The much-anticipated Kabir Khan sports drama, 83, finally released in theatres on Christmas eve, only to be met by theatrical restrictions put in place in the wake of a third wave of Covid-19 cases across India. Consequently, the film underperformed at the box office, falling short of the Rs 50 crore mark at the end of its first weekend. Khan spoke about the response to the film, not having regrets about opting out of the OTT route and the manner in which the trade reported on 83‘s box office figures.
Anupama Chopra (AC): Is there a part of you that wishes you had gone to streaming?
Kabir Khan (KK) : No. Really, honestly. Yes, not as many people as we would have liked had access to the theatre. As you said, in Delhi – all they had was a three-day run, so they couldn’t go. But it left a lasting impression on the people who did go watch it. It’s truly something that they’re writing about, and it seems like the film is more just a great time in the theatre. They’re saying, ‘We will always remember watching this film in the theater as a family.’ It will release on an OTT platform eventually, so there’s nothing to lose. Sure, we could’ve safeguarded against certain losses. But we’ve been in this industry long enough to know that a film is never judged by its collections. It’s judged by the experience you have, and how much you remember the film 10 years from now. So I was very clear that 83 was a film that I wanted released in theaters, and I have absolutely no regrets. And it’s doing well internationally. A lot of people are experiencing it in theatres because the restrictions there are fewer.. So I’m really glad we brought it to the theatres. We were so committed that had just two theatres been open, we would’ve still opted for a theatrical release.
AC: You talked about there being an “agenda” with the way the trade reported the figures for 83. What did you mean?
KK: No, so I didn’t say there was an agenda. I said that if you report the figures of this film – which is the last film standing when no other film has released, a film that released when we went from 6,000 Covid cases on day 1 to over a lakh cases on day 7 of its run, a film that released when half the theaters were shut – without even a reference to the pandemic, then it seems like an agenda. It seems unprofessional and it seems untrue to their profession. How can you do that? How can you not put give context to what is happening? You can’t just say, ‘Oh this is the number, and it’s not good enough.’ Give context to the number. The fact of the matter is that despite all that is happening, we’ve crossed the Rs 100-crore mark in India, we’ve crossed Rs 200 crore internationally. I don’t want to talk numbers because there’s no point, most of the markets are running at half or one-third capacity, some of them are completely shut. And we know the kind of fear that is there. I have friends who have messaged me saying, ‘We’re sorry, we really want to go watch it in the theatres, but we can’t.’ Either they have children at home, or the elderly. In the middle of all this, are you really only going to quote numbers without any context of the pandemic? It just seems bizarre to me.