Salman Khan’s Sultan released in China this week and the trade was optimistic about the business prospects of the film in the neighbouring country. The film found a wide release in China with approximately 40,000 shows, however the outcome surprised everyone as the film failed to live onto the expectations. Sultan raked in approximately $3.01 Million (Rs 21 crore) in its opening weekend and is now looking at lifetime collections in the range of $5 Million. While there are no doubts on the fact that the YRF film is a global blockbuster and the Chinese release wouldn’t really hamper the overall verdict of the film, the few reasons which might have resulted in failure of Sultan are:
1. Although Sultan is essentially a sport film, director Ali Abbas Zafar gave it a “Bollywoodized Touch” taking away the reality factor. The entire sub-track of Sultan Ali Khan aka. Salman Khan winning Gold at Olympics by merely training for 30 days is something that cannot happen in reality, how much ever we may enjoy the process while watching it on the big screen. In China, the children are trained from a very age to take up sports, especially Karate and they know what it takes to be a wrestler or martial art artist. The fiction turn given by Ali Abbas Zafar might have resulted in a disconnect with the Chinese audience. One of the major reason for Dangal to work apart from Aamir Khan’s popularity in country was the fact that it showcased what it takes to be a wrestler and win Olympic Gold. Sultan was an entertaining film, rather an extremely entertaining film, but lacked behind in realism.
2. The films that worked big in China were led by or had a strong female protagonist. Three of the most successful films in China i.e. Dangal, Secret Superstar and Bajrangi Bhaijaan had the premise revolving around the female protagonist, and as per research women form a major chunk of movie going audience in China. Sultan narrated the journey of Sultan Ali Khan, and the character of Aarfa i.e. Anushka Sharma was merely a part of his journey. Probably a spin off which narrates the tale of Aarfa would work big time in China. It is indeed an interesting area for YRF and the team over the to ponder upon.
3. Deja-Vu Factor: Although not a major reason for the film to fail in China, but one can’t deny the fact that the premise of Sultan and Dangal looked a lot similar from the trailer.
4. Sultan faced massive competition from two Hollywood films – Mission Impossible: Fallout and Ant-Man at the Box-Office which took away a major chunk of audience from the film. Without competition, the collections would have been better but again, we can’t say if the film would have succeeded had there been no competition. Ifs and Buts don’t work in the business world.
5. Apart from Aamir Khan, no other Indian star is a popular entity in China. The stars need an additional padding in to form of good ratings by the reviewers in China and extremely positive audience word of mouth to strike gold. With Sultan, the audience reviews were quite mixed, and since the audience in China had an alternate option for entertainment, they might have decided to give Sultan a miss. The Chinese market is content driven, and despite being a popular star in China, even Aamir Khan Films would need a positive word of mouth to sustain in the long run, although the opening might be a lot better than other Bollywood stars.
A lot of Indian films have been targeting a Chinese release, in-fact this year itself say the release of films like Secret Superstar, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Baahubali 2, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Hindi Medium and Sultan. In the coming months, Padman and Hichki are also up for release in the country. The performance of Padman and Hichki will give us an idea about the audience preference in China as both the films are narrated from the point of view of a female. To sum this up, the only good that Chinese release did for Sultan was the fact that it helped it cross the Rs 600 crore mark globally. By doing so, Sultan has become the sixth Indian film to attain the feat after PK, Dangal, Secret Superstar, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Baahubali 2.