Clash of the titans: top Bollywood film battles to look out for this year

Get ready for big Bollywood films to go head-to-head at the box office – beginning with Salman Khan’s Sultan and Rajinikanth’s Kabali facing off over the Eid weekend.

Salman Khan. AFP / STR
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Who is a bigger adversary in a box-office battle: Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh “King” Khan or South Indian demigod Rajinikanth?

It is a question Salman Khan might be pondering in the run-up to Eid Al Fitr – his eagerly anticipated sports drama Sultan hits the theatres on July 7.

Salman might have breathed a sigh of release when SRK shifted the release of his film Raees – also initially set for an Eid release – to January next year.

However, he may end up wishing that Raees had stuck to its original plan and that it was Kabali, starring Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, that had moved its release date away from July 7.

The producers of Kabali do seem to be considering switching the date to a week earlier or later – although an announcement has yet to be made.

Either way, there is likely to be some drama if both films open on the same day or within a week.

But while it might be the biggest Bollywood box-office battle we are likely to see this year, it is far from the only one.

Bollywood seemingly hasn't learnt a lesson from last year's Christmas-weekend clash between SRK's and Kajol's Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani, starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, the result of which was loss of business for both films, although Bajirao Mastani won the battle eventually.

No fewer than nine high-profile films, starring A-list actors, will go head to head in the coming months. Here are the battles to look out for.

Eid Al Fitr

The producers of Raees announced their film's Eid release first, then Yash Raj Films chose the same date for Sultan – ­Salman Khan considers Eid it to be a lucky day.

The two Khans, who made up only last year after their widely publicised squabbles, decided not to start another feud, and Raees was pushed to January 26, India's Republic Day.

About the same time, a teaser of Kabali, starring Rajinikanth and Radhika Apte, was released announcing a release date of July 6. The film, which will be released simultaneously in Tamil and Hindi, is Rajinikanth's first since 2014's Lingaa.

His fans – who are outnumber Salman's – clearly can't wait to see the movie, in which the 65-year-old actor plays a gangster boss. The Kabali teaser racked up 10 million views in only 72 hours, half the time it took for the trailer of Sultan – in which Salman plays a wrestler – to cross the same number. More than a month after its release, Sultan's trailer still has fewer views than Kabali's, which was only released on April 30.Could, therefore, Khan lose out to the superpower of ­Rajinikanth?

Experts believe that, ultimately, the quality of the films will be the deciding factor, as was the case with Bajirao Mastani, which won out over Dilwale despite SRK's powerful presence.

India’s Independence Day

Akshay Kumar's Rustom is a much-anticipated romantic thriller, in which the actor stars as naval officer Rustom Pavri, alongside Ileana D'Cruz and Esha Gupta.

The story is based on the life of Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati, an Indian naval officer who stood in the late 1950s for the murder of Prem Ahuja, his wife’s lover.

Hrithik Roshan's Mohenjo Daro is a fictional historical drama, set in ancient times – 2600BC to be exact – in the Indus Valley civilisation. Tollywood actress Pooja Hegde plays Roshan's love interest.

Both films are due to open on August 11, a few days before India's Independence Day on August 15, but while Rustom is already on the audiences' must-see list, Roshan's film hasn't created much buzz, despite being directed by the Ashutosh Gowarikar, who teams up with Roshan again after 2008's superhit Jodhaa ­Akbar.


Ae Dil Hai Mushkil – written, produced and directed by celebrity filmmaker Karan Johar – is a star-studded story of unrequited love, starring Anushka Sharma and Fawad Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

The film is due to open on October 28, the Diwali weekend in India, as is the film Shivaay, a magnum opus written, produced and directed by and starring Ajay Devgn, who is keeping the plot under wraps for now. Bollywood actor Sumeet Saigal's daughter Sayesha Saigal co-stars.

Devgn is nonchalant about the potential box-office battle.

“I don’t consider it to be a clash and I don’t take such clashes seriously,” he said.

"Son of Sardaar – which clashed with Jab Tak Hai Jaan – proved that. I think everybody has the right to release it whenever they want, and you just have to work harder on your film. Whichever is the better film will work more at the box office."

Republic Day

Raees is no longer battling Sultan – but when it debuts on January 26, there will be two other films to overcome.

Badshaaho, starring Devgn, Rai Bachchan and Vidyut ­Jammwal, was already set for a January 26 release when Rakesh Roshan also decided to claim the date for his next production, Kaabil, a revenge thriller about a visually impaired couple, starring Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam.

Badshaaho, which is set between 1975-77, when an emergency was declared in India, features Rai Bachchan as the late Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, who opposed the declaration.

Raees features Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, who makes her Bollywood debut alongside SRK, who plays a mobster.

While it has been rumoured that SRK contacted Roshan senior before shifting Raees's release date, Roshan denies this.

“No one approached me – my release date was announced in February this year for January 26, 2017, and I am sticking to it,” he said.

Rumour has it that Badshaaho may be pushed to March 10, 2017 – but wait, isn't that when Dharma Productions' Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya starring Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan is due out? The battles never end ...