Sachin Tendulkar
Chaya Unnikrishnan (DNA; May 19, 2017)

A biographical docudrama, Sachin: A Billion Dreams, based on the life of cricket’s living legend Sachin Tendulkar, is set to release next month. Producer Ravi Bhagchandaka has raised expectations by saying that this ‘Baahubali’ (i) will demolish the Baahubali ruling the theatres at the moment.

We’re not sure about that, but there is no denying that the cricket star has a pan-India appeal and a fan in every Indian. So, will the opening of his film be bigger than the opening of a Khan film? Will it have a record opening? Will it be a game-changer?

A Billion Dreams is being released in five languages. Trade pundits talk about the film’s box-office potential. Over to the experts...

Can Sachin beat the Khans?
Super Cinema editor Amul Mohan says it’s difficult to predict whether the film will open bigger than a Khan film. “Sachin is obviously cricket’s God and his popularity can’t be questioned. All the Khans have their individual fan-following, but Sachin's fans are across the country. Who hasn’t heard of him? Even those who don’t follow cricket, know him. But having said that, you should understand that Sachin: A Billion Dreams is not a full-blown film, it’s a docu-drama. India is not used to such a situation — it’s a new genre, so it is difficult to gauge now,” says Amul.

Distributor Akshaye Rathi says. “There is no comparison because while the Khan films release in 3,500-5,000 screens, Sachin’s film has a relatively limited release potentially up to 2,000 screens. It’s a beautiful docu-drama and I am sure lakhs of Sachin’s fans will be watching. It will get brilliant numbers — I expect an opening of Rs 10 crore-plus on day one — but it is unfair to compare it to the Khans’ films.”

According to film and trade business analyst Girish Johar, the trailer and other publicity material has received extraordinary response, which leads him to believe that the film will get almost 70 per cent occupancy on the first day.

Connectivity with the new generation
Of the two cricketers’ biopics — Azhar and M S Dhoni - The Untold Story — released so far, the former flopped, while the latter went on to do business of Rs 100 crore. Most felt that the audience couldn’t connect with Azhar because Mohammad Azharuddin is not relevant to today’s generation. Dhoni, on the other hand, is still playing for the country and has a huge fan following.

Will Sachin, who is a retired superstar, pull in the Gen Next to theatres? “I agree that this generation knows a little less about Sachin, but that’s the reason there is a lot of excitement. They have all heard about him from their family members, because of which there is a lot of inquisitiveness about seeing such a huge phenomenon on screen,” says Girish.

Even Amul feels that though Sachin has retired, it is not going to matter. “He is such a big brand, and he is only half a generation behind today’s youth. People who are young and are fans of Virat Kohli or Dhoni have seen Sachin fleetingly in his last playing years, where he scored 200 not out.”

Akshaye points out that Sachin has played for two decades and multiple generations have rooted for him. “My grandfather, who is over 80 now, started following Sachin’s career since he made his debut at the age of 16. I have been following his journey, since I was 10 years old. He is the man who stopped traffic and had people glued to the TV screens when he played. He has a massive emotional connect,” he adds.

A game-changer?
Docudramas are not new, but it is definitely the first time that it is being released like a big film. Will it change the way the genre is perceived in India? “Honestly, there is no better time like now for films like these to be made. With the kind of exposure that the Indian audience is getting to the global content, the market is ready for game-changers. Be it Amazon, Netflix, we have so many avenues to consume content. New kind of narrative is being accepted. Just see Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, which did extremely well. I am very confident that it will do very well,” says Akshaye.

However, Girish feels that Sachin is one of very few living legends, who people might want to see as docudrama. “This is a rare, special case,” he says. If this is received positively, will it encourage more such docudramas? “I don’t think so. Cricket is the first love of our country as is Sachin. I don’t think any other sporting personality or for that matter, anyone, can match up to this euphoria,” says Girish.

The real Baahubali!
Sachin has dubbed all his lines in Hindi, English and Marathi. The biopic opens a month after Baahubali 2. And it has the same distributor. Producer Ravi Bhagchandka said in an interview, ‘You have the fictional Baahubali and then you have the real Baahubali coming up.’ So, will it break the record of Baahubali 2? “I don’t think so simply because of the sheer vibe and hype that Baahubali had. The first one had done great business and people were anticipating the second one, which sailed through on the hype. I don’t see any other film breaking that record. Also, Baahubali had a large number of screens. It opened to 5,000 screens across India, while Sachin has 1,200 screens. That is very little and that’s the reason it cannot break Baahubali’s record,” reasons Amul.