There was a time when the highest grosser of the year would be the one featuring one of the three Khans – Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan or Aamir Khan. However, things have changed since 2017 as the year’s biggest hits have been non-Khan flicks, such as Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion (2017), Sanju (2018), War (2019), Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior (2020) and Sooryavanshi (2021).

Now, as 2022 commences, the question that arises is – will a non-Khan film once again emerge as the biggest blockbuster in 2022 as well? Or will a Khan film snatch the top spot like the old times? The latter is very much possible as each Khan will probably have a release this year. Shah Rukh Khan would make a comeback with Pathan. Salman Khan would don his much-loved spy avatar in Tiger 3. Aamir Khan, meanwhile, would finally unveil the much-talked about film, Laal Singh Chaddha, to the audiences. However, the other major actors, too, have exciting releases lined up that can be potential highest grossers, be it Akshay Kumar’s Prithviraj or Bachchan Pandey, or Ajay Devgn’s Maidaan, Ranbir Kapoor’s Shamshera, Ranveer Singh’s Cirkus, Tiger Shroff’s Heropanti 2, etc.

We asked trade experts to share their opinion. Trade analyst Atul Mohan said, “Aamir Khan has a very ambitious film, Laal Singh Chaddha, up for release. Pathan would be released in 2022. It also has generated buzz due to Shah Rukh Khan’s presence and also because it’s a two-hero film as it stars John Abraham too, along with Deepika Padukone. It’s helmed by Yash Raj Films and hence, it’ll be a well-packaged fare. The same factors are also there for Salman Khan-starrer Tiger 3, which also stars Katrina Kaif and Emraan Hashmi. Those involved with these films are very confident. The ones from Salman’s camp say that Tiger 3 will be his highest grosser. Similarly, those from Aamir’s camp predict that Laal Singh Chaddha will be a record-breaking hit. The ones from Shah Rukh Khan’s team feel the same about Pathan.”

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh had a different take, “I don’t deny the contribution of the Khans to the industry. Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir have contributed enormously to the box office earnings. However, to measure the strength of the industry purely on the strengths of the Khans is unfair. There have been many instances of movies emerging as highest grossers even without the Khans. Sooryavanshi did not feature a Khan and the same goes for Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior. Even the highest grossing Hindi film in the domestic market is Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion, which is a non-Khan and also a non-Hindi film! Conversely, there have been instances of Khan films struggling at the box office too, be it Thugs Of Hindostan (2018) or Zero (2018) or Race 3 (2018) or Tubelight (2017).”

Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor, and distributor, said in agreement, “It’s tough to really guess which one will be the highest grosser for the simple reason that along with the fantastic films that the Khans are doing, there are other equally fantastic films being done by Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor etc. In fact, the biggest film in Hindi could be RRR, toplined by two gentlemen from down South, namely Jr NTR and Ram Charan. I really hope that everyone outperforms themselves as the last 1 ½ years have been quite upsetting and damaging. We need more and more films to perform, not just by the men but also by the actresses. There are quite a few releases that rest on the strengths of their lead actresses, Deepika Padukone, Taapsee Pannu, Kangana Ranaut etc. I truly hope that even those films perform really well.”

Will Pathan and Tiger 3 make it to the cinemas in 2022?
Taran Adarsh also reminded, “As far as Pathan and Tiger 3 are concerned, there has been no clarity on the release dates, yet. Shah Rukh faced some personal issues and also due to the rising Covid-19 cases, shootings have come to a halt or schedules have gone haywire.”

Girish Johar, producer and film business analyst, had similar views, “The only Khan release which will happen in 2022, as of today, is the Aamir Khan-starrer Laal Singh Chaddha. Yash Raj Films already has biggies from their 2020 slate which are awaiting a theatrical release like PrithvirajJayeshbhai Jordaar and Shamshera. Ideally, they won’t rush and release Pathan and Tiger 3 as both are big-ticket entertainers.”

Taran Adarsh, however, added, “As and when Pathan and Tiger 3 release in cinemas, the hype is and will be very huge. Hence, both films will take humongous openings. Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha is slated for release this year, on April 14 or perhaps a later date. He has delivered some solid content in the past but will it be the highest grossing film or will it be a mediocre success is something only time will tell.”

Can a film go past the Rs. 250 and 300 crore mark?
Exactly a year ago, the industry was still ravaged by the pandemic and not a single big film had been released in the post-Covid era. Trade was wondering if any film would be able to cross even the Rs. 100 crore mark at the ticket window. However, the industry got a boost as Sooryavanshi managed to collect Rs. 196 crore. Spider-Man: No Way Home entered the Rs. 200 crore club. Even Pushpa: The Rise – Part 01 has done exceptionally well.

In such a scenario, the trade is confident that a film can earn Rs. 250 or 300 crore, like in the pre-pandemic times. Atul Mohan said, “It is very much possible. Sooryavanshi, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Pushpa: The Rise – Part 01’s successes have proved that if the content is paisa vasool, then people are ready to come. In fact, they’ll be ready to shell out money, even if the ticket prices are astronomical.”

Taran Adarsh also agreed and added that the film has to be an all-round entertainer to break records, “You cannot rule out Rs. 250 or 300 crore grosser. Remember how Pushpa: The Rise – Part 01 started? It did not get adequate screens and the promotion was negligible. It opened at Rs. 3 crore. Did anyone expect it to cross Rs. 80 crore? Such trending is rare, more so in the pandemic. The content has to work. Also, entertainment will never go out of fashion. Hamare yahan jo pseudo-intellectuals hai Bandra to Versova waale, unko yeh aaina dikhana chahiye.”

The pandemic has still not gone and yet, Taran Adarsh is confident that the Rs. 300 crore mark is within reach. He sarcastically remarked, “One particular director complained that the pandemic has affected his film. With due respect, the director should know that the pandemic was very unfair as it singled out only his film and not Spider-Man: No Way Home and Pushpa: The Rise – Part 01!”

Girish Johar had a slightly different opinion as he opined, “It’ll happen but not in the immediate future. The backlog of the biggies is quite huge. Earlier, there won’t be a major release two or three weeks after a biggie arrives in cinemas. Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion had that advantage. The film was loved by audiences; they wanted to watch the film again, and they did. Now, there will be a rush of releases almost every week. So, even if audiences thoroughly enjoy a film like RRR, in the subsequent weeks, they’ll have the option of watching Prithviraj or Attack or Gangubai Kathiawadi. The ticket prices, meanwhile, are sky high. Unless the content is out of the world, the audiences would probably want to spend a large amount on newer content and not on a film that they have already seen. So, the opportunity of a repeat viewing is not there. Moreover, audiences have now understood that in 4-5 weeks, a film will be released on OTT. This kills the repeat viewing to a large extent. And a film can’t go beyond Rs.250-300 crore without getting repeat audiences.”

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