Shah Rukh. Salman. Aamir. The three Khans rule Bollywood. The box office is all about them. The fans are all about them. In fact, everything is all about them. Or so the filmi media keeps telling us. But that has not really been the case and the three of them rarely fired together.
For example, did you know that SRK didn’t get a single all-time blockbuster till Chennai Express in 2013, more than 20 years after his debut? That hasn’t been the case with other stars.
Sunny Deol had a fan following throughout the 1980s and 1990s and most of his films would get a great initial draw. He capped his streak with Gadar: Ek Prem Katha in 2001 which was an all-time blockbuster.
In fact that record was broken only by Hrithik Roshan with Dhoom 2 in 2006. Hrithik also dominated the 2000s, coming out with one blockbuster after another and getting a good 4 Filmfare Awards for Best Actor from 2001 to 2009.
Interestingly, till 2007, Aamir was not that strong at the box office as compared to Sunny, Hrithik, SRK or Salman. Sure he had many superhits, but nothing came close to the blockbusters that these four stars came out with.
Aamir came on his own in the box office only in 2008 with his first all-time blockbuster Ghajini. He kept bettering his own record, first with 3 Idiots, then Dhoom 3, PK and finally Dangal.
Interestingly, SRK went into decline the exact same time as Aamir went on a high, with Chennai Express being the only notable exception. My Name is Khan actually made a loss for certain distributors.
According to one trade analyst, Dilwale may have made up to Rs 60 crore losses for distributors India wide, making it one of the biggest disasters of all time. Fan and Dear Zindagi didn’t even enter the domestic Rs 100 crore club and Raees wasn’t that big a hit.
The only Khan who has been comparatively consistent has been Salman who came with the sensational Maine Pyar Kiya and followed it up with the all-time blockbuster Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!
But that was till the 1990s. Bhai too underwent a real slump in the 2000s where he had more misses than hits and that weak streak was broken only by Dabangg in 2010. But then again Bhai has perfected the cult of the alpha male where he keeps plays a strutting young dude. He is already 50. For how long can he keep that up?
Salman has limited acting abilities and one feels that even someone like Akshay Kumar has a better future with the choices he is making. Aamir sometimes comes with a film after 2 years, but Akshay has carved a niche for himself coming out with 3-4 low budget films a year which all enter the Rs 100 crore club. So his cumulative box office effect may end up being greater than a Khan.
Plus he’s making quality movies too like Rustom, Airlift, Baby and OMG – Oh My God!
But now there’s one film that has zoomed way ahead and changed the rules of the game. That’s Baahubali 2, which created the worldwide Rs 1000 crore and Rs 1500 crore clubs. The sheer ambition of this movie is mindboggling.
But more than anything is the fact that Baahubali 2 Hindi has become the first all-time Bollywood blockbuster which happens to be a dubbed movie. While Dangal made Rs 387 crore, Baahubali 2 Hindi is touching a whopping Rs 500 crores.
While Aamir created the Hindi domestic Rs 100 crore, Rs 150 crore, Rs 200 crore, Rs 250 crore, Rs 300 crore and Rs 350 crore clubs, Baahubali 2 Hindi has created the Rs 400 crore and Rs 450 crore clubs. That was unthinkable till now.
You may have read reports of Dangal matching Baahubali 2 after its release in China, but that is just temporary. Baahubali 2 is releasing in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and even in English. So it is certain to create the Rs 2000 crore club and may even create the Rs 2500 crore club, which is quite crazy!
To put that in perspective, Rs 2500 crore is more than the worldwide gross of the last 8 SRK movies! The era of the 3 Khans (which in itself was an artificial construct) has been truly shattered!
Now the southern stars will no longer release the Hindi version as an afterthought and formality but for the first time will plan to beat the 3 Khans on their home turf.
Kamal Hasan has seen great success in Bollywood and can now really sell his Hindi dubbed version.
Rajinikanth is the biggest name from the south all over India and his marketing team will too go into overdrive. In fact Enthiran 2.0 has a good chance of entering the Rs 1000 crore worldwide club.
If that happens then that club would include Prabhas, Aamir, Rajinikanth and Akshay! That’s just one Khan and three other stars.
The south has tasted blood as can be seen by Mohanlal’s proposed Rs 1000 crore adaptation of Randamoozham, the 1984 Malayalam novel. Just as Baahubali 2 created the Rs 1000 crore club, we now have a Mahabharat movie budgeted at Rs 1000 crore!
Close on the heels is a Tollywood Ramayan adaptation budgeted at Rs 500 crore. Indian film cinema (not Bollywood mind you) has suddenly become very very ambitious. And while if the Khans dub, they will never get the same kind of traction in Tamil and Telugu versions. But south stars can hope for Hindi dubbed all-time blockbusters, as Baahubali 2 has shown.
The 3 Khans also survived on excessive hype. The media always talked more about them than other stars and gave them greater publicity. And such publicity will always get you a great initial weekend draw and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy that nobody but the 3 Khans could rule Bollywood.
That has also changed in the era of social media where it is the people, not mainstream media, which decides what goes viral.
The era of the 3 Khans is dead. Long live Baahubali!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here