What is a blockbuster?
What is a true blockbuster? There are a lot of definitions. Varies by country or industry too. In Hollywood terminology a blockbuster is a film which has a high concept at its core, high on action and thrills, and is a big budget studio programmer (programmer means, a film green lit by a studio). What is normally termed as a blockbuster in our Indian terminology is called a huge grosser or a juggernaut by them. They consider films in only two categories. Commercially successful or not. As simple as that.
But when it comes to blockbuster in Indian cinema, we have a different definition. The film needs to earn so and so times compared to the expenses. In south Indian cinema, a film should earn at least 1.5 times the theatricals (amount spent on the movie by the distributors). There are other categories like Hit, Super Hit, Semi-hit, Above Average (all these categories are called success. While in Bollywood, the Nett Box Office Collections Should be double that of the expenses (including promotions and all) to be a blockbuster. Other categories being the same.
While we call movies which lost huge amounts of money to the makers and/or the distributors (including exhibitors) as disasters, such films are termed Bombs by Hollywood box office pundits. Even covering box office numbers differ when it comes to Hollywood, Bollywood, and South Indian Cinema (more about this later or no later - articles like this sell less in terms of clicks buddies).
What does a blockbuster do to careers?
So, with this out of the way, we have to understand that, wherever in the world, any blockbuster increases the stardom of not just the lead actors and filmmakers but also those who are associated with the project in smaller roles (on or off-screen). What type of stardom? Bragging rights of having bigger box office numbers? Or recognition among a wider public?
Though we vote for both, it is the recognition among the wider public that determines true stardom. If you're loved by the public, you'll anyway get chances one way or the other. Just like Ravi Teja maintained his market value without having a true blockbuster in about a decade.
Redefining a blockbuster
Now, coming to the point of this post, we want to illustrate this point based on two biggest blockbusters from Tolywood during 2020 Sankranthi. Both Sarileru Neekevvaru and Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo hit the screens side by side and went on to become the biggest hits in the careers of both Mahesh Babu and Allu Arjun. Both grossed over 200 crores.(while the Allu Arjun starrer fell just short of 250 crore gross, superstar Mahesh's Sarileru Neekevvaru crossed Rangasthalam gross nominally to become the top 6th highest grosser of all time)
That both these films are non pan-India films is the biggest highlight. They have shown the true potential of Tollywood local market.
Apparently, solely based on box office numbers, Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (WWG: 248 Cr. and WWS: 150.51 Cr.) can be termed a better performer than Sarileru Neekevvaru (WWG: 224.23 Cr. and WWS: 135.08 Cr.). But the rivalry between these two films didn't just end there. Sarileru had to bank only on Mahesh's superstardom (Anil was still to be among big league directors then), Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo worked based on Trivikram magic plus Allu Arjun stardom.
If we consider only actors, it is Mahesh who trumped Allu Arjun authoritatively. But we cannot ignore the pan-india craze of Allu Arjun who has a separate market in Kerala apart from a darling favourite among Bollywood stars. But the craze and recognition for Mahesh is more evenly spread across India and his last three consecutive films scored over 500 Cr. combined gross. All without pan-India films. Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo was the only industry hit in the career of Bunny.
Now moving on to television audiences where more numbers are there than the theatre goers who are mostly youth, we shall see a clearer picture. Sarileru broke all the previous records including the phenomenal Baahubali 2 when aired on TVs. Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo beat the Mahesh starrer by a huge margin to register an epic and unprecedented rating of 29+. If we attribute both these to pandemic and lockdown, we can arrive at our conclusion decisively.
The repeat run. Sarileru has shown consistency in the ratings over its four airings.
👉1st time - 23.4 TRP
👉2nd time -17.4 TRP
👉3rd time - 12.55 TRP
👉4th time - 10.21 TRP
Granted, the third and fourth time, the numbers decreased. But theatres were opened when it aired the fourth time. Still maintaining a rating above 10 should be attributed to Mahesh's command over television audience (families and older demographics). His craze among the youth is already well known (box office performances prove it).
Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo had fallen beyond common logic (29.4 and 7.92 - huge difference) when it comes to the second airing. Even if we consider streaming, Sarileru trumped Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo by a considerable margin after initial euphoria. All despite highly negative comments about how the heroine's role is treated in Sarileru Neekevvaru.
Considering all these factors and the stardom of both heroes (how it got affected post the release of the film) we can conclude that Sarileru Neekevvaru is a well rounded blockbuster and consolidated Mahesh Babu's superstardom. Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo helped Allu Arjun to gain more footing than before. But he's still got a lot to prove just beyond Box Office Numbers.