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South Indian movies beat Bollywood in overseas box office sales

Indian movies are seeing early signs of a recovery in overseas markets with Telugu hits such as Vikram, Sita Ramam, Bimbisara and RRR grabbing eyeballs in markets that were once a Bollywood stronghold.

Mimicking domestic trends, Hindi films did not cut ice with the Indian diaspora during the Independence Day weekend. Aamir Khan-starrer Laal Singh Chadha made just $4.02 million, despite Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures putting in its best efforts to promote the film. Akshya Kumar’s Rakshabandhan, too,was a big disappointment with collections of just $70,000 at last count, with Zee Studios driving its overseas marketing initiatives.

“South Indian films are a big success overseas, even in markets like the UAE where there is a sizeable Malayalam-speaking population, but was dominated by Hindi films for years,” said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai.

Actor Tovino Thomas’ Malayali action comedy, Thallumaala, which hit the screens last weekend, was a huge hit the UAE box office, selling 70,333 tickets compared to Laal Singh Chaddha’s 49,180 in the three days since its release, to gross $3.9 million in global collections in the opening weekend. Earlier, Khan’s films used to set the cash registers ringing in the Middle East.

South Indian movies have been well received, despite the absence of a big star cast and show that there is a market for mid-sized films among Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu audiences, said trade experts.

Period drama Bimbisara made collections of ₹29 crore in the opening weekend globally, while Dulquer Salmaan-starrer Sita Ramam that released in Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi clocked ₹50 crore.

On the other hand, Bollywood is increasingly seeing its fortunes sink. The US, that was one of the strongest markets saw Aamir Khan‘s film make around $1 million in four days, while in the Middle East collections were just at $900,000.

In 2018, his Thugs of Hindostan earned over ₹128 crore in overseas sales.

Indian audiences, overseas, typically enjoyed mass-market commercial Hindi films, but recent Bollywood films such as Anek, Jersey and Runway 34, too, failed to make a mark.

Even Yash Raj Films’ Shamshera and Samrat Prithviraj, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, respectively, finished their overseas run at $1.63 million and $1.20 million.

“Like in the domestic market, over seas crowds have also become very selective after the pandemic. Plus, they are also more exposed to Hollywood content on other platforms,” film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. ANI

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