Mumbai: A series of low-budget, quirky Bollywood movies have emerged as surprise hits this summer as Indian audiences shun the traditional musical and action blockbusters.
Four films -- “Bheja Fry” (Brain Fry), “Life in a ... Metro”, “Traffic Signal” and “Cheeni Kum” (Less Sugar) -- have all been box-office winners in an otherwise disappointing half-year for the industry.
“Low-budget movies have clicked due to innovative scripts. Also producers are willing to take risks with some new actors and smaller movies,” said film trade analyst Vinod Mirani.
“Bheja Fry”, whose cast includes former TV presenter Ranvir Sheorey, is based on the French movie “Le Diner de Cons” (The Dinner Game), in which snobbish urbanites invite an idiot for dinner each week to liven up their evenings.
“Cheeni Kum”, starring Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, is the story of a 64-year-old chef who owns an Indian restaurant and is still single. He falls in love with a woman nearly half his age.
And “Life in a ... Metro” and “Traffic Signal” both focus on contrasting lifestyles of people in India’s big cities.
All four, made with budgets of between Rs10 and Rs60 million ($245,000 to $1.5 million), have been rated as successes on Bollywood industry websites India FM and Ibosnetwork.
“(Bheja Fry) had a unique script, and I was pleasantly surprised that the movie was a huge success,” said producer Sunil Doshi.
The four each earned between Rs60 and Rs190 million ($1.5 million to $4.6 million), according to Ibosnetwork.
“A movie made at the right price and right script will do well. A producer can double his investment,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, executive vice president with production company UTV.
“In the next six months, two dozen more small-budget movies will be produced. We expect this trend to continue,” said Mirani.
Prior to these releases, only two of over 50 Bollywood movies this year have been deemed successful, in contrast with a record-breaking performance in 2006, according to industry experts.
Bollywood had a weak opening for the year, with 24 movies failing at the box office in the first quarter, suffering a combined loss of Rs550 million ($12.5 million ), trade analyst Taran Adarsh said.
Star-studded movie “Salaam-E-Ishq” (Salute Love) featuring Bollywood bad boy Salman Khan and five other top names flopped in January.
Period movie “Eklavya: the Royal Guard”, an Amitabh Bachchan big budget picture, also failed, as did “Nishabd” (Silent), which was loosely based on Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita”.
India’s Bollywood, the world’s largest movie-making industry, turned out more than 250 films last year from its Mumbai base.