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|September 21, 2000||
What lies overseas:Bollywood films strike gold!
Ten years ago, Rs 1 crore was a dream figure for the overseas territorial rights.
Today, the sum draws the consideration one would have for pocket money.
Huge sums of money are the order of the day today. And we're talking in the Rs 10 crore upwards league. To put it rather blithely, a producer needn't worry too much if his film doesn't do well in India. There's lots of money to be gained from the overseas distribution of rights for his film.
It's certainly not a new phenomenon, the selling of distribution of film rights, but Hindi films have never had it so good in the last six years.
ONE film opened the overseas coffers to the Hindi films. That path-breaking film was Rajshri Pictures' Hum Aapke Hain Koun! in 1994.
In fact, the Sooraj Barjatya-directed family drama redefined business in India and abroad as well. It broke all previous records at the BO in the home territory just as it did in foreign lands.
Conservative estimate pitts the nett business of HAHK! in the Rs 20 crore range. And that's only from the overseas circuit. That was conclusive proof that the potential for Hindi films abroad was tremendous.
The bug bit. And overseas distributors began a mad scramble for the top Hindi banners.
IF any fingers are to be pointed, it is audiencewards. The audience, as always, is supreme. They are the ones who embrace the films eagerly. So what, if over the years, they have shown a marked fondness for love stories and family dramas more than other kinds of films?
Incidentally, it's not only the Indians and Asian community abroad that prefer Hindi films. Foreigners, too, have been bitten by the Bollywood bug.
Why else would Shah Rukh Khan be welcomed by thousands of locals in the Caribbean islands? They dotted the streets right from the airport to his hotel when he visited the place a couple of years ago.
Shah Rukh Khan remarks, "They didn't know a word of Hindi, but they stood in the sun, waiting to catch a glimpse of me."
AS for the Indian and Asian community, Hindi films are the best means of connectivity with their motherland. Hindi films, of course, make them feel right at home. Which could also explain the popularity of family dramas.
For action, they look to Hollywood. But it is to Bollywood they look to for emotion and drama. And Hindi films, everyone knows, are great at striking the emotional chord.
This is also the reason why, sometimes, films which do not score in India find favour abroad. Consider Tera Jadoo Chal Gayaa. The Indian audience gave it a wide berth, but in the West, the opening weekend was considerably more heartening.
Then again, the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Dil Se bombed in India but skyrocketed to the top 10 in the UK! The Indian public didn't much care for the love story between a human bomb and a radio announcer. But the Western audience liked the uniqueness of the story.
MUSIC is another key factor in deciding a film's fate at the BO. That, of course, applies to India as well as abroad. A R Rahman's hit musical score went a long way in the success of Dil Se overseas.
And if you have any of the three Khans in your film, then rest assured, your film will be a success. Of course, not to mention Anil Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan. The two are HOT property overseas.
And then Dil Se, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Dil To Pagal Hai had Shah Rukh Khan.
Aamir Khan's Ghulam, which might have been a success in India. But the Western audience weren't exactly thrilled with the idea of Aamir in an out-and-out action role.
"EVEN then, the film did reasonably good business," opines overseas distributor, Chandrakant Mehta. His company, C A Corporation is one of the leading Hindi film distributors abroad.
Another big overseas distributor, Arjun Lulla of Jupiter Enterprises, feels that Ghulam suffered because it was released when the World Cup Soccer, which enjoys high television viewership in the West, was on.
However, the very next Aamir-starrer, Sarfarosh, despite its action, had a more emotional undercurrent and fared well. Mehta's verdict is that it was an off-the-beaten-track film. And such films generally collect better on weekends than the routine commercial films.
Recently, the Anil Kapoor-starrer, Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai, did better abroad than in India. But then, Aishwarya Rai's presence could explain why the audiences were lured to the cinema halls.
THIS overseas success is not just restricted to Hindi films. Non-Hindi Indian films are breaking new ground abroad, too.
Rajnikanth's Tamil film, Muthu grossed US $ 1.7 million in 23 weeks at a cinema in Japan. This despite the reportedly non-Tamil speaking population.
Mehta states, "It helps that many English cinema halls are also now screening Hindi films. So there are more outlets for Bollywood flicks. Also, the DVDs of Hindi blockbusters are selling like hot cakes."
BUT Mehta feels that a saturation point has been reached as far as the business of Hindi films overseas is concerned.
He explains, "The reason why I don't see the market expanding a great deal from its present level is that ticket prices are just too unaffordable. In London, for example, a ticket for a Hindi film is as high as 8 pounds!
"If the ticket rates are not lowered, I fear that the number of Hindi film viewers will decrease considerably."
Lulla, on the other hand, cites the popularity of DVDs of Hindi films as the biggest threat to the revenue. "It (DVDs) is really affecting the BO in a big way. But I don't see a solution emerging as of now. As a result, the risk factor in Hindi film distribution abroad has gone very high," sighs Lulla.
But then again, there are films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which have raked in a cool Rs 20 crore each.
Taal and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam have raked in over Rs 10 crore each.
And the BO coffers ring on with the sweet music of money...
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