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The Jungle Book was released on about 1,640 screens in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu besides English.
The Jungle Book was released on about 1,640 screens in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu besides English.

The Jungle Book crosses Rs140 crore mark in India

The Jungle Book managed the feat in the face of competition from Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Fan, which has notched up `80 crore so far

New Delhi: Walt Disney’s latest live-action money-spinner The Jungle Book may have captured hearts worldwide but it is India, where the story originally belongs, that has sprung the biggest surprise for the film. The fantasy adventure crossed 140 crore in box-office collections by its third week, released on about 1,640 screens in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu besides English. That makes it quite a feat for Hollywood movies, for which crossing the 100 crore mark at the Indian box-office is a rarity.

This, the Jon Favreau-directed film managed, in the face of competition from the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Fan, which has only notched up about 80 crore in two weeks. Fan was released a week after the Hollywood film. Disney is heartened more by the love and acceptance the film has got.

“You don’t get numbers without a film being loved," said Amrita Pandey, vice-president-studio, Disney India. “From all the trends we’ve seen, the film has to be a visual spectacle (when it comes to Hollywood flicks connecting with Indian audiences). But our learning is that whether it’s Iron Man or the Avengers franchise or The Jungle Book or even an animation movie like Inside Out or Zootopia, what works with visuals is great storytelling. I don’t think it can only be about visual spectacle or depth of franchise in the country."

To be sure, The Jungle Book was always positioned as an Indian film that needed to be watched across languages. And the marketing communication worked keenly on building the association with the televised version of the 1990s, be it through the ‘Jungle jungle baat chali hai’ song or the voice casting enhanced by well-crafted dialogue.

“I think the success of The Jungle Book has to do with how the film has been both accepted and marketed," said trade analyst Taran Adarsh. “Getting Indian stars to do the voices, cashing in on the recall and nostalgic value of the series--that was a masterstroke."

This, in a way, explains why nearly 60% of the film’s Indian box office revenue has come from the dubbed versions, compared to the 30-40% contribution for an action tent-pole like The Avengers or Fast and Furious 7, Disney claims. Or the fact that the age-agnostic film had not just kids or families but a lot of young adults coming in too.

“A lot of people have watched both versions of the film, whereas usually only one of the Hindi or English versions does well," Pandey said. “Here, we’d been consistent in our marketing communication from day one that this is a movie that needs to be experienced in both languages because it’s almost like watching two different films."

To be sure, the studio has imbibed learnings apart from marketing from the blockbuster for its Hollywood line-up. One, the need to pick the right release date, which in the case of The Jungle Book, coincided with the school summer break in the country. And the second, to work with theatre chains to get the right showcasing for each language. For instance, cities like Bengaluru played the English version more frequently whereas upscale properties in a city like Mumbai did not shy away from the Hindi version, giving fans the opportunity to watch the version they preferred.

The studio hopes to use these lessons and trends for its exhaustive Hollywood slate for the year, most importantly, Marvel’s action superhero film Captain America: Civil War due for release on 6 May. Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan will be lending his voice for male lead Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers character. Screenwriter Mayur Puri, who wrote the dialogue for The Jungle Book is on board too.

“The business and distribution circuit was more enthusiastic about Captain America before the release of Jungle Book since it’s such a big brand," admitted trade analyst Atul Mohan. “But the second film of course, proved everyone wrong. Either way, both are different films and Civil War should definitely do well. Plus, Disney will try to cash in on the success of Jungle Book, give the new film a wider release and a more aggressive marketing strategy."

Later in the year, the American studio will be out with several Hollywood productions. These, it hopes will help push the envelope for the audience in India that it believes wants to watch great content, and is fine if it comes from outside as well. Beginning with James Robin’s fantasy adventure Alice Through the Looking Glass on 27 May, there is Pixar’s 3D computer-animated comedy adventure Finding Dory on 17 June, Marvel’s superhero film Doctor Strange on 4 November and the latest instalment of the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One, on 17 December.

“It’ll be interesting to work on different kinds of movies-a mix. That’s a plus when you have multiple brands sitting under your portfolio," said Pandey. “Between Marvel, Disney and Disney Pixar, we have the advantage of having a plethora of content in different genres."

The figures have been sourced from Bollywood Hungama.

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