Indian Box Office: Vijay’s Horror Comedy Battles Action-Romance ‘Mirzya’ And Warrior Fantasy

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Sushant Singh Rajput and Kiara Advani (Photo: Fox Star Studios)

Audiences in India were spoiled for choice last weekend as a multi-lingual horror comedy starring Prabhudeva and Tamannaah Bhatia squared off against a Hindi action-romance and the third edition of a fantasy franchise from writer-director-star Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

However none of the newcomers came close to beating the biopic on Indian cricket great M.S. Dhoni, which knocked up more in its second weekend than the other three titles combined.

The best reviewed of the new releases was director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirzya, which features debutantes Harshvardhan Kapoor, Saiyami Kher and Anuj Chaudhary in a sprawling sagawhich melds ancient Punjabi folklore with a contemporary story about star-crossed lovers. However that did not translate to strong ticket sales, suggesting, not for the first time, there can be a gaping disconnect between plaudits from critics and Bollywood identities and the tastes of ticket buyers.

Tutak Tutak Tutiya, a horror comedy directed by Vijay and filmed in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil, also garnered good reviews but struggled to connect with mainstream audiences while Gurmeet’sMSG: The Warrior – Lion Heart was panned by reviewers and appealed only to his hard-core fans.

Also entering the market, Fox’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children conjured up an estimated $217,000 on 220 screens, the No. 1 Hollywood title, while the Telugu remake of Malayalam hit Premam drew crowds in the Telugu states (see separate story).

Produced by Fox Star Studios and Arun Pandey, writer-director Neeraj Pandey’s M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story mustered 94.13 crore ($14.1 million) in its first week on 4,200 screens in India. Starring Sushant Singh Rajput as Dhoni, Disha Patani and Kiara Advani, the sports drama collected 15.17 crore ($2.28 million) net at the weekend to reach 109.30 crore ($16.4 million), overtaking Housefull 3’s 107.70 crore ($16.2 million) to rank as the third biggest Hindi release this year behind Akshay Kumar’s Rustom and Salman Khan’s Sultan. Fox reported the weekend takings as $3.4 million which boosts the global gross to $27.75 million.

Critics at home and in the U.S. lavished praise on Mirzya, which had world premiere on October 6 at the 60th BFI London Film Festival and launched the following day in Bollywood friendly markets. Produced by Mehra’s Romp Pictures and Rohit Khattar’s Cinestaan Film Company, the $6 million film which co-stars Om Puri, Art Malik and Anjoli Patil fetched 6.25 crore ($939,000) on 1,700 screens in India, $54,000 on 95 screens in the U.S. and $7,000 on 14 in Australia.

The New York Times’ Ken Jaworowski opined, “ Mirzya is one gorgeously shot movie, and the filmmakers slow down some scenes to make sure you know it. They needn’t have bothered. Most everything in this easy-to-like story is hard to miss. It’s no coincidence that Shakespeare is referenced; there are echoes of Romeo and Juliet in several scenes. A brutally beautiful and tragic ending, and fine performances from the three lead actors, are enough reason to watch.”

'Mirzya' (Photo: Everymedia)

The Times of India’s Meena Iyer observed that Harsh manages to give glimpses of his vulnerability and intensity, Saiyami sparkles and Anuj makes an impressive debut, adding, “If you are drawn to stories that are high on aesthetics with lyrical narratives, Mirzya is a portrait that deserves a long look.”

Produced by Sonu Sood, Tutak Tutak Tutiya follows Prabhudeva as Krishna, a 34-year-old sales guy who dreams of marrying a ‘modern’ girl but is forced to marry Devi (Bhatia), a village girl. After the couple moves into a flat, Ruby (Bhatia again), the ghost of an aspiring actress who committed suicide when her first film was cancelled, possesses Devi and uses her body to fulfill her acting ambitions. The plot twists when Krishna tries to get rid of the ghost. Sonu Sood plays a Bollywood superstar.

Released on 1,000 screens, the film pocketed an estimated 3.50 crore ($526,000), despite some positive reviews. The Hindustan Times’ Sweta Kaushal praised Prabhudheva’s comic timing and Bhatia’s ability to switch swiftly from the ghost’s deadpan expression to a naive village girl.  Koimoi.com’s Surabhi Redkar’s found the film entertaining in parts but said most of the gags fall flat.

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