Ever since the first teaser of Adipurush released in October 2022, there was concern that the film, based on the Hindu epic Ramayana, wouldn’t live up to expectations. From the quality of graphics to Saif Ali Khan’s Raavan sporting a beard that made him look like a doppelganger of Alauddin Khalji from Padmaavat (2018), viewers were unhappy with a host of things. After several delays, the Om Raut directorial finally released last week and though the complaints have only grown louder (especially over Hanuman’s ‘tapori’ dialogues), it’s had a blockbuster opening weekend at the box office. The story on Monday, however, is different.
Deepak Kodela, founder of Andhra Box Office, a digital platform that tracks the Telugu film industry, said the film had done roaring business in the Telugu states in the opening weekend. “In the Nizam area (the territory covers Telangana and some districts of Karnataka and Maharashtra), Adipurush has grossed Rs. 50 crore. In the AP territory (Andhra), it has made Rs. 55 crore. When it comes to the share, it is Rs. 29.5 crore in Nizam and almost Rs. 35 crore in AP (Andhra Pradesh),” he said.
The gross collection of a film is the money received from the total sale of film tickets. The net amount is the gross minus government imposed taxes like entertainment tax, service tax and so on. The net collection can vary from state to state because the tax rates are not the same across the country. After these deductions, a percentage of the total net collection is paid back to distributors, and this return is referred to as the distributor share.
Kodela clarified that the numbers for Adipurush are for all versions of the film playing in the Telugu states – primarily Telugu and Hindi languages, and in 2D and 3D formats. “Every distributor gets the rights for all the versions for a particular territory, so the collections must be viewed territory-wise and not language-wise,” he explained.
According to Box Office India, Adipurush had grossed Rs 275 crore worldwide in its opening weekend.The official figure reported by its producer, T Series, is Rs 340 crore. The budget of the film is said to be between Rs 500 to 600 crore, though some industry insiders have claimed that this appears to be an inflated figure. The previous film to cross Rs 300 crore in its opening weekend this year was Shah Rukh Khan’s Hindi spy thriller Pathaan (2023) that was also released in Tamil and Telugu.
On Monday, however, the collections for Adipurush showed a significant dip. In Hindi, Box Office India reported collections had fallen by 75% while in the Telugu states, Kodela put the figure at around 66%.
Prabhas, who became a massive star after Baahubali, plays the lead role of Raghav in Adipurush, and the film took a big opening in the Telugu states which have a long history of making mythological films. From NT Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao to Shoban Babu, Balayya and Jr NTR, several stars have played mythological heroes in their careers. SS Rajamouli’s epic action drama film RRR (2022) also reimagined two real life revolutionaries – Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem – as mythological heroes Ram and Bheem.
In fact, in recent times, Rajamouli’s brand of storytelling with its outrageous leaps in imagination, has become the standard for films of this genre that come with a large canvas. The Telugu audience, in particular, compares every such film with Rajamouli’s work. For instance, veteran director Mani Ratnam’s two-part historical fiction film Ponniyin Selvan (2022, 2023) was a blockbuster in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. It did average business in the Hindi belt, but was rejected in the Telugu states, with many Telugu viewers comparing the film unfavourably with Rajamouli’s Baahubali movies (2015, 2017).
With Adipurush, there seems to be a divide in how the Telugu audience is viewing it. While the older generation has rejected it, the younger generation – which has no preconceived notions about how such stories should be told – appeared to be more open to it, said Kodela. “The film did exceedingly well in the Nizam territory in the opening weekend,” he noted. “Maybe there is curiosity among young Telugu people who want to watch the Ramayana in a new format. They have access to the old films, but they can perhaps relate more to the current actors. This film doesn’t have poetry woven into the screenplay as in the classical films. Adipurush is in the DC and Marvel style, and I think that appeals to them.”
A trade expert who did not wish to be named said that Adipurush had benefited from the political backing from right wing groups and supporters, though many are now upset with the film because of the liberties it has taken with certain depictions and dialogues. However, the initial hype around Adipurush was generated by these same groups that celebrated the idea of a film with a pro-Hindutva narrative.
“I think that explains its performance in the Hindi belt, Telugu states and Karnataka where these sentiments find acceptance. But in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, that isn’t the case. The ideology and mindset of the people are different,” said the trade expert, calling Adipurush a “tacky film”. According to numbers put up by various film industry trackers, Adipurush has grossed Rs. 18 crore in Karnataka, Rs. 4.2 crore in Tamil Nadu and Rs. 1.5 crore in Kerala over the opening weekend. For a comparison, Pathaan reportedly grossed Rs. 3.5 - 4 crore just on its opening day in Tamil Nadu while it made Rs. 1.95 crore in Kerala.
Senior journalist Sreedhar Pillai said the collections for Adipurush in its opening weekend were impressive, despite the trolling and negative reviews that it had received. “Prabhas is no less than a big Bollywood star in bringing people to theatres now,” said Pillai. But according to Pillai, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it was the combination of Prabhas with Rajamouli that brought people to theatres to watch the Baahubali films. “Dubbed versions of Telugu films seldom do well in these states, even if they have big stars like Mahesh Babu or Jr NTR. But the Baahubali films did extraordinary business in both the states. That level of excitement isn’t there around Adipurush because the director is someone unfamiliar to the audience,” reasoned Pillai.
The real litmus test for Adipurush started on Monday this week. With a marked dip in collections across languages, the film is struggling to stay afloat and for Prabhas, a blockbuster to match the Baahubali phenomenon remains elusive.