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‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ opens to impressive weekend collections

LiveMint logoLiveMint 30-05-2017 Lata Jha

New Delhi: In a first of its kind for the genre, docudrama Sachin: A Billion Dreams, a biographical film on the life of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar opened to impressive box office collections of Rs24.45 crore for its Hindi version over last weekend. Further, the film made Rs1.20 crore, Rs93 lakh, Rs1.05 crore and Rs42 lakh in its Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and English versions respectively.

“This is not a regular feature film we’re talking about. Unlike the West, India is not used to watching documentaries on the big screen. It’s the first time the genre has been tapped and quite successfully so,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.

Mohan added that the film brought together the two Cs that unite India—cricket and cinema, its impact further amplified by the presence of Tendulkar himself who has come to be known as nothing less than the God of cricket. It also stands apart from other recent sports movies like M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), both of which also earned decent collections of Rs133 crore and Rs108 crore respectively but were dramatized and fictionalized for entertainment purposes.

“There is no doubt Tendulkar is the darling of the nation and everybody would want to know the behind-the-scenes story as far as his life is concerned. That curiosity and word-of-mouth has translated into these collections,” said film trade and business expert Girish Johar adding that unimpressive reviews may be one barometer of looking at the film but if the docudrama sustains its impressive run over the coming week, none of it will matter.

To be sure, the 2 hour 18 minute account of the batsman’s life hinged entirely on brand Sachin, there is no action, little drama and barely any music apart from a background score by A.R. Rahman. It is his life story, narrated in his own voice and words.

“Sachin has been one of the most challenging products for us because the first question we asked ourselves was what we could do with a brand as massive as Sachin,” said Jigar Rambhia, national director—Sports and Entertainment Partnerships, Maxus India, a GroupM India—owned company that strategized the marketing for the biographical drama. “It wasn’t a film that required aggressive promotion but people needed to know about it. Which is why we decided this had to be an impact rather than frequency-driven campaign.”

As a result, Rambhia and his team stressed on advertising in few but prime-time advertising spots and maximized Tendulkar’s Twitter activity and conversations close to release. The only in-film brand association was with technology startup Smartron India that Tendulkar himself endorses. A meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi also helped, as did Tendulkar’s appearance on popular Marathi television show Chala Hawa Yeu Dya, the last of which really helped tap into the crucial Marathi market.

“The film has been shot simultaneously in Marathi, and not dubbed like Tamil or Telugu,” Rambhia said. “And it has now received tax-free status in Maharashtra and Kerala.”

The James Erskine directed film has also built on the recent positive box office trend begun by war epic Baahubali 2: The Conclusion last month that has earned over Rs1,500 crore in worldwide box office collections. Apart from Irrfan Khan-starrer Hindi Medium that remained steady at Rs37.35 crore at last count, there is Hollywood fantasy film Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge that earned Rs14-15 crore over its opening weekend.

“It is a typical summer month with the exams having gotten over after a dull March,” Johar said. “Pirates of the Caribbean has done decently enough by Indian standards while Hindi Medium has truly emerged as the dark horse.”

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