Aamir Khan has previously owned the Christmas frame in India with 2013’s Dhoom 3 and 2014’s PK. Worldwide, the latter film is the highest-grossing Bollywood movie of all time with about $100M. After sitting out last year, Khan is back with wrestling drama Dangal. In a rare move, the film will release in North America two days ahead of its home turf. It is getting a North American rollout on 331 screens beginning tomorrow, unprecedented for a Bollywood title.
Bollywood icons like Khan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are huge in India and the diaspora. While North America is the biggest market for Bollywood outside India, it’s not that often that a movie releases there first. Disney’s UTV, which is distributing, wanted to take advantage of the holidays when many folks have extra time off. It hits India on Friday.
The theatrical trailer for Dangal dropped in October and scored 24M YouTube views in less than a week. It’s now up to about 38.5M which is believed to be a record. A music video for “Dhaakad” with Khan performing as women wrestlers defeat the fellas, has racked up about 4.5M in two days (check it out below).
The female-empowerment film, directed by Nitesh Tiwari, is particularly timely. It’s centered on former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, who is forced to give up his dreams of winning gold for India in international competition due to lack of financial support. He resolves to train his future son to one day represent India in his passion sport. But destiny has other plans and all four of his children turn out to be girls. When his two eldest bash up a group of boys from the neighborhood, Mahavir realizes they have the same talent he was born with. He relentlessly pursues his goal of transforming his daughters into world-class wrestlers. They train with the village boys, and are inspired to fight to win on the mat at the Commonwealth Games, despite the odds.
This summer, India’s Sakshi Malik scored a bronze at the Rio games, making her the first female wrestler from the country to medal at an Olympics — and a sensation at home. Wrestling has been a hot theme in Bollywood this year with Salman Khan’s Sultan having grossed about $70M worldwide.
Dangal is also notable as one of the last films on the production slate of Disney-owned UTV Motion Pictures. Disney India recently said it was pulling out of Hindi film production, focusing instead on its Hollywood movies there. This year, Disney scored a coup when The Jungle Book became the highest-grossing Hollywood movie in India ever with about $39M.
For Khan, his own PK is the movie to beat. Box office figures in India are not always cut-and-dried with local reporting putting PK at 340.8 crore or $51.2M plus another $47.2M overseas. Other services have the total at just over $100M globally. Either way, it remains the biggest movie ever out of India and the one for Dangal to top.
The movie releases in several markets on Friday and comes at a time when Pakistan has ended a boycott on Bollywood films which are very popular there. The boycott began on September 30 due to political and military tensions between the neighboring countries. Reuters reports that some theater owners said the restoration was because tension was easing, but others said it was because box office had taken a sharp hit since Bollywood movies disappeared from screens.
Here’s the new Dangal music video: