Subhash K Jha speaks to trade analysts about the failure of '83 at box office

Why Did Kabir Khan’s Much-Touted ’83 Underperform So Drastically At The Box office? Trade Experts Kick In

Blame it on the Covid. Or the fact that in hindsight the film looks like a documentary instead of a feature film.But Kabir Khan’s highly regarded sports film ’83 which was made at an estimated cost of Rs 270 crores, stands to lose over 150 crores at the boxoffice.

One of the film’s producers who wishes to go unnamed says it’s futile and self-defeating to play the blame game. “Why blame the Covid resurgence? Even with the threat of the third wave, audiences flocked to see Spiderman and the Telugu film Pushpa. No. If they wanted to see ’83 they would have come. But they didn’t. And the main reason for this is the youngsters couldn’t connect with the euphoria of the 1983 World Cup victory. For people who were witness to the victory the film was like a documentary. They knew everything that they saw in the film from before.So we lost audiences both ways.”

Producer Ajay Rai who had tremendous success with his OTT series Tabbar in 2021, feels the film’s brilliance cannot be undermined by its boxoffice performance. “Whatever its boxoffice performance—and let’s not forget ’83 was released when the third wave of the pandemic was around the corner—the film is as brilliant as Lagaan, that other cricket masterpiece. A film’s quality cannot be judged against its boxoffice performance.Even today we talk about Guru Dutt’s Kagaz Ke Phool and Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker which were declared flops when released.”

Says trade guru Taran Adarsh, “There’s no denying the fact that 83 is an extremely well-made film, but, unfortunately, the praise, the accolades, the critical acclaim and the strong word of mouth hasn’t translated or converted into footfalls. The film has worked at select metros, that too at premium multiplexes. Outside metros and especially at smaller centres/mass belt, the film has not found acceptance. The expected numbers are missing.One of the reasons could be that people found it to be a docudrama. It appealed more to the big city audience, the mass belt just did not take to it. Especially the youth and those who relish masala fares.83 has it all it was very well made with strong emotions as its USP. The release period was most appropriate too. Christmas and New Year celebrations are one of the most lucrative periods as far as movie business is concerned. Unfortunately, 83 did not take off the way it should have. PUSHPA and SPIDERMAN, released one week before, continued to pose stiff opposition to 83 in mass belt and metros, respectively. The moviegoers felt these two films were better alternatives than 83.Sad but true.”

Film critic Raja Sen feels ’83 did not offer enough incentive for theatre attendance . “It is becoming increasingly clear that people will only go to theatres for an experience they cannot get at home. They went for Spider-Man No Way Home because that was a beloved film offering larger than life movie magic. Even the people curious about 83 are willing to wait a few weeks and watch it on a streaming platform. That’s the difference.

Producer and trade analyst Girish Johar adds, “It’s very easy to dismiss in hindsight but yes ,with 83 majority of the critics went wrong. Films are very subjective experiences and the easy way out is to go with the flow, that’s what hampered majorly. Personally, after watching the film, I felt the film is more of sports docu-drama and not as an entertaining film. Apart from Ranveer Singh, who was towering in the film, there was no character development of any of the actors which could connect. Yes, winning the 83 World Cup is a fond memory for all but again the youth couldn’t connect nor relate to the film. And the youth constitutes a majority of our box office tickets. Also the marketing, though wide was not focussed. Showcasing fights over cinema screens, distribution delays in advance booking opens further aggravated the matter. High ticket-prices was a major concern too. Using bullish media reviews days in advance of the release, pumping expectations of the audiences, which when they actually saw the film was no match, that too hit the sentiments over the end-product. Finally, I feel that the budget was too high for this kind of vision. Had the budget been half of what it is, it would have been a winner, despite all of the above and despite the pandemic.”

Trade analyst Atul Mohan feels there is no clear-cut answer to why ’83 underperformed. “Nobody can answer this question.Everybody may come up with one theory or the other but why the audience rejected this modern-day classic nobody will be able to figure out. Maybe the audience wanted entertainment and that quotient was missing here. But one thing is for sure: the high ticket pricing in today’s times did keep a lot of people away from watching the film on the big screen .As we all know all films are available on some streaming platform in 4 weeks time.”

Producer Suneel Darshan adds, “There are several reasons attributed to a movie’s failure but this time ’83’s debacle is because of its docu-drama genre, and timing its release so close to Spiderman and more so Pushpa which have collectively snatched away Rs.100 crore of box-office takings in their second week, proved fatal for ’83.”

Akshay Rathi “There are multiple reasons why ’83 didn’t do that well. One was the whole notion of the the third wave of the Pandemic coinciding with the release of ’83. Secondly, in terms of the drama and storytelling possibly catered to a more urbane audience. The average Indian audience wanted to see a far more basic and accessible film. However nothing can take away from the fact that it is a brilliantly made film. It’s a film that will go down in the history of Indian cinema for so fabulously recreating the golden moment of cricket history.Nothing can take away from that.”


About The Author
Subhash K Jha

Subhash K. Jha is a veteran Indian film critic, journalist based in Patna, Bihar. He is currently film critic with leading daily The Times of India, Firstpost, Deccan chronicle and DNA News, besides TV channels Zee News and News18 India.

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