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How did the Hindi film box office perform in the first quarter of 2019?

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Director Aditya Dhar's Uri: The Surgical Strike, starring Vicky Kaushal, became a superlative success story. 

Keyur Seta

The first quarter of 2019 is over and the period turned out to be fruitful for Hindi cinema as far as the box office numbers are concerned. Last year gave a clear indication that the audience is leaning toward films with high quality content, dismissing mediocre sagas and, more often than not, the big stars.

Director Aditya Dhar’s Uri: The Surgical Strike is a shining example released in this year’s first quarter. Starring Vicky Kaushal, the film is based on the real-life surgical strike on Pakistan-based terrorist camps carried out by India as a revenge for a terrorist attack carried out in September 2016 in Uri. Without any superstar power, the film made a mammoth Rs243.73 crore in India itself.

Trade analyst Atul Mohan believes that the subject of the film was its key factor. “The film is based on the September 2016 surgical strike conducted by the Indian Army against the terror launch pads in Pakistan, a subject that instantly struck a chord with viewers across India. Kaushal, who till then had been in the fringes of the industry, came into the limelight,” he said.

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Released on 11 January, Uri gave 2019 a bright kickstart.

Manoj Desai, executive director of G7 Multiplex and Maratha Mandir Cinema, shared that it is rare in today’s times for him to run a film for so long in his theatres. “Uri is exceptional out of all [the films]. We ran the film for six to eight weeks. These days a film running for so long is a huge thing. In some cases, it is good if the film runs even for three days [laughs],” he said.

The quarter also saw the success of films like Gully Boy, Luka Chuppi, Badla, Total Dhamaal and Kesari.

When asked about the performance of the first quarter on the whole, Mohan added, “Interestingly, all kinds of films have done well in the first quarter. From patriotic film such as Uri, period dramas like Manikarnika and Kesari, thriller like Badla, a family comedy Total Dhamaal to the youth-driven films like Luka Chuppi and Gully Boy, have done well according to their budgets. Uri broke the January jinx,” he said.

Desai echoed the same sentiments. “Barring few films, others have done well and some that haven’t been superhits have also performed well,” he said.

The first quarter also saw films that didn’t earn well at the box office despite critics showering praises on them. Sonchiriya and Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota are two such examples. Desai said, "I decided to run Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota at the last moment because of the praises showered by the media. But we felt dard [pain] as people didn’t come,” he said.

He also believes that although Kesari is a hit, the film was expected to perform much better. “There was more hope from Kesari since it is an Akshay Kumar film. But it didn’t live up to the expectations,” said Desai.

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The exhibitor believes that the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) is also a reason for not many turning up to watch the film. “Right now we are affected by the IPL. On weekdays there is one match and on weekends there are two. Junglee also got affected. It is a likeable film and Vidyut Jammwal’s performance is also impressive. But it is not doing as well as it should,” he said.

Mohan shared some interesting figures about the first quarter. Showing how positive the quarter has been, he said that in the entire last year, the Hindi box office made around Rs3,300 crore.

“Films like Uri: The Surgical Strike, Luka Chuppi, Badla, Total Dhamaal, Gully Boy, Kesari, Manikarnika and other films like Thackeray, The Accidental Prime Minister and Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga put together have garnered over Rs 1,100 crore itself. This is one-third of what was made in the whole of 2018. The other 20-odd films together have made around Rs50-odd crore. This effectively means that Bollywood has got a headstart to doing much better business [this year],” he said.

Desai expressed hope for the second quarter. “There is a lot of hope from Kalank. Let’s see now what happens after it releases. Let’s hope some good films come up,” he said.