The past few holiday weekends have seen an abundance of Pakistani and Bollywood movie releases going toe-to-toe with one another. Eidul Azha last year saw Na Maloom Afraad (NMA), Operation 021 and Bang Bang! square off against each other and the trend seemed to have repeated on Eidul Fitr this year when Bin Roye and Wrong No locked horns with Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan. All of which eventually peaked with the Independence Day weekend, when for the first time in several decades, three Pakistani films were released simultaneously.
Surprisingly, there seems to be an awful lot of calm and decorum heading into Eidul Azha this year with not many local or international movies jousting for the crown. For the first time in over a year, a Pakistani movie would head into its weekend assured of its fate. It is the multi-starrer comedy Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (JPNA) that seems to be in pole position as the movie nears its release date.
Keeping this thought in mind, chief executive officer (CEO) of ARY Digital, Jerjees Seja, whose company Ary Films has produced and distributed the movie, said they were aiming for a weekend in excess of Rs40 to Rs50 million at the local box office. The figure seems to be meagre considering how ARY Films’s previous release Wrong No managed to earn Rs25 million during its opening three days despite facing stiff competition from Bin Roye and Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
Wrong No had the advantage of having a few shows before Eid, whereas JPNA will release directly on Eidul Azha,” explained Seja.
But the real point of interest is that the producers of the film are actually aiming to set a box-office record by the time the film finishes its run on cinema screens. “The total box-office collections we have set for the film is over Rs300 million. If this film doesn’t cross this mark, then I don’t know what film will,” stated Seja.
If the movie does end up crossing that tally, it would become Pakistan’s highest-grossing film, breaking Waar’s record of Rs230 million. Even Waar’s writer and producer Hassan Waqas Rana has thrown his weight behind the film, saying, “When I watched the movie, I told Humayun it would cross the Rs300 million mark.”
Exhibitors have also shown confidence in the movie terming it as an ideal Eid release as the film would translate well with both multiplex and single-screen cinemagoers, similar to another comedy released on Eidul Azha in 2014 — Na Maloom Afraad.
JPNA has already managed to capture the attention of audiences in Lahore with Khorem Goltasab, general manager of Super Cinemas, noting how there is a growing demand for the film in terms of advance booking. “Not only is the movie a thorough entertainer with the performances par excellence, it is a film that will do well in both multiplexes and single-screen cinemas.”
JPNA has received a boost heading into its release as the film, which was premiered in various cities worldwide, has already begun to benefit from strong word-of-mouth. With the movie appearing as a heavyweight in front of other local and international releases, such as Hulla Gulla, Katti Batti and Everest, it would be asking too much of these three films to stop the JPNA juggernaut.
Despite the lack of competition, Seja is not getting too carried away with the film’s chances and is wary of the threat that the other movies pose. “All these films, such as Hulla Gulla, Katti Batti and Everest, are quality films. Even Manto is still being screened in cinemas, so I wouldn’t say there is a lack of competition. These films are still tough competition.”
JPNA is expected to release on nearly 80 screens across the country on Eidul Azha. The movie features an ensemble cast, including Humayun Saeed, Hamza Ali Abbasi, Vasay Chaudhry, Ahmed Ali Butt, Javed Sheikh, Ismail Tara, Ayesha Khan and Bushra Ansari.
LOCAL BOX OFFICE RECORDS:
Highest grossing Pakistani film — Waar — Rs23.4 million
Highest box office opening weekend — Fast & Furious 7 — Rs72.5 million
Highest box office opening weekend (Eid) — Kick — Rs57.8 million
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2015.