gowthaman, however, feels that the early release date (five days ahead of Pongal) might have taken a toll on the advance bookings as the reservations, he says, though on par for a Rajini film, is still lesser than that of last year's Petta. "The rivalry with Viswasam worked in Petta's favour, as fans competed with each other to make bookings. As it is a solo release, Darbar is getting screened in small theatres in some interior areas. Perhaps this may have affected the pre-booking in city theatres. Having said that, Darbar's booking is still better than 2.0 and Kaala," he says.
GK Cinemas owner Ruben also agrees with Rakesh that the buzz for Darbar is a bit on the lower side so far. "Last Pongal, the festival buzz was high as two biggies hit the screens simultaneously and everyone wanted to watch both. But considering that Darbar is getting a wide, solo release, people don't seem to be in a mad rush. However, I predict the opening numbers to be bigger than that of Petta. The ten-day extended weekend (January 9-19) window will definitely help the film to score big," he says. Ruben also adds that the advance bookings are filling up fast until Sunday. "There won't be a lull even on Friday. If the movie is good, there might not be a slight dip in the numbers just before Pongal," he says.
Meanwhile, amid reports of a ban on special early-morning shows, the police have recently clarified that it is entirely up to the government to issue permission for a special show. The theatre owners, however, say that things aren't clear yet. While most fans are positive about 4 am shows being allowed in the last minute (with Mayajaal already selling tickets for the show), some fans in Krishnagiri, where permission for the early morning show, was recently denied have notably approached the district collector seeking permission to allow a helicopter to shower flowers on the theatre for the first show.
Trade analyst Atul Mohan, who tracks box office numbers in North India, says that the film's advance booking while being great for the Tamil version, will begin only today for the Hindi version. "Reliance is distributing Darbar in all of India, except Tamil Nadu. First, they had plans to release in 800 to 900 screens, but after several small single screens evinced interest in showing the film, it's now being released in 1,400 to 1,500 screens. As Darbar is getting a release a day before Tanhaji and Chhappak, the film will be screened in an additional 500 screens on the opening day (January 9), which will add to the collections. The opening numbers are expected to be better than many of the recent Rajinikanth films because of the Mumbai setting and the presence of Suneil Shetty," he says.
(With inputs from Navein Darshan and Ashameera Aiyappan)