The Sankranti season is usually the biggest money spinner for Tollywood. However, it turned out to be a dampener for big films – Guntur Kaaram, Saindhav, and Naa Samiranga. Hanu Man, a socio-fantasy film directed by Prashant Varma, emerged as the unlikely winner, with the film clocking 10 lakh bookings on BookMyShow, according to the producers.

Ironically, the makers of the film, which was considered an underdog, were advised by some to delay the opening and avoid a Sankranti race. However, they stuck to their original release date, and got rave views from the word go.

Megastar Chiranjeevi championed the film, saying even a small film stood a chance if it was made well. With Teja Sajja in the lead role, the homegrown superhero movie reportedly earned ₹20 crore in just two days of its release, with the US weekend bookings contributing about ₹8 crore ($1 million).

Riding on Lord Rama

The makers of the film have come out with a novel marketing strategy to attract footfalls. With the nation’s attention focussed on the upcoming inauguration of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, they announced that they would donate ₹5 on each ticket sold to the temple.

As it connected well with the mood of the nation, audiences flocked to theatres in various Southern States. The film has gained good traction in the Hindi belt, too.

“No star power to attract a strong initial. No extensive pre-release promotions. Yet, Hanu Man embarks on a wonderful start. While most South-to-Hindi dubbed films struggled to take off in 2023, 2024 begins on an optimistic note thanks to Hanu Man. The strong word of mouth should convert into footfalls and ensure a good, healthy weekend,” film critic Taran Adarsh said on ‘X’.

Big films disappoint

Meanwhile, big budget films disappointed at the box office. Gunturu Kaaram, the much-hyped film starring Mahesh Babu and directed by Trivikram Srinivas, elicited negative reviews. Impromptu one-liner reviews on social media from the US, where the films are released a day earlier, and those from the benefit shows spread ‘negative talk’.

Dil Raju, a film producer who owns a good chunk of screens in the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, hoped that the film would pick up later. “The initial response would prove to be wrong as the film is being liked by family audiences. We hope it will pick up during the festive season,” he said.

The other two films – Saindhav (actor Venkatesh’s 75th film) and Naa Samiranga (starring Akkineni Nagarjuna) – too have failed to meet expectations, leaving the floor open for Hanu Man. The film, which has got 9/10 ranking on IMDb, will soon gain more screens across the South.