Is Azhar outdated today?
Today, with the various formats in which we see cricket being played viz. IPL T20, World Cup, Test, and One Day, there is a whole gamut of new players being introduced almost every season. In such a case, Azharuddin who played for the country years back seldom seems to be a name that crops up in normal conversation. Explaining further Girish Wankhede, (Founder-Entity One Entertainment Solutions) says, "Azhar is not a household name today. If you look at it, today's youth, all are looking up to someone like a MS Dhoni, a Virat Kohli or their likes; they do not really know who Azharuddin was. Maybe in our time, Azhar was a big name to contend with in the sport, but today, he has faded. Because of this, the youth did not connect with the film; instead, it was only the 30+ year olds who have seen the man play at one given time have patronized the film."
However, trade analyst Taran Adarsh differs, "Going by the posts I have seen on my time line, and general opinions I have heard, Azhar was appreciated by both the critics and audience alike. But I am as clueless as anyone else on why this positive response and good word of mouth did not translate into good box office numbers."
Another aspect that affected the overall business of Azhar was the fact that though the makers of the film went on record stating that the film was not a biopic, the audience failed to register it as anything but one. "Azhar was based on a true story and since the real story was already known to everyone, it was obviously difficult to change the audience perception on the said topic. Further Azhar, came across as a whitewash effort when talking about the episode for which the cricketer became infamous", comments veteran reporter Indu Mirani.
Did a tarnished image rub off on the box office?
When basing a film on certain real life happening, there is always a chance that the subject matter will have a positive or negative effect on the end product. In the cast of the film, Azhar's acceptance of his involvement in the scandal that rocked the sporting world seemed to have a negative effect on the film. "The entire story of the film revolved around what transpired during the 90s, and today, no one really wants to know what happened and if they do one cannot just give them a version favouring any single side", reasons Mirani.
Was Emraan Hashmi the right choice to play Azhar?
Apart from the script and story of any film, what managed to entice the audience to theatres is the star quotient. Keeping this in mind was Emraan Hashmi the right choice of actor to play Azharuddin? "Emraan did not do justice to Azhar, his body language and aura did not match or come close to that of Azharuddin, I think this was another point that proved to be a disconnect for the audience" says Mirani.
Though Mirani felt Emraan was not the perfect choice to play Azhar, Taran can't stop raving about the actor's in film performance, "Again from what I have heard Emraan' s performance in Azhar was, by far his best work till date."
At the end of the day, we guess it was a combination of various factors listed above that contributed to the underperformance of Azhar at the box office. But chief among them was the fact the film lost out on the core target audience comprising between the ages of 15- 30, since they either did not know who Azhar was, nor were they excited to learn of a star past his prime. Besides unlike Sachin who even today is looked upon as a cricketing legend, Azhar pales in comparison, thus losing out yet another chunk of the audience. Besides this, the fact the in the film Azhar is seen accepting a bribe, which in Indian morality does not look good certainly rubbed a certain segment of viewers the wrong way. All in all, the underperformance of Azhar at the box office can simply be chalked up to the gap between the film's subject and the audience.