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19 April 2024

Aamir sets UAE screens ablaze

Aamir Khan worked out for one year to build his muscles for the film Ghajini. (SUPPLIED)

By Abdullah Mahmood

If proof was required that being picky and choosy about film offers can work for Bollywood stars, Aamir Khan has provided it yet again.

His latest film, Ghajini, released on Christmas day, has shattered all opening box-office records in India and the Gulf, netting $920,000 (Dh3.3 million) in the Middle East over the extended four-day weekend, according to Big Pictures, the film's international distributors.

In the process it has broken the record of the Shah Rukh Khan's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which recently set a new mark for the highest opening regionally. Ghajini has already grossed $4m in overseas territories, in addition to an unprecedented $8.5m in the domestic market in its opening weekend. And the film is a craze. In the UAE, Ghajini mania has to be seen to be believed. All cinemas showing the film ran to packed houses over the first weekend and getting a ticket was seen as an achievement.

"Ghajini has had the biggest opening ever for a Bollywood film in the UAE, with first weekend earnings in excess of the total returns of most other Bollywood films this year. I am sure it will go on to overtake the collections of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, the highest grosser so far in the Middle East," says Mahi Golchin, Managing Director of distributors Phars Films.

So what led to the mad rush for this Bollywood potboiler? The fact that it's an Aamir Khan film works in its favour. The actor is famous among Bollywood's leading men for preferring quality over quantity – he shoots only one carefully selected movie a year, with an impeccable box-office record to boost.

As Khan returns to action film genre after a hiatus, the actor built up the tempo with a newly acquired physique, complete with eight-pack abs.

It was later learned that Ghajini was a remake of a critically acclaimed Tamil-language blockbuster, which in turn created much word-of-mouth pre-publicity for the Hindi-language film.

Released during the festive period, a marketing blitz added to the Ghajini craze where Khan embarked on an innovative promotional campaign – he turned hairdresser for a day to ape his shaved style for his fans.

"Four days was all it took for Ghajini to become the biggest Bollywood hit in the UAE, followed by Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Dostana, Singh is Kinng and Race with ticket sales of 80,000, 90,000, 100,000 and 125,000 respectively in their first weeks in the UAE," says Golchin.

Ghajini has exceeded the 125,000 mark in ticket sales in its first weekend alone.

In India, the film has netted unprecedented returns of $8.5m in its first weekend. Such figures were not even achieved in a full week's run by previous record-holders of the year – Singh is Kinng and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.

Analysts predict Ghajini is all set to become the first film to cross the Rs1 billion (Dh75.8m) mark in India.

In contrast, Shah Rukh Khan's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi took in around Rs700m by the end of its third weekend in India and the Akshay Kumar starrer Singh Is Kinng's net gross was Rs755m, the previous biggest in 2008.

Ghajini is also expected to set a new benchmark in this region, with no big releases until the third week of January when Akshay Kumar returns to the silver screen in Chandni Chowk To China.