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This film sold zero tickets on opening day, was called disaster, later became superhit, saved superstar's failing career

This film saw zero footfalls in the first two shows on opening day but still went on to be a superhit

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This film sold zero tickets on opening day, was called disaster, later became superhit, saved superstar's failing career
Gulshan Grover in a scene from Hera Pheri
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The commonly held notion in the film business circles is that the key to good box office collections is a strong opening weekend at the ticket window. It gives any film that necessary push and momentum for a healthy run. However, there have been many films that had disastrous starts but went on to change their fortunes. This is exactly what happened with this 2000 cult comedy.

The film that sold zero tickets on opening

Directed by Priyadarshan, Hera Pheri is regarded as one of the most successful and influential comedies in Bollywood history. The film was a major success at the box office, grossing Rs 21 crore on a meagre Rs 6-crore budget. However, the start wasn’t as rosy for the Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, and Paresh Rawal-starrer. In a recent interaction with Bharti TV, Suniel Shetty recalled, “Hera Pheri’s first two shows were absolutely flat—zero footfalls. It felt like a disaster initially. The film gained momentum after 6 PM that day.” The momentum held on and the film earned Rs 12 crore in India and Rs 21 crore worldwide, spawning a sequel – Phir Hera Pheri – which released in 2006, and earned Rs 70 crore worldwide.

Hera Pheri’s impact on Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal

In the 90s, Akshay Kumar was one of the most successful action stars in Bollywood. Riding on the success of the Khiladi films, he established himself as a bankable star. But towards the end of the decade, Akshay saw a string of flops that affected his stardom. By 1999, he was reeling under the failure of big films like International Khiladi and Sangharsh. But then, Jaanwar somewhat saved him with considerable success. But it was Hera Pheri that truly brought him back. The film’s success led to Akshay doing more comedy, a genre he made his own over the next decade with hits like Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Garam Masala, Awara Paagal Deewana, and Bhagam Bhag among others. He was the highest-grossing Indian actor from 2007-19.

Paresh Rawal, too, had excelled in negative and supporting roles in the 80s and 90s, But Hera Pheri proved to be his breakthrough at the age of 45. It earned him several roles in the comedy genre, with success in films such as Aankhen, Awara Paagal Deewana Hungama, Malamaal Weekly Golmaal: Fun Unlimited, Chup Chup Ke, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, and Welcome. The success of these films helped Paresh Rawal prolong his career and for a moment, be counted among his films’ top billed stars. He later won acclaim with serious roles in films like OMG and Sanju.

The legacy of Hera Pheri

Hera Pheri saw a sequel in the form of Phir Hera Pheri, which released in 2006 and was a box office success. A third film – titled Hera Pheri 3 – was started in 2014 before it was shelved after initial filming. The project was eventually revived in 2023 with the original trio – Akshay, Suniel, Paresh – reuniting. The film is slated to release later this year.

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