As Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavat gets a new release date, 25 January, and would now clash with R Balki’s biopic Padman, the internet is bustling with comparison stories.
Padmavat was originally slated to release on 1 December but had been in the center of numerous controversies and now, with the film getting the clearance from CBFC, perhaps the producers wanted to make the most of the first viable release option available to them. The Republic Day weekend would give the film great four-day unencumbered run at the box office and perhaps this is also the reason why Balki’s Padman had its eyes set on this period.
This is not the first time that two big-ticket films would release on the same day. The real reason why producers come to near-blows when it comes to the release day is the number of screens they can garner for their films. This became evident from the manner in which Ajay Devgn approached the Competition Commission of India against Yash Raj Films (YRF) during the release of his Son of Sardaar (2012) alleging that he lost nearly 900 single screens as YRF used its dominance to ensure that their Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) got preference. Devgn also alleged that single screens had been told at the time of the release of YRF’s Ek Tha Tiger (2012) in August 2012 that if they did not agree to screen Jab Tak Hai Jaan in November during Diwali they would not get to show a sure-shot blockbuster Ek Tha Tiger in August.
Being diametrically opposite in terms of themes and genre, both Padmavat and Padman should ideally not eat into each other’s business. Just last year, Golmaal Again and Secret Superstar released around the same time, Diwali. While the former went on to become the year’s biggest grosser (till Tiger Zinda Hai came along), the latter also made it to the year’s top earners with a collection of over Rs 130 crore.
While a lot has been discussed about Padmavat, Balki’s Padman is a significant film that showcases the life and triumph of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a Tamil Nadu-based social activist who revolutionized the concept of menstrual hygiene in rural India by creating a low-cost sanitary napkins machine. Muruganantham’s Ted Talk is one of the most widely shared videos on the internet and intriguingly enough, this writer had weighed the possibility of Akshay playing the lead role when the film was announced. Kumar’s presence was perhaps a foregone conclusion considering that his wife, Twinkle Khanna, was co-producing the film. While it would have ensured the necessary eyeballs, however at the same time, it would also have somewhere hampered the authenticity. Although Kumar had initially passed on the offer, he apparently relented on Muruganantham’s insistence, who felt someone, as idolised as Akshay Kumar, wearing a sanitary pad onscreen would be a game-changing event.
The manner in which Padmavat has ended with a January release date might appear to be a disadvantageous development for both films, at least on the face of it. The trade circles would highlight the point that the Republic Day weekend, much like the Independence Day Weekend, has come to be identified as the preferred time for an Akshay Kumar release — Baby (2015) and Airlift (2016) both released around the Republic Day while Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017) and Rustom (2016) released around the Independence Day.
In fact, the two films hitting the screens on the same day might just prove to be a blessing for both and especially Padmavat. For starters, it would take away a bit of the spotlight from the film that has been in the eye of the storm for the past few weeks and this would help in the longer run. Had Padmavat released all alone there would have been immense pressure on the film but with a film such as Padman, which is a thematically polar opposite film, the viewer will have more to choose from.