New Delhi: At ₹52 crore, Marvel’s blockbuster superhero flick 'Avengers: Endgame' notched up the third highest opening day of all time in India, after war epic 'Baahubali 2: The Conclusion' and Rajinikanth-starrer '2.0'. Given that Bollywood dominates the country’s popular culture and collective consciousness, it is more than a little surprising that the top three openers of India’s movie business are all non-Hindi language films.
At last reported figures of Rs. 351 crore, 'Endgame' had already surpassed the business of big-ticket Bollywood films like 'Tiger Zinda Hai' ( ₹339 crore), PK ( ₹337 crore) and Sultan ( ₹300.67 crore).
“This is definitely a wake-up call for Hindi cinema," said Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas. “Filmmakers need to understand that people have a lot of choice (in terms of entertainment) now."
Puri said 'Endgame', along with films like 'Baahubali', has proven what the fundamentals of producing a blockbuster are — people need to be able to laugh, cry and cheer in a movie theatre, characters need to be real and relatable and then language does not matter.
Film distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi called it a combination of content with global appeal that ensures wide reach, adding that it’s a matter of time before Hindi cinema notched up similar numbers too.
“There are two aspects to this - one, how appealing your story is and two, how well it can be localised or presented to audiences," said Bikram Duggal, head of studio entertainment at Disney India, distributors of 'Endgame'. The first reiterates the importance of creating enduring franchises with characters that fans invest deeply in, over the years, irrespective of language. Duggal said great stories could come from and connect anywhere, just like 'Dangal', an Indian story, did in China.
With 22 movies in 11 years, Marvel is a universe that didn’t really need to call out its fans for 'Endgame'.
Also read: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is the highest grosser of 2019 so far in India
To be sure, Bollywood seems to have learnt the lesson and is doing its bit in creating franchises. Filmmaker Rohit Shetty has designed a fun cop universe which will include Ranveer Singh’s 'Simmba', Ajay Devgn’s 'Singham' and Akshay Kumar’s upcoming 'Sooryavanshi', all three feeding off each other.
“Franchises create suspense in a way that fans get connected and they make their decision to view the next film based on the same," said Devang Sampat, director, India Strategic Initiatives, Cinépolis India. Both 'Baahubali: The Beginning', and 'Avengers: Infinity War' ended with a cliffhanger that drove people in hordes to the next film.
Second is the idea of building relatability — apart from dubbing into Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, Disney got composer AR Rahman to compose local language anthems for Endgame, popular Tamil writer and director A.R. Murugadoss was roped in to write the Tamil dialogues and superstars Vijay Sethupathi, Andrea Jeremiah and Rana Daggubati to voice for characters.
“Audiences need to be able to suspend the disbelief that the film has not been made in Hindi," Duggal said.
Further, released in only 2,800 screens, 'Endgame' seems to have shown Bollywood, that normally releases big films in at least 4,000 screens, the importance of marginal utility. That makes sense given that most Bollywood films make 80% of their earnings from the top 500 screens and are known to go for unreasonably wide releases. However, some industry experts say ticket rates for the film were severely hiked, a feat the team could have only pulled off with a massively loyal fan base like that.
“They have shown that there is some logic in cutting supply, besides the value of repeat viewing which doesn’t happen in Hindi," Puri said. “Of course it’s been a reasonably good year for Bollywood too but here, we’re talking of something bigger."