Mumbai: Aamir Khan’s latest film, 3 Idiots, has become the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time, with strong showings at home and abroad raising hopes for further cross-over hits for Indian films.
The leading actor-producer-director wrote on his blog that box office takings for the coming-of-age comedy had already surpassed those for his 2008 hit “Ghajini,” which was the previous record holder.
“In less than 10 days 3i has overtaken the ENTIRE business of GHAJINI!!!! India, Overseas, everywhere!!! And is still going strong,” Khan wrote on Monday, describing himself as “fully overwhelmed and totally humbled.”
Business Standard newspaper said Tuesday that 3 Idiots had taken Rs240 crore ($51 million) from the domestic and international market since opening on 25 December. “Ghajini” took Rs225 crore.
Meanwhile www.hollywood.com and Deadline Hollywood, which both track box office takings in the United States, said 3 Idiots has so far made $4.8 million after opening in nearly 120 US theatres.
No Bollywood film has crossed the $4 million threshold before.
The film’s success has given Bollywood a boost, after a disappointing 2009 marked by a damaging producers’ boycott of multiplex cinemas in a row over box office takings, swine flu fears and a string of big budget flops.
Indian box office takings are lower than in Hollywood because of lower ticket prices.
Film critics and industry analysts attributed the success of 3 Idiots not just to Khan’s star quality, but also high production values, a sustained marketing campaign and the story’s wide appeal.
A public row about how much the film was based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-seller Five Point Someone, and a lack of other big-name releases, may also have helped.
“It’s a very well-made film with a message and with a big star. It brings back memories of people’s experience of the education system in India,” Taran Adarsh, from bollywoodhungama.com, said of the film’s overseas success.
“If you still have family here I think you identify with it all the more,” he told AFP.
Mayank Shekhar, national cultural editor at The Hindustan Times, newspaper, said the same expatriate Indian “IT crowd” who bought Five Point Someone appear to have flocked to US cinemas, boosting audiences.
“What’s equally important is that it’s not a preachy film. It’s by itself a complete comedy, which is what most mainstream audiences go for,” he said.
A well-constructed combination of a leading star, well-placed song-and-dance routines and a message gave it “all the elements of a Bollywood blockbuster,” he added.
US film studios have been eyeing India’s popular Hindi-language film industry for several years, hoping to tap in to an expanding $2.3-billion market.
Hopes are high that Shahrukh Khan’s upcoming film My Name Is Khan will match or even eclipse the success of 3 Idiots.
Fox Searchlight, which promoted the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, and other Fox units are handling distribution.
Adarsh said the overseas market is becoming increasingly important for Bollywood.