Why is Ranveer Singh’s 83 a theatrical flop? Decoding what didn’t work for this Kabir Khan directed biopic
Films don’t go wrong, budget’s do – and the recently released Kabir Khan directed sport drama, 83’, is a prime example of this statement. Fronted by Ranveer Singh, the film was mounted on a budget of Rs 250 crore, which over a period of time due to the delays caused by Covid-19 elevated to Rs 280 crore. Recovering this was always going to be a juggernaut task, even in the pre-pandemic times, and it's certainly the fault of producers (Reliance Entertainment, Madhu Mantena, Sajid Nadiadwala, Deepika Padukone & Kabir Khan) who failed to evaluate the reach of this screenplay.
The makers fetched approximately Rs 150 crore from non-theatrical sources, including the rebate from UK government, leaving Rs 130 crore to recover from theatrical medium. In a nutshell, the film had to clock Rs 230 crore in the domestic belt and 60 crore in the overseas market to hit the breakeven mark. As things stand today, 83 is looking to collect a domestic share of Rs 55 to 60 crore, whereas the overseas share is expected to be in the range of Rs 26 to 28 crore.
The overall theatrical recovery of 83’ will be in the range of 80 crore, leaving a void of Rs 50 crore in the pockets of producers. Now if we look at it independently, these are decent results for a feature film that arrived in the middle of the pandemic with some competition from Spider Man in metros and Pushpa in the interiors. Had it earned another Rs 25 crore in the domestic markets, one might even term it a good result given the time of it’s release. But that’s when the cost and economics come into picture and reinstate the saying of budget going wrong.
Let’s be honest, the audience is stepping out to watch films on the big screen despite the Omicron fear and the collections of Pushpa and Spider Man in the Hindi belts speak volumes about this. Thank God for the success of these two films, more importantly Pushpa, as if not for them, most in the industry would have rubbed off the below the mark performance by putting a blame on the innocent bystander – Omicron – where as in reality, there are multiple other factors in play for the box office collections.
So, what went wrong for 83’? Before moving on to the ancillary factor, let’s first focus on the big elephant – the content. 83’ is a well-made film, sure. But it lags behind in terms of bringing in the drama and thrill that a sports film warrants. There’s too much focus on cricket, with little to do with the behind the scene action. The clippings of almost all matches (except the one against Zimbabwe) is available on YouTube, with the actual players. What separates a film from a docu-story or a real-life event is the drama, which showcases the process of the team to win the historic event. 83’ focused on the historic event, but not the process behind it. It certainly turns off a large segment of the audience, giving the vibe of 1983 world cup highlights. A docu-drama approach is fine, as at the end of the day, a film is all about the vision that a director has for the story, but then, the budgets have to be kept under check.
The film also lacked that one big hit song in the narrative to set things rolling – and song doesn’t necessarily mean a dance number. The title track did wonders for Chak De India, same is the case with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, which benefited a lot by its sound track. In the last 20 years, the successful sports films of Hindi cinema – Lagaan, Chak De India, MS Dhoni Sultan, and Dangal – were all personal stories with sport in its backdrop. The personal struggle brought the drama to the narrative. With the exception of Dangal, music also played a big role in giving them a mainstream approach. But well, Dangal is Aamir Khan and he doesn’t need music. His script selection just can’t go wrong in content driven cinema.
Content and music aside, 83’ team failed to position their epic as an event that should bring three generations of a family together to relive the greatest underdog story of all time. The film’s team had to position the team of 15 players with their manager, as national heroes. They had to make them relatable to the youth today through various approaches, but by the time of films’ releases, the youth knew of no one but Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar. 83’ was a story of this one team, but the youth couldn’t identify any of the national heroes. Remember Chak De India? Shimit Amin set up his film in a way that the audience was rooting for fiction characters too. Ditto for Lagaan, whereas the hall turned into a stadium when Kachra was taking wickets. Due to the lack of drama and void of emotions, one was celebrating the wickets and runs scored in 83, but no one was rooting for the characters. One can say that the celebration was more due to the historic relevance of the event and not the film.
There were ample goof ups in the pre-release campaign too. Though that’s not of much significance as content supersedes everything. But the makers hosted pre-release events in Dubai, Kerala and Karnataka, but ignored the core markets – Delhi, Mumbai and Punjab (Kapil Dev’s birth place) that contributed in a big way for the success of a film like 83. If not in the plan, this should have been a last-minute addition done by the team seeing the success of Spider Man and Pushpa, as it was evident from December 17 that 83’ would face ample competition in it’s release date.
There were distribution errors too, as the team went wrong on the pricing front. 83’ was matching the price of Spider Man: No Way Home at most of the places, and it was ridiculous of the team to think that the audience would splurge such huge money in the middle of a pandemic for a film like 83. The high pricing policy backfired in a big way as it kept the audience away thereby curtailing the footfalls. It’s always better to sell more tickets at a relatively lower price than selling lesser tickets at a high price. While one can conclusively say the impact of prices, things might have been better if the tickets all across were within the reach of the audience.
All in all, it’s a culmination of multiple factors that has taken a toll on the biz of 83, with the non-universal treatment to the content being at the forefront.