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A BIG BLOW

Bollywood’s biggest superstar’s got nothing on Batman

Premiere for the film "The Batman", in New York City
Overtaking Big B.
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There’s nothing quite like a superhero movie to pull audiences into theatres—and this weekend’s Indian box office proves it.

On one end, veteran superstar Amitabh Bachchan came on the silver screen with a mission to turn slum kids into professional footballers in Jhund. On the other, there was Robert Pattinson’s darker, grittier The Batman, which have some calling him the “best Batman” ever.

On the day of release (March 4), Jhund earned a meagre Rs1.5 crore($195,034). The Batman, meanwhile, amassed Rs6 crore. At the end of the first weekend, Jhund had breached the Rs4 crore mark, while The Batman sprinted ahead to Rs21 crore.

Superhero movies win at the box office

While The Batman‘s collection was nowhere near Marvel’s December release, Spiderman: No Way Home—Rs32.67 crore on the first day in India—it still crushed Bachchan’s film. This, once again, proves that superhero movies are the real heroes of the post-covid cinema era.

Superhero movies, be it Marvel or DC, tend to work. Especially the older superheroes who are able to tap into nostalgia and create new fandom. Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works but loyal fans, most of them fully vaccinated, have been itching to get back into theatres.

Plus, the movie was released in Hindi, English, Tamil, and Telugu, to reach a wider audience.

Why Jhund isn’t working

For Nagraj Manjule, the director of acclaimed Marathi language social dramas Sairat and FandryJhund is his first Hindi outing. Big B’s face on the movie’s poster stoked curiosity at first, but the hype fizzled out.

For one, the sports biopic has been severely delayed from an initial late 2019 release to now, owing to legal roadblocks and the pandemic. Besides, at three hours, it’s long—it has fewer shows, and not properly staggered. Moreover, Bachchan is largely missing from the second half of the film, which focusses on new actors playing slum kids.

It’s worked a little in Maharashtra—where Manjule hails from and where the film is based—but hardly at all elsewhere.

While Jhund disappoints, Bollywood hasn’t entirely lost the fight to Hollywood. Alia Bhatt-starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi is putting up a solid fight at the box office.

Gangubhai Kathiawadi

tops box office collections

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s spectacle about Ganga’s rise from a demure small-town girl who’s forcefully sold off to a brothel, to the queen of Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red-light district, is inching towards the Rs100 crore club.

With theatres finally operating at 100% occupancy, more promising large-scale Indian movies are on their way. There’s the Prabhas and Pooja Hegde-starrer Radhe Shyam this Friday, and Akshay Kumar’s Bachchan Pandey a week later. Before March ends, the star-studded RRR, made by SS Rajamouli of Baahubali fame, will also hit the screens.

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