How will ‘Darbar’ fare at the box office?

The big-budget Rajinikanth-starrer is all set to hit screens. Will the Superstar’s cop act click with the audience?

Today is a big day for Rajinikanth. Darbar is his 167th movie in a career spanning nearly five decades. The movie comes at an important juncture in his life, especially when Rajinikanth is facing the heat from younger actors such as Vijay and Ajith Kumar, in his fiefdom — Tamil Nadu.

Exactly a year ago, Rajinikanth’s Petta clashed with Ajith’s Viswasam on Pongal. The trade was taken by surprise when Thala outdid Thalaivar, as far as the Tamil Nadu box-office was concerned. Though Petta was a hit, it would not have grossed as much as Bigil and Viswasam did in Tamil Nadu. Reports seem to suggest that today’s millennials are rooting for Vijay and Ajith — the reason why they are eating into Rajinkanth’s business.

A global phenomenon

It is at this point that Darbar is releasing. Rumoured to be made on a budget of ₹200 crore, Darbar is simultaneously releasing in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. If rumour mills are to be believed, Rajinikanth was paid a bomb for Darbar. The market buzz is that theatrical and digital rights have been sold for over ₹230 crore. Trade analysts indicate that most of the theatrical rights were sold on a minimum guarantee basis. According to the producers, the movie is releasing in over 7,000 screens worldwide. Darbar will face heavy competition from two Telugu movies, Sarileru Neekevvaru and Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, in the overseas market.

In Malaysia, the movie might face the threat of litigation from local distributors. Darbar’s business outside Tamil Nadu also looks dicey at the moment. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where Rajinikanth has a huge market, Darbar will clash with the Telugu entertainers. It has an edge over the other two Telugu releases, since Darbar is releasing on Thursday, while Sarileru Neekevvaru and Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo are releasing on Saturday and Sunday respectively. As far as the North is concerned, there are two movies releasing this week — Ajay Devgn’s period drama Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior and Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak. It must be noted that after 2.0, none of Rajinikanth’s movies have performed well in the Hindi belt.

The lone warrior

In Tamil Nadu, Darbar could not have got a better release date. It is the only movie releasing this week, followed by Dhanush’s Pattas, which is hitting screens next week. Rakesh Gowthaman of Vettri Theatre says, “Darbar’s advance booking is brisk and encouraging, but not in the same league as Bigil, where we were almost sold out for the opening week, when we opened the advance booking. However, the solo release is a huge advantage, and hopefully, if the content lives up to expectations, it can be a hit.” About its business, another exhibitor says: “The releases post-Deepavali were hugely disappointing. Now, the spotlight is on Darbar to revive the market. The trend among the audience is to wait and watch for the initial reports. Had there been competition, the pressure would have been much more than what it is.”

Darbar’s Tamil Nadu theatrical value is rumoured to be around ₹55 to 60 crore. A leading distributor says, “The onus is on Rajinikanth, as Darbar will have to match or better the business of Bigil and Viswasam in Tamil Nadu. Rajinikanth still has it in him, after all he is the Superstar. Darbar’s box-office performance will also decide the future of mass entertainers in 2020.”

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