Meet the Box Office Badshah you didn't know: Sajid Nadiadwala
With a strike rate of over 95 percent, Sajid Nadiadwala is arguably the most successful producer in Bollywood.
Liberty Cinema, Mumbai, 1997. It was February 6, a quiet Thursday night. There was no queue for tickets outside the theatre in Marine Lines, South Mumbai, for the 9 pm show—the last before blockbuster Friday, when new films hit the screen.
Inside the cinema hall, the dark hid the empty seats. Sajid Nadiadwala, dressed in his favourite black T-shirt and blue jeans—was getting fidgety. The 30-year-old film producer had organised a private screening. The film was Judwaa, his fourth under Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment (NGE), which debuted in 1992 with Waqt Hamara Hai.
Sitting next to Nadiadwala in the last row were six friends, including a distributor. Throughout the film’s running time of two-and-a-half hours, the buddies remained mum. After the screening, they looked pensive. “Picture theek hai (The film is okay),” deadpaned one of them. The grandson—that’s how friends addressed Nadiadwala because his grandfather AK Nadiadwala dabbled in production in 1948—sensed that they were trying to be polite.
The stocky film distributor, dressed in all white, couldn’t help himself, and moved his hand over Nadiadwala’s head to express sympathy. “It seemed as if they were at a condolence meet,” recalls Nadiadwala. Judwaa, he thought to himself, was meant to be a comedy, but there was not a peal of laughter from any of the six viewers in those two-and-a-half hours.
The unforeseen reaction took him into flashback mode. Two years back, a newspaper hack had taken a dig at Nadiadwala’s decision to make a movie with Salman Khan, because of the rough patch that the actor was going through. “Ek Salman toh chalta nahin, Nadiadwala has taken two Salmans,” (One Salman doesn’t work, and he has taken two),” was the jibe, alluding to the double role of the superstar in Judwaa. For a fledgling producer, especially after the last hit movie under his banner, Jeet, the prospect of a flop was disastrous—not just a fall of face, but a financial farce, too, what with debt repayment looming large.
The next day, grandson sneaked into Liberty theatre for the show at 11 am. It didn’t take long for his nervousness to make way for relief. And unfettered joy. The audience was on a laughter ride; the songs, especially 'Chalti hai kya 9 se 12', were cheered; and Salman Khan was the darling of the gallery. Nadiadwala stayed back for the subsequent shows, and nothing changed. Judwaa was on its way to becoming a superhit.
For Nadiadwala and his NGE, there has been no looking back since then. Twenty-seven years, 28 movies, 12 blockbusters, six hits, seven with average collections, and three flops: NGE, under the third-generation producer, has arguably emerged as India’s most successful producer, with a success rate of 95 percent. For the March-ended fiscal 2019, while the personal earnings of Nadiadwala stood at ₹115 crore, his production house posted revenues of ₹419 crore.
Forbes India Source