At a time when most filmmakers and producers were opting to either hold back their film's release or move their release to the digital space, Harshavardhan Kulkarni's sophomore project as director, Badhaai Do – starring Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar – stood on its stance to release on February 11. The film, based on a lavender marriage, therefore, became the first Hindi film to release theatrically post the Omicron outbreak last December. Interestingly, it was a film starring Rao – Roohi in March 2021 – that was the first Hindi film to release in the theatres post the first wave too.
Badhaai Do, despite seeing a cautious and relatively scattered release, has earned Rs. 7.50 crore in its first weekend. Objectively speaking, in any other situation, the earning would've been considered to be more along the lines of a lukewarm response. However, given the circumstances, the 50% occupancy stipulation in most major states, including Maharashtra and Delhi – the film's biggest contributors – and the fact that night shows continue to remain shut at several places across India, the outcome has been encouraging. "The film started with average to below-average openings on its first day, collecting 1.50 crore nett domestically. However, it showed good growth at the box office over Saturday (2.60 crore nett) and Sunday (3.40 crore net)," says Gautam Jain, Partner at Ormax Media.
With the weekend being followed by Valentine's Day, it can be, in fact, safe to assume that the film is set to continue a steady run, with no other competition before the release of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali epic Gangubai Kathiawadi on February 25.
"The novelty value has clicked for Badhaai Do," says film exhibitor and distributor Akshaye Rathi. "This is the best time for content creators in the Hindi film industry. Courtesy the kind of exposure of content the audience have had over the last couple of years through streaming, where they've been able to watch the best of content from across the world, their palette has changed and become more accepting of various genres and plots." The inclusive approach of the romantic comedy has managed to hit the right chord, garnering largely positive reviews and word of mouth since its release – another key factor contributing to its day-by-day growth.
Therefore, the timing of the release of Badhaai Do – an aspect that initially grabbed eyeballs – in retrospect, has turned out to be a good decision. Releasing at a time when there aren't many theatrical options available, while the Covid-19 cases are coming down, it hints at a potential market still being available for non-spectacle Hindi films post the pandemic – a pattern now common in Malayalam, Telugu and Punjabi-language cinema. "While most would advise to release only big budget tentpole films, we have seen that small and medium budget films with good content likeability have performed at the box office post pandemic." The success of various films like Jathi Ratnalu (Telugu), Chal Mera Putt 2 (Punjabi), Jan-E-Man (Malayalam), Hridayam (Malayalam) and Jhimma (Marathi) are prime examples of the same.
In the Hindi market, with Sooryavanshi being the only legitimate Box Office hit since March 2020, the concern lied in the theatrical feasibility of relatively lower-budgeted content. It became more advisable for bigger films to aim for the theatres and smaller films for OTTs. The previous week, however, showcased a different angle to this notion, with not just Badhaai Do's theatrical release but also the direct-to-digital release of Gehraiyaan – a film starring Deepika Padukone and produced by Karan Johar's Dharma Productions.
The film, released on Amazon Prime Video on the night of February 10, saw a staggering 6.5 million views over the weekend – the highest for a Hindi film on the platform in a span of three days. "It's better in comparison to the viewership of films like Toofaan (4.1 million), Chhalaang (3.8 million), Shershaah (3.9 million), Sardar Udham (3.6 million) and Sherni (3.1 million) over the first three days of their launch," reveals Jain.
With this role reversal of sorts, and both films being seemingly successful in their approach, how does one even decide the platform best-suited for a particular film? The answer is simple: it lies in the genre. "It's not about who features in a film that decides what should go towards streaming and what should come towards theatricals. It's about the kind of content that is made," says Rathi. "The themes Gehraiyaan touched upon and the way the story was told, it was perfect for streaming." The challenge lies in the understanding of what is meant for collective viewing vs. personal consumption. For the Indian market, Gehraiyaan, a dark infidelity drama, was more apt for streaming, whereas Badhaai Do, a film pegged to family viewing and the youth, became a good fit for the theatrical audience.