Bajrangi Bhaijaan proves Salman Khan is Bollywood’s most lucrative star—despite the courtroom drama

Bigger every Eid.
Bigger every Eid.
Image: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
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Nothing comes between Salman Khan and record-breaking box-office numbers when it comes to his Eid releases—not even an ongoing court trial.

The Bollywood actor’s latest film, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, has become the fastest Bollywood film to earn Rs100 crore at the box office within India. In the first three days of its release—or the opening weekend—the film collected Rs102.60 crore.

A little over two months ago, the 49-year-old actor was sentenced by a lower court to a five-year-long jail term in a 2002 hit-and-run case, which left one homeless person dead and four others injured. He was charged for culpable homicide.

Two days later, the Bombay high court, however, had suspended the convicted Bollywood superstar’s jail sentence, pending his appeal. He has been out on bail since.

Film analysts, however, didn’t expect the court case to weigh on the star’s appeal. Komal Nahta told Quartz in May that for Khan, ”the timing is going to be 100% in his favour. Whenever a court case is on, the wave always goes in favour of the star.”

And as far as Bajrangi Bhaijaan is concerned, that’s certainly been true. This is Khan’s eighth film to touch the elite Rs100 crore benchmark in India—the highest number for any Bollywood actor.

The film portrays Khan as a kind-hearted Lord Hanuman devotee who helps a mute girl return to her hometown in Pakistan. The film also stars Kareena Kapoor-Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and child actor Harshaali Malhotra.

Khan’s date with Eid

Khan was at one of the lowest points in his career when his 2009 film, Wanted, showcased the star as an action hero. The film was released during the end of Ramadan, but collections picked up two days later on Eid, and the film went on to become a blockbuster.

After Wanted, Khan delivered a slew of flops, including Main Aur Mrs Khanna, London Dreams and Veer. He bounced back with another super hit, Dabangg, in 2010—again releasing on Eid that year. Dabangg—a debut film for director Abhinav Kashyap and actor Sonakshi Sinha—saw Khan as a magnanimous cop in Uttar Pradesh. Just like Wanted, the action sequences in the film showed him as an insurmountable hero.   

His appeal as an action hero wasn’t merely limited to urban multiplexes, with thousands of fans swarming countless single-screen theatres across the country. Consequently, he stuck with his formula of releasing films on or around Eid.

In 2011, he acted in Bodyguard, followed by Ek Tha Tiger in 2012, Kick in 2014 and Bajrangi Bhaijaan in 2015. All the roles—whether that of a bodyguard or a super spy—had their share of action scenes.

In 2013, however, Shah Rukh Khan grabbed the Eid release date for his film, Chennai Express, that went on to become a blockbuster. That year no Salman Khan film was released.

Salman Khan’s Jai Ho—which wasn’t ready in time for the Eid of 2013—released on Republic Day of the following year, and flopped at the box office. ”I think the release time of January (was not good). That time schools start, everyone is just out from holiday mood,” the actor later said.

So far, the two Khan forces of Bollywood have not collided. But in 2016, Shah Rukh Khan has decided to release his Raees along with Salman Khan’s Sultan on Eid.