“It was Rakesh Roshan’s 50-minute screening that changed the equation “

By Manishaa R

There have been clashes of two formidable films in the history of Indian cinema but the clash between the Shah Rukh Khan starrer, Raees and the Hrithik Roshan starrer, Kaabil, is one that will be remembered by the trade forever. The mammoth battle for screens between the two films and their makers, witnessed action and drama till the very last minute even as exhibitors and cinema owners, found themselves at the receiving end. For a week until the release of the film, it looked like the distributors of Raees had managed to rope in a record number of theatres for the film, with the promise of Baahubali 2, the epic historical. Apparently the biggest advantage the Raees distributor had was the fact that he also had the rights of Baahubali 2, which is the big release this year. However the scheme of things took a turn when producer Rakesh Roshan organized a 50-minute screening of his film for the top exhibitors in the trade. According to Kalapi Nagada of Cinekorn Entertainment, it was this screening that changed the exhibitors’ point of view and got them to reconsider their stance. “It was a precedent of sorts because no other producer had done it before. It was this 50-minute footage of Kaabil that changed the perception of exhibitors. They were thrilled with what they saw and it gave them the confidence to justify the film. They then went about ensuring that the two films got a good number of shows,” Mr Kalapi recently revealed.

Kalapi, who is releasing a Hrithik Roshan starrer for the first time, admits that he opted for the rights of Kaabil, solely because it was produced by veteran filmmaker Rakesh Roshan, “It is not the star appeal but the banner that counts. Hrithik undoubtedly has a great following but we opted for the film because of the story and conviction of the Film Kraft banner. We were convinced from day one that Kaabil was a content-driven film,” he said.

Kalapi who had had last released the Akshay starrer, Rustom against Hrithik Roshan’s Mohenjo Daro, admits that he was against the idea of two films clashing on the same day, “Clashes of films invariably affect business, which is why we always recommend to producers to plan their release dates solo so that we don’t get into the rat race of competing for the best chain of theatres,” he said. He admits that his distribution house had also lost out on significant business when Rustom clashed with Mohenjo Daro, “Irrespective of media reports and the projected response to Mohenjo Daro, it made a dent in the business of Rustom to the extent of 20 percent. This is the second time we are witnessing a clash between two films but this one is much bigger.

The distributor who has released several successful films in the past, including the Akshay Kumar starrer Airlift and the Shahid Kapoor starrer, Udta Punjab, admits that it was a tough fight with the exhibitors trying to get the best of shows and theatres. However he and filmmaker Rakesh Roshan managed to convince the exhibitors to strike a balance between the two films, “We were not asking for 60 percent of the screens. We only wanted that the audience should be given an equal chance to view the two films by splitting the theatres equally,” he said.

The Kaabil distributor is especially hoping to strike gold in Rajasthan, where he is directly releasing the film, “We have managed to get the best of single screens like Raj Mandir, where Kaabil will be played in all the four shows. We have also managed to get an equal number of screens in territories like CP Berar, Central India and Rajasthan.” According to Kalapi, irrespective of the screen count, it is the content of the two films that will finally make its mark at the box-office, “The content of the two films will eventually speak for them, irrespective of contracts and aggressive marketing.”