New Delhi: Telugu superstar Jr. NTR’s Friday release, Jai Lava Kusa has upped the ante for the already booming fortunes of Telugu cinema. The film that made about Rs70 crore in domestic box office collections over its opening weekend, is on its way to join the ranks of blockbusters like Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, Arjun Reddy, Khaidi No. 150, Nenu Local, Sathamanam Bhavati and Gautamiputra Satakarni, all of which released this year.
“This is truly one of the best years for Telugu cinema in recent times," confirmed Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.
To be sure, the movies offer a mix of content. While Baahubali has emerged as the nation’s favourite mythological re-telling, Arjun Reddy is a modern-day adaptation of Devdas about a lover who drinks himself to self-destruction. Jai Lava Kusa on the other hand, sees Jr. NTR play three identical siblings in a typical lost-and-found tale.
The one major factor contributing to the success of Telugu cinema, trade experts say, is the overseas market, particularly the US.
“As far as Indian films in the US are concerned, Bollywood has been taken over by Telugu cinema," said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai. “The US makes up 80-90% of the overseas market anyway and the large Telugu-speaking population in states like California contributes to the success and popularity of these films."
Earlier this year, big-ticket Bollywood films like Salman Khan’s Tubelight and Shah Rukh Khan’s Jab Harry Met Sejal only managed $ 926,816 (Rs6.03 crore) and $ 1,279,586 (Rs8.33 crore) over their opening weekends in the US respectively, figures that barely justify their stronghold in the territory.
While Jai Lava Kusa had collected $1,282,691 (Rs8.31 crore) in the US at last count, family drama Sathamanam Bhavati, Chiranjeevi-starrer Khaidi No.150 and epic historical action film Gautamiputra Satakarni earned $653,664 (Rs4.45 crore), $2,361,969 (Rs16.08 crore) and $1,571,487 (Rs10.70 crore), respectively, within two weeks in the country.
But even in the domestic market, Telugu movies have made a mark.
Further, Pillai said the bifurcation of the Andhra Pradesh-Telangana regions has meant more shows for these films.
“Production budgets in the Telugu industry are extremely controlled," Mohan pointed out. “There are fixed publicity spends, television promotions are not massive and the buzz around a film, at least on social media, is taken care of by the fan clubs that worship cinema and make sure their star is watched aggressively."
Mohan also emphasized that while associations like the Telugu Film Producers Council place restrictions on marketing and publicity spends, unlike digital cinema distribution networks like UFO Moviez that charge exorbitant rates in the north, digital cinema servers like Qube Cinema, that are more popular in the south, command much less.
To be sure, the relatively dull performance of Hindi films is evident beyond just the overseas markets.
“There is a sizeable audience shift and high ticket prices (in the north) contribute further," Pillai said emphasizing that with concessions, a standard multiplex ticket can touch the Rs1,000 mark in some cases. “Plus, the content is not very exciting. The last real big hit was Dangal which was a combination of content and star power."
All figures have been sourced from movie website Bollywood Hungama.