Mumbai: Bollywood film Kites started strongly at the box office in India, raising hopes of the industry’s first, badly needed blockbuster of the year, but mixed reviews have dented initial enthusiasm.
Distributors Reliance Big Pictures said the movie, Bollywood’s biggest ever overseas release, grossed more than Rs650 million ($13.8 million) worldwide in its opening weekend.
But patchy reviews, trouble relating to the subject and extensive subtitling of the English and Spanish dialogues have conspired to turn domestic audiences and critics off the film, reported to have cost $32 million to make.
“The film had a fantastic opening weekend. It made Rs30.5 crores (Rs305 million) net and business at multiplexes was strong, but single screens saw large drops,” said Bollywood trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
“The film has cost its distributors an exorbitant amount and at the rate the business has started sliding downwards, they would incur heavy losses on this one,” he wrote on bollywoodhungama.com.
Kites was the most anticipated Bollywood film this year and had been aggressively marketed, given the lack of other movies to make an impact at the Indian box office other than the recent comedy Housefull.
Starring heart-throb actor Hrithik Roshan and Mexican actress Barbara Mori, opening-day collections in India on Friday of Rs104 million were second only to Aamir Khan’s hit 3 Idiots that day, the company said.
Box office tracker hollywood.com said the romantic drama, set in Mexico and the United States, made the top 10 in North America in its opening weekend -- a first for a Bollywood film -- with takings of one million dollars.
But one domestic movie-goer, Jitendra Panchal, told AFP after seeing the film: “My eyes were hurting to read Hindi subtitles when Barbara Mori speaks in Spanish -- and she speaks a lot in the film.”
Another audience member, Anita Desai, agreed: “I didn’t go to watch an English film. I went to see a Bollywood film and I felt cheated because Kites was an English film.”
The disappointing reaction comes after total Indian cinema revenues fell 14% last year due to a producers’ boycott of multiplex venues, swine flu and a string of big-budget flops.
Two versions of Kites were made, one in Hindi lasting 130 minutes and another in English cut to 90 minutes.
Roshan defended the film, telling the Bombay Times in comments published on Tuesday that he was justified in trying something different and that the movie had given Bollywood a new profile internationally.
“I have been feeding this biryani-loving audience typical fare like Dhoom 2 and Krrish but here I am saying, ‘Try some pasta as well´,” he said.
“Some will like it, some will not. The foreign press has appreciated the film because they don’t have any past references to draw from. They’re just judging Kites with no strings attached.”