Why SRK's Fan and Raees will suffer like Dilwale

He continues playing himself or a character from the Bollywood universe.

 |  5-minute read |   09-01-2016
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I had written an article titled Shah Rukh Khan's career is now officially over. While it was expectedly trashed by the superstar's fans (I was one of them in the past and will still be if he starts making meaningful movies again), they are still missing the basic points of the whole issue.

Domestic box office is the foundation of the Khan skyscraper

The most common refrain is that how a movie which has a worldwide gross in excess of Rs 300 crore can be called a flop by any stretch of imagination. Again that's basic business. If you spend Rs 100 crore and get back Rs 110 crore, it's profit.

If you spend Rs 1,000 crore and get back Rs 900 crore, it's a loss. It's the top line and not the bottom line, stupid! There is still a couple of weeks for Dilwale to make more money but it is heading for SRK's biggest-ever loss for distributors. It's been unprecedented for him, at least.

The system is such that every Khan movie makes a profit for the producers even before it is released. If they released a documentary instead of the actual movie, then they'd still be laughing all the way to the bank. That's because there's the domestic box office, foreign box office, music rights, satellite TV rights and brand promotions and placements.

Also read: Big stars like SRK and big-budget films like Bombay Velvet were biggest losers of 2015

But here's the thing. The foundation for the Khan skyscraper is based on the domestic box office. That's the key. If that does well then so does everything else. If that collapses, so does everything else.

With the way Dilwale has bombed, it is doubtful that India distributors will pay such a high premium for his next movie - that too for an unusual topic like Fan, releasing April 15, 2016. That can have a domino effect on all the other rights. There is just too much at stake for the brand empire.

No brand lasts forever

This morning, the top Twitter trend was #SRKFastest2000crInIndia. There was no corresponding spike in Dilwale ticket sales (they continued to plummet) even as Bajirao Mastani marched ahead.

Also read: Bajirao Mastani vs Dilwale: Clash of two cultures

The #BoycottDilwale campaign did result in declining ticket sales. Artificially created/fake/paid trends are no match to actual trends. In the era of mainstream media, you could control a few media houses and create a buzz for 10 days and make your money.

Not anymore, where a few hours on Twitter can make or break you. The SRK brandwagon will be on the tenterhooks and can't take it easy with the release of his next films. SRK has been diluting his brand for years now and it was a matter of time it all caught up with him.

Lehmann Brothers was a 150+ year old company which showed profits for 55 straight quarters. After just one bad quarter it folded up permanently! That's what happens when the stakes are so high.

Every Khan film is like a Rs 500-crore global industry, the Rs 100 crore club is already a thing of the ancient past.

SRK's financial woes can also bring him down

Amitabh Bachchan's fall had to do not only with his choice of bad films, but with the declining fortunes of Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd (ABCL). Sanjay Dutt's career saw a huge pause with his arrest and now he will have to build from scratch when he comes out.

If Salman Khan gets a conviction from the Supreme Court in the hit-and-run case, then it's curtains for him too.

Have you heard of Rose Valley Chairman Gautam Kundu? Previously, he had a share in SRK's Kolkata Knight Riders (the IPL team). Kundu was arrested some time ago.

Also read: A #FanGirl tells SRK why he needs to stick to love

SRK has been receiving notices from the finance ministry's Enforcement Directorate and he was eventually grilled for the same shares. The foreign exchange violation sum has being touted at a huge Rs 100 crore.

Now let's come to the point as to why SRK's Fan and Raees are still quite risky.

He is seen in a totally different look in Fan and the audiences will either love him or hate him. But more than that, SRK continues playing himself (directly or indirectly) or a character from the Bollywood universe like Om Shanti Om (2007) and Billu (2009). 

The #BoycottDilwale gang said that they would go all the way up to Aamir Khan's #BoycottDangal in December 2016. Both Fan and Raees fall in between.

Also read: An old SRK, and Alia Bhatt: Why Bollywood male leads must retire

Raees seems even more risky. Here's why:

1. It features a Muslim underworld don with an all-Muslim star cast. (Dons are no longer cool in India's new climate.)

2. It is based in Gujarat. (The state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi)

3. It has a Pakistani heroine, Mahira Khan (her name reportedly will come first in the credits).

I think you can already see how it's going to touch a raw nerve in the entire Hindutva brigade and #BoycottDilwale gang. Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has already struck first blood by preventing Mahira's Pakistani film Bin Roye (2015) from being released in Maharashtra. How will they react to her in Raees?

In fact, another problem is that this film was to be a spectacular Eid clash with Salman Khan's Sultan. But after losing to Bajirao Mastani, SRK is already, reportedly, having second thoughts.

Also read: How Salman Khan became the boss of single screens

Post script:

Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar and Anil Kapoor went from main being the main hero to senior statesman quite comfortably. Dev Anand died young, but from the 1980s, he would only produce small-budget movies for himself which didn't make losses.

From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Rajesh Khanna could do no wrong. Then he suddenly lost it all somehow and till the 1980s, would have a number of flops with a few hits thrown in between. Amitabh's empire came crashing down in the late 1990s. He went bankrupt and revived himself only after he totally re-invented himself.

2016 could well make or break him!

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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