A tiny film like The Kashmir Files, which is not even expected to open well, takes a decent start on the day of release. The word of mouth for the film is so outstanding that it leaves the producers flummoxed. Zee Studios, Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri and Abhishek Agarwal, the three producers of the film, were nervous as hell at the press conference held in Bombay, a fortnight before the film’s release, because they weren’t sure if their film would get enough screens and shows in the entire sea of new film releases. Zee, which was releasing the film all over, also decided to release the film in a limited number of screens so that ticket availability would automatically be difficult. This, Zee thought, would create a buzz around the film and create an all-round positive atmosphere about the film. However, the public reports were so phenomenal that the 600-plus screens booked by Zee for the film had gone up to 2,600 screens on the second day itself!

In fact, at the same press meet, I remember taking the microphone to tell the producers that they would probably be in for a surprise because their fears were, in all probability, unfounded; that they would get screens galore; that cinemas would vie for the film. I also remember writing a piece on the press conference, where I reiterated the point that exhibitors would want to release the film. To quote from the article:

However, for all the reasons mentioned above, exhibitors will not miss the opportunity of aptly showcasing The Kashmir Files as it seems to be a very bold attempt at laying bare a chapter of history which very few really and completely know about.

The rest, as they say, is history.

This week’s RRR is the biggest film, with a budget of Rs. 550 crore! It is made by one of the biggest directors of all time — S.S. Rajamouli. It was expected to open to bumper houses. Even now, it may open to extraordinary houses, but the advance booking for the film is not at all up to the mark. To what does one attribute this kind of lukewarm response to the film’s plans? Nobody has a foolproof answer to the difficult question.

The aforementioned two examples underline the vagaries of film business. Everything could be going right for a film but something drastic could happen to it on the day of release. Conversely, the film may be on a sticky wicket, but yet, something might happen to make that film a blockbuster.

PHOOL AUR KAANTE and LAMHE… both the films released in the same week in November 1991.

The Kashmir Files and RRR are not the first two examples. Film trade history abounds in such instances. In November 1991, Yash Chopra’s Lamhe, starring Sridevi and Anil Kapoor, had bombed on the same day as Ajay Devgan’s Phool Aur Kaante had become a runaway hit. Needless to add, before the release of the two films, everybody in the trade was betting on Lamhe. Nobody dreamed that an action director’s (Veeru Devgan) son could become a big star with his debut film, that too, pitted against a big-banner, big-starcast and big-budget film like Lamhe. But the impossible happened!

That’s the unpredictability of the business, that’s what gives this business an aura not seen in any other business. And that’s what makes the film business so unique, so difficult for people from other businesses to understand. That’s also why film business is not for the weak-hearted!