Bajrangi Bhaijaan had quite a debut weekend, logging the best opening frame ever for superstar Salman Khan with 102.6 crore ($16.7M) over the three-day in India; and the 3rd biggest weekend ever for Bollywood. It also put Khan in a class by himself. Scoring an 8th film with over 100 crore ($15.7M) at the box office gives him the most Hindi-language movies over that level of any actor in history, according to box office analyst Taran Adarsh. What’s more, Bajrangi set Khan a new overseas benchmark with $8M more in grosses.
This has been a strong two weekends in a row for Indian films. Last session’s Tollywood release, Baahubali, broke several records at its debut including biggest worldwide opening gross for an Indian movie at about 163 crore ($25.6M). Bajrangi has come in globally at 153.49 crore ($24.16); according to Rentrak, 50.89 crore ($8M) from offshore plays. North America at the weekend grossed $2.4M to mark at least the 10th time an Indian title has appeared in the U.S. Top 20 since May.
Other milestones for Khan include his 2nd best opening day ever in India with 27.25 crore ($4.3M). That’s second only to his Ek Tha Tiger which opened in the same Eid holiday period in 2012 and was also directed by Bajrangi’s Kabir Khan. Ek Tha Tiger is the No. 4 top opening day ever with Bajrangi at No. 7. It bested last year’s Eid Khan-starrer Kick which debuted to 26.40 crore and went on to be the year’s 2nd biggest local grosser. It also beat Kick overseas.
Bajrangi is a win for Bollywood and for Khan. The industry faced a potential crisis in May when the icon was convicted in a 13-year-old hit and run case, sending shares of Bajrangi distributor Eros International into a spin. The media frenzy surrounding the decision and a granting of bail two days later reversed that and there certainly looks to have been no impact on his fans’ ardor.
The film, about a man trying to bring a young, mute girl (Harshaali Malhotra) back to her family in Pakistan, kicked off to critical praise and awards buzz. Co-starring Kareena Kapoor and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, it’s something of a departure for Khan. The sentimental story only has two brief action sequences, no so-called “item numbers,” and, adds Bollywood Hungama, a short-lived romance “that doesn’t drag the proceedings.” Goodwill towards the title is strong.
Aamir Khan, star of last year’s PK, the highest-grossing Bollywood film ever, tweeted on Saturday: “OUTSTANDING! Salman’s best film till today!” He added, “And that little girl is too too good! Just steals your heart!”
Just came out of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. OUTSTANDING! Salman's best film till today! Salman's best performance till today!
— Aamir Khan (@aamir_khan) July 18, 2015
We’ll keep an eye on Bajrangi‘s progress; certainly with a view to next year’s Eid period when Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are slated to go head-to-head with holiday releases Sultan and Raees. And there will be a lot of Bollywood, Tollywood and Kollywood in between.