If you thought Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai’s wax statues at Madame Tussauds and Shilpa Shetty’s victory in Big Brother were testimony to the global popularity of Bollywood, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Even though Indian films are now screened in more than 110 countries, Bollywood still has some way to go before it exploits the popularity of Indian content among South Asians—about one-fifth of the world’s population—across the planet.
Foreign appeal: A still from Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’ -- Bollywood’s biggest overseas success in terms of revenues earned
If they want to reach out to audiences in other countries, Indian content producers need to market their products aggressively, says a report by audit and consulting firm Ernst & Young (E&Y) and industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry that was released Monday.
Indian content sold outside India generates around $200 million (Rs788 crore). This is expected to grow at around 20% a year. However, even the overall Indian film industry, worth Rs8,000 crore in terms of revenue, is a minnow when compared to Hollywood.
Global audiences perceive Indian cinema as a song and dance exotica to which they cannot relate. “I have realized that traditional Bollywood cinema cannot be designed for international markets. There is no market. Till we start designing films for the international markets, they will not work,” said Bobby Bedi, managing director, Kaleidoscope Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.
According to the report, Bollywood’s biggest overseas success in terms of revenues earned was Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, a film by Karan Johar that earned $11 million; in contrast, Chinese movie Hero made $58 million. Experts said tweaking the script could make the Indian content appeal to global audiences. “We have a rich culture and stories. We only need to present them in a form that appeal to the sensibilities of audiences all over the world,” the E&Y report quoted film-maker Shekhar Kapur as saying.
The report says the Indian film industry is finding it difficult to exploit overseas markets because of various issues related to distribution, cost, reach and piracy. For instance, while a good overseas release demands at least 1,000 prints and a marketing campaign involving huge spends, most Indian?film?firms?can’t afford this.
Some industry experts said that having local partnerships in international markets could help firms in marketing their products well. Others said setting up distribution offices was imperative.
UTV Motion Pictures Plc., for instance, has set up one local office in the UK and two in the US. It has engaged people who understand local demographics and sensibilities. “Sub-distributors (in overseas markets) take 20% of the investment first, and then split it 50:50. There’s no reason to do that when you already have distribution networks,” the report quoted?Ronnie?Screwvala, chief executive, UTV Software Communications Ltd, as saying.
The report says promotions play an major role in a film’s success. Typically, marketing an Indian movie costs between $80,000 and $100,000 in the US, about £35,000 (Rs19.5 lakh) in the UK. But Indian film-makers usually tend to focus most of their marketing spends on the Indian market.
There are also some legal and cultural barriers to Indian films striking a chord with global audiences. For instance, West Asian countries have stringent rules on the depiction of women in movies.