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Blockbuster Indian movies capture global audiences

Hollywood’s loss may be Bollywood’s gain. Following the decision of the American film industry to stop screening films in Russia, Hindi and Telugu movies have made a strategic move to fill in the gap, and cater to the growing demand.

While Yash Raj Films is set to release Pathaan in Russia, Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise-Part One arrived in theatres there a few months ago.

Moreover, the resumption of overseas releases in non-diasporic markets, after a covid-induced break, is boosting the reach of Indian cinema. Period drama RRR was showcased in Japan last October. Producers are also tapping the opportunities in the Chinese market.

While overseas markets like Russia do not perform as well as traditional Bollywood markets such as the US and the UK, it is a valuable add-on. “American films have stopped playing in Russia and they are in need of content. We don’t, however, know if it is temporary or will sustain for long. But the thing (with non-traditional overseas markets) is not every film will find takers and it’s a huge risk on the part of producers,” said Shobu Yarlagadda, co-founder and chief executive officer of Arka Mediaworks, the producers of the Baahubali franchise.

Baahubali’s first part did not work in Japan, but the second one was a huge success, Yarlagadda said. Over time, Japan has emerged as a market for SS Rajamouli, as well as other big-ticket Telugu movies.

Besides China, where Aamir Khan has a huge fan-following, Shah Rukh Khan is very popular in Germany. France and South Korea are emerging as potential markets, he added.

Globally, the exhibition fraternity is looking for hits that they can take a chance with at a time many films are failing at the box office, Yusuf Shaikh, business head, feature films at production and distribution firm Percept Pictures, said.

“Something that has proven to be a hit in a market or comes with a big star cast, makes far more sense than a new independent film. Business is hit globally and there is nothing to fill up theatres,” Shaikh added.

Pradeep Dwivedi, group chief executive officer, Eros Media World Plc that released its comedy drama English Vinglish in China earlier this year said the film has met with significant critical acclaim. “At Eros Media World, we will continue to explore opportunities to globally screen our legacy hits and our new film offerings,” Dwivedi added.

That said, the world of streaming has also thrown up challenges for global releases, Yarlagadda pointed out. Platforms usually buy worldwide rights to movies and have a window before which these cannot be screened in the said markets, even in theatres. Waiting for that window to lapse often leads to a loss of interest in the film.

“Earlier, sales agents would buy combined theatrical, DVD and other rights for these foreign markets to offset any losses from cinemas, which can be quite unpredictable. But all of those rights are going away in one chunk (to OTTs) now,” Yarlagadda said. It makes it difficult for foreign distributors to bet on Indian films based purely on what they may make from cinemas, he added. Live Mint

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