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Overseas markets are beginning to look up for Indian films despite pandemic-related restrictions continuing in several parts of the world.

Tamil film Master generated around $4.75 million ( 34 crore) internationally in its opening weekend and collections from these markets may rise to $6.25 million, according to trade website Box Office India.

Akshay Kumar’s Laxmii, which was released in November, too, had reported decent collections from foreign markets in the first week despite mixed reviews and its release on streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar in India.

Trade experts said the Indian and South Asian diaspora is driving box office collections, indicating people are willing to go to theatres if there is compelling content available.

“The performance of Master has truly exceeded expectations and shows how massively it was awaited, not just in India, but across the diaspora, despite current circumstances," film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said.

The Vijay-starrer was the No.1 film at the global box office last week, Johar added, ahead of Hollywood flicks like Wonder Woman 1984. Even Baahubali-The Conclusion had only made it to the top five when released in 2017, not managing the top position.

“Even though Master’s actual numbers are lower when compared to Baahubali, given the reduced number of shows and cap on occupancy, it is a rare feat," Johar said.

In the UAE, Master has emerged as the top-grossing film post-covid-19, beating the numbers of Hollywood films such as Wonder Woman 1984 and Tenet despite releasing in far fewer screens.

“Master collected $1.4 million in two days plus previews in the UAE, which would be a good figure even if there was no pandemic situation; but with these circumstances, it is an extraordinary number," Box Office India said in a blog on the opening weekend of the film.

To be sure, Indian film studios started to look overseas even before cinemas were permitted to open in the country this October after a seven-month shutdown.

Zee Studios, which had brought its Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Pandey-starrer Khaali Peeli to its pay-per-view service, Zee Plex, released the film in cinemas in the US, the Netherlands, Singapore, Austria, Fiji, and Mauritius, as well as some African countries.

Disney released Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer Dil Bechara theatrically in New Zealand and Fiji where it collected NZ$48,436 ( 23.5 lakh) and FJ$33,864 ( 11.6 lakh) over its opening weekend.

Overseas theatricals have emerged as a huge opportunity for Indian films in recent years, contributing as much as 2,700 crore out of the total 19,100 crore made by filmed entertainment in 2019, according to the Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report.

While top stars such as Shah Rukh Khan are also popular among the diaspora in foreign territories such as the US and UK, younger Tamil and Telugu actors are equally popular in the UAE, Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Singapore and increasingly in South America.

Apart from tie-ups with local distributors, Indian filmmakers have also invested in marketing strategies, including interviews and promotional activities with lead stars in these territories.

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