I was going to come up with something clever, but now, simple is best. Every male star in every industry is struggling to make a decent box office, and Alia and the Savatri biopic sweep in and break records without breaking a sweat. (as always, figures from renttrack by way of bollywoodhungama)
Raazi made $6,500 per screen in America on 110 screens, $5,669 per screen on 19 screens in Canada, $2,100 per screen on 63 screens and NUMBER 9 AT THE BOX OFFICE in the UK, $5,000 per screen in Australia, $5,000 per screen in New Zealand, $18,000 per screen in Malaysia, and $550 per screen in Germany.
(Check out how much Alia looks like her mother! Speaking of female power, how often do we see a mother and daughter onscreen together?)
Now, this isn’t the most impressive record breaking showing ever. But let’s compare it with Judwaa 2, starring the other big successful Karan Johar protege. Judwaa made only $2,600 per screen on 192 screens, for a smaller total than Alia got on only 110 screens. Same per screen in Canada, slightly more per screen in the UK but only number 11 at the box office, $9,000 per screen in Australia, $8,500 in New Zealand, only $15,000 in Malaysia and didn’t release in Germany.
So, Alia did much much better in America, better in Malaysia and Germany, the same in Canada, worse in Australia and New Zealand. This fits with general tastes for the different regions, Varun’s silly comedy with fight scenes would work for Australian and New Zealand audiences better than Alia’s tense spy drama. But much worse for the American audience that generally likes something a little meatier.
And don’t forget to consider the ad campaign too! Judwaa was estimated to have an overall 80 crore budget, 15 crore of that to promotions. Raazi figures aren’t available, but words like “shoestring” are being thrown around to describe its budget. Dharma promoted Raazi a decent amount, they had faith in the film, that’s clear. But it was nothing close to the inescapable never ending promotions of Judwaa. Which means both that Raazi did better with fewer advantages, and that it’s profits are a lot more profitable.
So, what have we learned? We have learned that women are better than men. Sort of. To put it more accurately, a film with a female lead is assumed to also need a strong script, director, concept, performances, soundtrack, and all the rest of it. While a film with a male lead is assumed to not need anything else besides the star, leading to much worse films.
The key is for there to be enough faith in the female star to give a decent release and promotion (unlike those sad little movies that sneak out hardly noticed by anyone like Angry Indian Goddesses), but not so much that the promotions go out of control and the script is forgotten.
Which brings me to Mahanati!!!! Kind of but not really the same thing. In this case, the script isn’t great, and the promotions were absolutely out of control. However, the whole concept of the film is a sentimental love for a female movie star. A dead woman is the biggest star involved. And the box office is bigger than it has been for any live man lately, $5,800 per screen in America, $4,500 per screen in Canada (Canada!!!! New market!), $2,500 per screen in the UK (another new market!), $8,000 per screen in Australia (!!!!!), $4,250 per screen in New Zealand (I have no more exclamation points to give).
In this case, a woman is better because a woman is bigger. In order to earn this film, she had to be 3 times the star than the piddling little men we have now, your Allu Arjuns and even your later day Chiranjeevis. I didn’t like the movie, and I didn’t like the stuff they changed about Savatri’s life, but they certainly didn’t exaggerate anything. If anything, they made her smaller than she was in real life. She was a star in multiple industries in hundreds of films working from age 15 to her death. She made 264 movies, to Gemini Ganesans 174 in the same time period. She worked in 6 languages to Gemini’s 3. There is no male star to compare to her, because no male star ever had to work that hard to be recognized.
(Still think this song is ridiculously triumphal though. Way way too much for any movie star, even the biggest one ever)
That’s the ultimate lesson I am getting this week. Power leads to laziness. Male stars have the power, and it makes them lazy. The movies are just not as good, and the stars aren’t as beloved. Because they don’t think they have to work any more. Women, they are better because they KNOW they have to work for it.