‘Baahubali 2’, ‘Dangal’ show overseas markets are new gold mine for Indian films
New Delhi: At last count, Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal had made Rs726.32 crore in China, becoming the highest grossing non-Hollywood film in the country, beating previous record-holder, Japan’s Your Name.
Meanwhile, S.S. Rajamouli’s war epic Baahubali 2: The Conclusion continues to do well in international markets, having made $18.9 million in the US, £811,478 in the UK, and A$2,363,757 in Australia.
“The success of these two films has shown that there is a need to look beyond traditional Indian markets—at global audiences,” said trade analyst Taran Adarsh. “There has truly been a breakthrough.”
To be sure, overseas territories were traditionally seen as the domain of the three Indian superstars, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. With takings of more than $23 million (around Rs147 crore) and $19 million, respectively, Shah Rukh’s My Name Is Khan (2010) and Chennai Express (2013) rank among the top 10 Bollywood grossers in the overseas markets. As early as 1998, his Mani Ratnam romantic drama Dil Se became the first Indian film to enter the top 10 in the UK box office charts even though it remained a commercial failure in India.
Now, other Indian films, mostly big-budget Bollywood ones with the resources to invest in local distribution networks and marketing campaigns, have begun to eye overseas markets.
Part of the reason for this is the strong Indian diaspora in some of these markets, according to Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.
And part is the growing demand for content.
“There is a complete bankruptcy of original content everywhere. Hollywood may be unbeaten in science and technology but everyone needs new, emotional and unadulterated content,” said Utpal Acharya, founder of film production, distribution and marketing company Indian Film Studios. “Dangal is a reflection of real life and Indian society; Baahubali, though a fictional drama, is a slice of Indian mythology and culture that everyone is interested in with the evolved positioning of India in the world. This is truly the beginning of Indian cinema turning into global cinema.”
Production houses eyeing overseas markets are realizing that they need to get serious about marketing and distribution. In some ways UTV Motion Pictures was the pioneer. For PK, it signed a distribution deal with Huaxia Film Group, a local Chinese company, and aggressively marketed the film with Aamir himself travelling to the country.
While in India, marketing and distribution can make up 25% of a film’s total budget, overseas spending is linked more to the revenue potential of the territory.
“Overseas markets can add significantly to the top- and bottom-lines of our movies and help increase the scale and quality of our productions,” said Shobu Yarlagadda, co-founder and chief executive officer at Arka Mediaworks, the production house behind Baahubali. “It’s not easy to break into international markets nor can every film do it. But it’s important that we make consistent efforts to expand our film markets internationally, both in traditional diaspora regions like the US and UK and non-diaspora markets like China, where UTV and Aamir Khan have shown the way.”