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Why did Ranbir Kapoor’s Shamshera flop at the box office?

2022 can be Ranbir Kapoor’s year with the highly-anticipated Brahmastra but as for his recent ‘comeback’ Shamshera, the box office offers a bleak story. Not only is it a commercial setback for Kapoor, but also production company Yash Raj Films.

Since 2018’s SanjuKapoor has been shooting for the historical period drama Shamshera and the fantasy “superhero” epic Brahmastra. With Shamshera having released last Friday, fans of the actor might have had a blast but the audience turnout was still low.

The big-budget action drama release managed to rake in Rs 31.75 crore in the opening weekend, which is way lower than other Indian high-grossing action flicks from this year such as the Hindi versions of KGF – Chapter 2 (Rs 193 crores) and RRR (Rs 75 crore). Even comedies like Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (Rs 55 crores) and Jugjugg Jeeyo (Rs 36 crore) had higher weekend collections.

So, for a period movie starring Ranbir Kapoor in a double role, why did it under-perform this bad?

Brief time window between trailer and movie’s release: It was this February when YRF uploaded the date announcement teaser on their YouTube. Offering no glimpses of any scenes, the clip just featured the lead actors reciting some melodramatic dialogues.

Slated for a late-July release, the final teaser and trailer dropped on June 22 and June 24 respectively. By then, the hype wasn’t enough as the Internet had already been abuzz talking about it. Brahmastra trailer that had dropped on June 15. The consensus was clearly towards the latter as the bigger and more anticipated Ranbir Kapoor-starrer.

When the trailer dropped, Sanjay Dutt’s villain donning a tilak drew attention for all the wrong reasons, with some Hindu viewers taking offense and going to the extent of tweeting #BoycottBollywood on the day of the film’s release. With no noteworthy songs to gain any viral social media traction (unlike Brahmastra‘s Kesariya) and no exclusive featurettes to share, YRF couldn’t do much to distract audiences.

Ranbir’s hit-and-miss formula: The Kapoor who started his career with a critical and commercial dud like Saawariya secured his position in B-Town with hits like Rockstar, Wake Up Sid, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Barfi and Sanju. But we ca n’t forget that his ventures from him in between these hits included commercial failures like Rocket Singh, Roy, Besharam, Bombay Velvet, Tamashaand his production debut Jagga Jasoos.

When compared to his peers in the industry like Ranveer Singh and Vicky Kaushal, Kapoor has had a higher number of flops, making his hit-making trajectory very unpredictable. So, even if Brahmastra might be a top-earner as per box-office predictions, it is not surprising that Shamshera underperformed at the box office.

Success of pan-Indian South films: It is a Herculean task to release a period action film this year in the wake of RRR. The Telugu blockbuster which was also released in Tamil and Hindi, wowed audiences not only here but also overseas. Despite its over-the-top theatrics, it managed to earn critical and commercial success with its grand production design and innovative action scenes alone.

Previously, SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali duology proved the success of the ‘pan-Indian’ formula that could also be seen in last year’s Pushpa: The Rising and more recently with the Kannada hit KGF Chapter 2. All of these movies have been set in the past and included larger-than-life heroes with equally larger-than-life stunt choreography and VFX. The Hindi dubs only popularized them further in the northern regions of the country.

So, with Shamshera being marketed as a ‘watch it in IMAX’ film, it tried to be Bollywood’s answer to South hits like RRR and KGF. Unfortunately, it just couldn’t match that level of spectacle. Even with double roles, Ranbir Kapoor couldn’t garner the star power of Ram Charan, NTR Jr, or Yash.

YRF’s failures with the period drama genre: Based on their recent track record, a marketable decision for Yash Raj Films would be to reduce their focus on period dramas.

Despite featuring marketable actors such as Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, and Amitabh Bachchan, Thugs of Hindostan proved to be a massive failure for the studio. While it did enjoy a successful first day, collections began to dip right from the next day. The 2018 film with a budget of Rs 300 crore ended up with an insignificant Rs 335 crore.

This June, YRF experimented with the historical drama genre yet again with the Akshay Kumar-starrer Samrat Prithviraj. What followed were theaters with as much as zero occupancy, leading to low earnings. Ultimately, with a budget of over Rs 300 crore, the film ended its run with around Rs 75 crore in the domestic market, making it perhaps the most spectacular flop this year.

And now with Shamshera tanking, investing in the genre has become riskier.

It’s not just Shamshera but in general, Bollywood movies in the post-pandemic world are faring low collections. Jersey, Anek, Runway 34, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, and several others have all found themselves falling through the cracks in between one South release and the other. in the face of RRR and KGF‘s success, this probably implies that so far, 2022 has been the year of South hits taking over Bollywood.

A Shamshera certainly isn’t enough to stop the South juggernaut.

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