With director Ayan Mukerji’s long-in-the-making fantasy drama Brahmastra around the corner, it’s curtains at the box office for this year’s Independence Day offerings, Aamir Khan-starrer Laal Singh Chaddha and Akshay Kumar-starrer Raksha Bandhan.
Both actors were coming off career lows; the rather selective Aamir’s last release was the big-budget bomb Thugs of Hindostan, while the prolific Akshay had already starred in two box office duds in 2022 alone. The failure of both films sent the industry into a more drastic spiral; only three Hindi films can be counted as commercial successes this year — Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, The Kashmir Files and Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Laal Singh Chaddha, the official Hindi remake of Hollywood hit Forrest Gump, will wrap up its domestic run with just Rs 60 crore. The film was produced over several years, on a reported Rs 180 crore. Internationally, the film performed slightly better, making approximately Rs 69 crore. The film’s worldwide haul stands at around Rs 130 crore.
By comparison, Aamir’s biggest hit — 2016’s Dangal — made more than Rs 2000 crore worldwide, led mainly by a blockbuster run in China. It was a similar case with Secret Superstar, which made almost Rs 1000 crore worldwide thanks to China. But Thugs bombed there as well, leaving Laal Singh Chaddha’s fate unclear. The Chinese market has also become notoriously restricted in the post-pandemic era when it comes to foreign imports.
Akshay’s Raksha Bandhan, on the other hand, is looking to wrap up its domestic run with around Rs 50 crore. Worldwide, the film has made a little over Rs 60 crore, against a reported budget of Rs 70 crore This is a terrible result for a film aimed at family audiences, and designed to capitalise on not one but two holidays. It also marked a return to familiar territory for the actor, whose last two flops belonged to the comedy and historical genre. In recent years, he has become synonymous with socially relevant cinema.
The prolific star admitted in an interview that he is reevaluating his strategy following back-to-back flops. Akshay is one of the last-remaining Bollywood stars who charges an upfront fee for his projects, which often results in astronomically high budgets. Several other actors, especially those belonging to the younger generation, opt for backend deals. Aamir, for instance, was one of the earliest adopters of this form of remuneration, which paid major dividends with films such as Dangal, but probably resulted in him going home empty handed after Laal Singh Chaddha.
One of the biggest stars in the country, Akshay has made it to Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid stars. His last ‘hit’ was probably Sooryavanshi, which released in a quiet window during the pandemic and went on to make around Rs 295 crore worldwide, falling way short of Simmba’s Rs 400 crore-plus haul. In addition to Bachchhan Paandey, Samrat Prithviraj and Raksha Bandhan all bombing commercially, they also attracted poor reviews. Even Akshay’s fourth release of the year, the mystery-thriller Cuttputlli, wasn’t popular with critics. The Indian Express’ Shubhra Gupta gave it one star, and wrote in her review, “Nothing about this thriller, which lacks thrills, works the way it should. Instead of tension, we get a mix of tired family drama-and-romance in this Akshay Kumar film.”
Both Laal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan were also targeted by trolls calling for their boycott, but the economic impact of such campaigns remains unclear. All eyes are now on Brahmastra, which has so far deflected boycott campaigns and has posted encouraging pre-release figures.