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South Indian films are trouncing Bollywood at the box office

Hits like Master, Vakeel Saab, Love Story and the latest Akhanda and Pushpa: The Rise- Part One have ensured the return of audiences to cinemas in the south.Premium
Hits like Master, Vakeel Saab, Love Story and the latest Akhanda and Pushpa: The Rise- Part One have ensured the return of audiences to cinemas in the south.

  • Hindi cinema, on the other hand, only saw some resurgence after Diwali in November with Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi. It has yet to see a second hit though hopes are pinned on sports drama ‘83 starring Ranveer Singh

NEW DELHI : South Indian films, including those in the Tamil and Telugu languages, will lead box office collections in 2021, with a 50% plus share – reversing the earlier trend where Hindi films used to lead the pack. 

Clearly, recovery for regional cinema had continued into April this year, right before the second covid wave and restarted as early as August with more titles having arrived in theatres since. Hits like Master, Vakeel Saab, Love Story and the latest Akhanda and Pushpa: The Rise- Part One have ensured the return of audiences to cinemas in the south.

Hindi cinema, on the other hand, only saw some resurgence after Diwali in November with Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi. It has yet to see a second hit though hopes are pinned on sports drama ‘83 starring Ranveer Singh.

So far, the Hindi film industry has only clocked in collections of around 450 crore even as cinemas wait for the release of '83 and Jersey before the year is over.

Earnings for south Indian films may be closer to 1,000 crore, according to estimates by two trade experts.

Further, the top entertainment conversations on Twitter this year also involved South Indian films and actors. Tamil actor Vijay’s tweet unveiling the first look of his upcoming film Beast was the most liked and retweeted tweet in entertainment. Vijay’s action film Master, which was the most tweeted about south Indian movie of 2020, was finally released after much delay in 2021 and was the most-tweeted-about movie this year, as far as hashtags go.

This was followed by Tamil actor Ajith’s action film Valimai that is scheduled for 2022, Vijay’s Beast, Suriya’s legal drama on caste struggle Jai Bhim that streamed on Amazon Prime Video and Pawan Kalyan’s Telugu film Vakeel Saab that had released in cinemas in April.

“The southern market was back on its feet faster and enjoyed a headway of nearly three months while recovery for Hindi started as late as Diwali. Even now, conditions are not at par with pre-covid times. States like Maharashtra are still operating at 50% capacity while southern territories have 100% occupancies," film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said.

Barring Sooryavanshi, there has been no bonafide Bollywood hit post the second wave. While Yash Raj Films’ Bunty Aur Babli 2 crashed completely with collections of 12.50 crore, Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui could not find a draw among female and family audiences and has finished at 22.61 crore.

It is important to note that these recent Hindi films found no traction and barely registered an opening in the south of India that has the highest footfalls in theatres across the country, independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said. On the other hand, while the Telugu original is already setting the cash registers ringing, the Hindi version of Allu Arjun’s Pushpa too had made Rs. 16 crore at last count.

Even if Maharashtra had allowed cinemas to reopen, films like Bellbottom would have made 15-20 crore more at best, according to Bihar-based independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan, who said all Bollywood offerings in recent times have been either disappointments or colossal flops.

“Bollywood is increasingly losing market share and the tangent is shifting towards big-budget, VFX-driven Hollywood and southern cinema. The youth no longer finds Hindi films cool enough and there is no ‘connect’ with older stars except, perhaps, Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan. The younger stars, on the other hand, do not drive ticket sales," Chauhan said. “Hollywood is vibing with the top end of the audience and the south is eating away at the bottom. So Bollywood is losing share big time," he added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lata Jha

Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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