New Delhi: Rana Daggubati and Tapsee Pannu’s upcoming war film, The Ghazi Attack, has a lot to be thankful to director S.S Rajamouli for. The underwater movie, releasing simultaneously as Ghazi in Telugu and set during the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1971, is co-produced by PVP Cinema and Matinee Entertainment, both south India-based companies and has no major Bollywood names featuring in the cast.
Usually, a film with such strong regional appeal would hardly find takers in the north Indian market but trade experts say Rajamouli’s 2015 blockbuster Baahubali: The Beginning has done much to change all of that.
Grossing about Rs600 crore worldwide, nearly Rs120 crore of which were made by the Hindi version alone, the epic historical fiction film changed the perspective towards regional content.
“The success of Baahubali has definitely been a huge boost to the confidence of filmmakers who bring out these south-specific films across India. Nobody had expected such response to it," said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine, Complete Cinema.
Utpal Acharya, founder of film production, distribution and marketing company Indian Film Studios added that Rajamouli had a track record of proving good content was not language-specific since the Hindi dubbed versions of his previous Telugu blockbusters, Magadheera and Eega had also been widely accepted.
Even Ghazi is expected to receive a decent release in the north, notching up a total screen count of 600-800 cinemas, in multiplexes and select single-screens, Acharya said.
For the longest time, the only south Indian films dubbed and released in Hindi were the big Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan-starrers, that too three to four months after their initial release, making a maximum of ₹ 5-10 crore in box office collections, Mohan said.
Even Rajiniknath’s science fiction film, Enthiran directed by Shankar, only managed about Rs23 crore from its Hindi version when released in 2010.
To be sure, there are other factors working to Ghazi’s advantage, like its basic theme itself.
“There is a history of films dealing with the Indo-Pakistan conflict doing well, be it Gadar or Border," Mohan said. “Ghazi is also very high on the patriotic vibe, which in current political circumstances, will ring true for a lot of people."
The film directed by debutant Sankalp Reddy is based on the mysterious circumstances under which the PNS Ghazi, a fast-attack submarine of the Pakistan Navy (PN), leased from the United States, sank off the coast of Visakhapatnam in 1971. Plus, exactly like Baahubali, it is being distributed by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Anil Thadani’s AA Films, elucidating the increasingly prevalent strategy of Bollywood names associating with high-scale regional content in order to build their brand value.
The trend, however, is very clearly limited only to larger-than-life productions that stand apart from the usual south Indian potboiler. For instance, Pawan Kalyan’s regular commercial entertainer, Sardar Gabbar Singh, hardly made a mark when released early last year despite backing from Mumbai-based studio Eros International.
“Baahubali has definitely made things easier for films like Ghazi," Acharya said. “Of course Rajamouli came up with global commercial cinema and now audiences have also become smarter. Hindi films are being dubbed into other languages and quality content will always work."