Often when a film doesn’t do well at the box office we see it impacting the other films which are in the pipeline starring the same actors. It’s happening now in Kangana Ranaut’s case too. She had acted in Hansal Mehta’s Simran in the lead role and the film has failed to live up to expectations. There is already buzz that, her next film Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, where she again plays the title role, has been impacted as the budget has been slashed and the film delayed. The film is directed by South director Krish and produced by Kamal Jain and Zee Studios. However, Jain says that not only is 50 per cent of the film is complete but the next schedule rolls in Rajasthan from next week. Manikarnika is a period film based on the life of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi and her war against the British East India Company, during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.
Says a source, “The reason why Simran was an extremely important film for Kangana and she went all out to promote it was because the producers were fixing the budget according to the opening. Now that the film has not done well, there is talk that landing cost of the film (with P& A) which is Rs.80-crore (approx.) is very expensive and the budget will be reduced as the cost does not seem recoverable. Question also arises if post Simran, Kangana has the stardom to recover the cost. Historicals are very expensive and people expected Simran to have a Rs.20 crore weekend which didn’t happen as it barely scraped across with Rs.10 crore.”
The source adds, “Kangana is said to be one of the highest paid actresses today because she can rake in the money single-handedly sometimes. But it’s proved now that she needs very strong directors like Vikas Bahl and Anand L Rai to direct her for making hits. When she is apparently ghost-directing in films like Rangoon, Katti Batti and Simran where she gets creative control, they are turning out to be flops. In her entire career spanning 12 years, she has given three hits where she has played the main protagonist – Tanu Weds Manu and the sequel to it and Queen. Films like Rajjo and Revolver Rani where she has played the central role have not done well.”
Kamal Jain rubbishes all the rumours and adds, “These stories are completely untrue. We have not reduced the budget at all and nor do we plan to in the future. I can’t reveal the budget but to put aside the rumours, when we started the film, it was immediately after the failure of Rangoon which was also an expensive period film. That was a bigger disaster as compared to Simran and we started shooting for Manikarnika immediately almost a month after the Rangoon disaster. So when we were aware that Kangana had a disaster like Rangoon behind her and we went ahead with Manikarnika, why should we reduce budget now?”
According to Jain, “As a producer the most important thing for me is a great subject, the story and then the talent. I have put a hugely talented team of National Award winners behind the subject. In today’s times when cinema has changed the most important focus should be on the subject which has to be larger-than-life and then comes the story, screenplay and dialogues which make the subject shine. Then you need to bring the best actors, technicians and actors into the film to make it larger. People might run behind top stars but with due respect to everyone, for me nothing else can excite me more than the subject. I always wanted to make this film with the best technician and talent because the subject needs huge talent. I was fortunate to get Mr KV Vijayendra Prasad (writer of the Baahubali series and Bajrangi Bhaijaan) to write the story and screenplay and I got Mr Prasoon Joshi to write the lyrics of the songs and additional screenplay so India’s top two writers are writing India’s greatest subject ever. Co-incidentally, his daughter’s name is Manikarnika (Baahubali director SS Rajamouli’s sister). Shankar-Ehsan-Loy is composing the music, my director is Krish Jagarlamudi who is one of the biggest directors today and brought back Akshay Kumar with Gabbar Is Back, National Award winning designer Neeta Lulla doing the costumes, then I have the Art Director from Bajirao Mastani, Nitin Desai, and champion swordsman Nick Powell who is known to be one of the top five action directors in the world, is composing my action sequences in Manikarnika.”
Jain feels that Rani Laxmibai is an extra-ordinary tale and an out-and-out commercial story and that’s what attracted him to produce it. “I am very fortunate that God has given me an opportunity to make this film because many people were trying to make this film for the last decade and could make it because this is the kind of subject where you need large budgets. It’s a historical film and with extra-ordinary action. In today’s times it’s the most opportune story to tell because we are into nationalism and also celebrating women empowerment. This is the story about the greatest woman that India has ever seen – finest and bravest warrior and an extra-ordinary woman – a queen, mother and wife. We are showing beautiful sequences showcasing every aspect of Rani Laxmibai. Let me add here that we have already shot 40 days of our schedule and 50 per cent of the film is complete. Next week our second schedule is starting in Rajasthan and my November-December our principal photography will be complete. In my career I have never seen a film with such big talent on board and start and finish a film so soon – a historical with so much grandeur and action! I have a crowd of almost 700 on the sets every day with 200 horses coming from both the sides etc.”
Talking about the box office viability of Manikarnika, film business and trade analyst, Girish Johar says, “Every film has its own budget and every film has its own BO collections and revenue potential so whether the team is making the film, actually realise the true potential of the film vis-a-vis its cost, remains to be seen. Makers that make that possible with cost vs revenue meeting the expectations become successful, and which do not bridge this gap become successful. Times are very tough at the BO today as audiences have become very rude. If they don’t like a film they won’t watch it even on Saturday.”