'Inside The Box' is a series in which we will take a deeper-dive into the Box Office collections and web numbers of major films released across India.
The Box Office is finally buzzing with the returns from Diljit Dosanjh's latest Punjabi film, Honsla Rakh, released last Friday. The film, also starring Shehnaaz Gill, Sonam Bajwa and Shinda Grewal, was distributed in approximately 725 screens worldwide, garnering a stunning 17.50 crores over its opening weekend.
Notably, this figure set new records for Punjabi cinema – surpassing Dosanjh's own record created by Shadaa in the pre-pandemic, restriction-free times of 2019, which had collected 16 crores worldwide in its first weekend. What's also significant here is that these numbers even surpass the ones collected by Hindi theatrical releases since the pandemic started, including the Akshay Kumar-starrer espionage thriller, BellBottom, that collected approximately 13 crores worldwide across 1600 screens.
Opening to full houses across the Delhi, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh circuits in India, the film, made in a modest budget of approximately 8 crores, is turning out to be yet another successful story from the Punjabi film industry. "The unrelenting good run of Punjabi films, starting with Tunka Tunka and Puaada, has helped and encouraged the Punjabi producers to release more and more films," says Thomas D'Souza, Senior Vice President Programming, PVR Pictures. What has further helped the film's collections is the increase in occupancy rates from 50% to 66% in several northern regions, owing to the increase in vaccination rates across Punjab – the central market of the film.
Looking at the film's performance from a micro lens, it has "collected approximately 7.70 crores, making it the 3rd highest weekend for a Punjabi film after Shadaa and Carry On Jatta 2," says Gautam Jain, Partner at Ormax Media. "It had the highest first day collections for a Punjabi film at Rs. 2.60 crore, beating the previous collections of Shadaa at Rs. 2.45 crore." The fact that these numbers have come despite the unavailability of Maharashtra, a key market as far as lead star Dosanjh's popularity goes, along with limited occupancy rates, availability of shows and night curfews in parts of the country, is a crucial determinant of just how encouraging the film's performance has been thus far. "It is comparable to superhit films that were released pre-pandemic," adds Jain.
Interestingly, the number of screens for the film has been almost equally distributed in India and overseas. The approximate earnings so far further suggest that the overall collection too is an equal division too, a major distinction from Hindi cinema which, to a large extent, relies on its Indian business. This is because the Box Office performance of Punjabi films in the country is majorly determined by the northern states of India, with metropolitan cities chipping in to only a portion of its earnings. On the other hand, countries like Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and the Gulf "have a lot of Punjabi diasporas, which form a large set of loyal audience for Punjabi films," explains Jain. This results in a whopping 50-50 or 60-40 distribution in the global collections between the local and overseas market, as compared to Bollywood's standard 80-20 and 70-30 distribution.
Honsla Rakh, in itself, has worked because of several factors. It was released in a long Dussehra weekend. Pegged as a family entertainer, it became an apt release for people of diverse age groups to plan for an outing. "An urban theme, good music and scale have helped the film appeal to the family audiences as well, increasing its box office potential," explains Jain. "The audience is currently favouring light, entertaining comedy and romantic films," adds Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures.
Star power, inevitably, contributes too. Dosanjh is a superstar – perhaps the biggest in the Punjabi film industry today – and is a well-known face not only in the north, but across the nation. The massive success of his recent album, MoonChild Era, only accentuates his popularity worldwide, making him a regularly trending name. Debutante Shehnaaz Gill, fresh from the adulation post her stint in Bigg Boss: Season 13 – the longest-running season of the popular reality show – is a star in her own right, attracting millions of fans from across the globe.