Film preview

Finally: ‘Dilwale ‘versus Bajirao Mastani’

The big-budget productions go head to head on December 18.

Finally, the date that everybody (and nobody) has been waiting for. On December 18, it will finally be decided whether audiences love Dilwale more than Bajirao Mastani. It is likely that ticket buyers will equally patronise both, since there are no major releases all the way till the first week of January. But try telling that to the companies associated with these big-budget productions, whose marketing campaigns make it appear that there is a prime minister’s position at stake, rather than a tonne of money.

The maximum potential domestic business for an A-list movie that releases on every available screen is Rs 40 crores. Eros and Sanjay Leela Bhansali Productions, which have produced Bajirao Mastani, had blocked the December 18 date several months ago. Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale, directed by Rohit Shetty and starring Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon, was to have come out a week later, on December 25. This arrangement assured Bajirao Mastani a clean run of at least a week before it had to cede screens to Dilwale the following Friday.

For reasons unbeknownst to all, Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment decided to spoil Bhansali’s party. Did Khan’s decision have anything to do with the fact that Bhansali had released his Saawariya on the same day as Khan’s Om Shanti Om in 2007? The backroom bad blood that has gushed in the movie trade over the avoidable clash and the forced revenue split might suggest that we are in a playground at a boys’ school rather than in the biggest movie industry in the country. But there is no denying that the backing and forthing between both banners have been entertaining to anybody not concerned with how much money each movie is going to make per show, per day, and across its lifetime.

In any case, both the movies are vastly different. Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale appears to be aiming for nothing more than mass entertainer status. The trailer suggests Fast and the Furious meets Hum and plays heavily on the frisson between Khan and Kajol, Shetty’s penchant for making cars explode in slow motion, glossy production values and chart-busting songs.

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Bajirao Mastani, which has been described as Mughal-e-Azam meets Bhansali’s version of Devdas, has the pomp, heavy costumes, elaborate sets, and general grandeur associated with the director. The movie roughly maps the period between 1720 and 1740, during which Peshwa Bajirao I (Ranveer Singh) defeated enemies, conquered distant lands, and married for the second time. Mastani (Deepika Padukone) demands the prime minister’s attention, but his first wife Kashi (Priyanka Chopra) is no pushover.

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