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NEW DELHI : Unlike domestic film business that has already breached 2019 pre-covid levels in the first few months of 2022, overseas box office continues to remain relatively dull, according to trade experts who have only seen 60% of the business return as of now. This too, has been driven by southern language blockbusters such as RRR, K.G.F: Chapter 2 and Vikram with even Bollywood’s sole money-spinner Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 not finding takers overseas. Analysts say diasporic audiences are as selective as domestic ones, and many have been lured more by large-scale Hollywood franchises. Hopes are now pinned on the release of Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chadha and Karan Johar’s Brahmastra, as far as the future of Hindi cinema overseas goes.

On the other hand, box office revenue generated from ticket sales between January and April this year within the domestic market was at an all-time high of 4,002 crore for the period, according to a report by media consulting firm Ormax and media investment firm GroupM. In comparison, in the first four months of 2019 box office collection was at 3,550 crore.

“Numbers overseas currently do not compare well with pre-covid days and the audience is definitely coming in slower and being selective," said film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar. A lot of this may have to do with competition from large-scale American spectacles getting wide releases in these markets. Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick had earned $409.5 million at last count, lagging close behind other post-covid blockbusters like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($930 million) and Spider-Man: No Way Home ($1.9 billion), according to a Forbes report.While overseas business is being driven by southern hits, the going is far tougher for Bollywood.

Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj grossed 6.29 crore ($805,517) abroad while Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar earned just 5.23 crore ($669,738).

“In the 1990s and up till the mid-2000s, the three Khans would rule markets like the US. KGF may be the one Kannada entrant but the overseas market is now completely dominated by Tamil and Telugu films," said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai referring to territories like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Audiences in the diaspora usually enjoy mass-market commercial fare and big-ticket Hindi films are required to bring them back to cinemas, trade experts say. The recent slate comprising titles like Anek, Jersey and Runway 34, have not managed a connect, much like in India.

“The real test will be with Brahmastra (in September), Laal Singh Chadha and Akshay Kumar’s Rakshabandhan (both in August) because until then, there are no big Hindi films that can draw large crowds overseas," Johar said.

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