It has been roughly two years since Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan embraced each other at Baba Siddique’s Iftar celebrations, signalling that they were ready to put aside their differences and perhaps start afresh. In the time that has followed, they embraced again (at the same occasion last year), said kind things about each other in the press and at widely covered events, and even plugged each other’s movies—remember Shah Rukh being the first to tweet the trailer of Salman’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan?
But industrywaalas are predicting that this friendship may be short-lived. When Yash Raj Films announced last week that it would release its Salman-starrer Sultan for Eid 2016, the studio was trespassing on a date that had already been blocked by the makers of Shah Rukh’s Raees. With neither producer prepared to back down in order to avert a clash, it appears that the inevitable holiday windfall will be split between the two films. At an event on Monday, when quizzed by the media about the clash, Shah Rukh responded in his trademark witty style: “There are 365 days in a year, which amounts to 54 Fridays. And there are bound to be clashes. The business will get divided, but Salman and I are such good friends that we have decided on doing everything together, including releasing [our] movies together.” The banter and seemingly sporting attitude aside, industry watchers say that a clash of this size will lead to battle lines being drawn, and more than likely a fallout between the stars. “Hundreds of crore are at stake. Even if Shah Rukh and Salman themselves don’t initiate the war, they will be pulled into it by their respective producers and camps. It’s going to get ugly,” warns a trade analyst.
The last time the two stars clashed on a common holiday was all the way back during Diwali 2006, when Don and Jaan-e-Mann opened against each other. The Shah Rukh-starrer quashed Salman’s musical, but it’s worth noting that at the time Salman wasn’t the surefire box-office phenomenon that he now is. A clash in 2016 would be on an altogether different scale.
Looming Litmus Test
Nawazuddin Siddiqui earned rave reviews for his terrific performance in Badlapur earlier this year. He made his way into A-list projects alongside top stars like Aamir Khan (Talaash), Salman Khan (Kick and Bajrangi Bhaijaan), and Shah Rukh Khan (Raees). And many will agree that his name and face on a movie poster has become something of a factor in deciding whether to watch a film or not.
The true test of his box-office clout, however, will come in August when Ketan Mehta’s film Manjhi: The Mountain Man opens in theatres. Based on the true-life story of a man who carved a path through a mountain in memory of his wife, the film stars Hunterr’s Radhika Apte as Nawazuddin’s missus, but it’s a small part in a film where Nawaz himself is the starring attraction.
Reportedly, the studio that will release the film has drawn up an elaborate promotional plan hinged on the actor’s current popularity among ‘discerning audiences’. Nawaz himself is apparently nervous about being expected to shoulder the responsibility of the film’s success single- handedly. He is aware that the box-office performance of Manjhi will be an important consideration in all his fee negotiations for future projects. Expect him to call on every favour with journalists, his actor friends, and industrywaalas when he hops on the promotional merry-go-round come August.
The Cost of Being Fussy
It appears that a heartthrob star’s passion project may be in a spot of trouble. For one, the film has been considerably delayed because the famously meticulous director has reportedly changed his vision for the film more than once. That in turn may have led to the exit of a disgruntled older actor who plays a key role in the film. A recent schedule of the movie had to be postponed because its heroine was required to reshoot portions of another film when a major role in that film was recast. And then there are impending reshoots for this very film because of the new direction the filmmaker wants to take. Now slated to release a full year after its originally planned opening, the film’s budget has surely ballooned. Not the best way for the star to pop his producer cherry, is it?