Southern spectacle: Kalki and Salaar prove why southern market outshines Hindi belt

  • The business up north is growing but the core brand of the studio and lead actor cannot be dislodged from the south
  • Movie-going culture, reasonably priced tickets and better access to theatres have helped southern markets

Lata Jha
First Published8 Jul 2024, 11:13 AM IST
Kalki 2898 AD starring Prabhas and Deepika Padukone earned Rs. 107 crore from its dubbed Hindi version over its opening weekend..
Kalki 2898 AD starring Prabhas and Deepika Padukone earned Rs. 107 crore from its dubbed Hindi version over its opening weekend..(X)

Even as the Hindi-speaking belt grows into a crucial market for southern language spectacle films, the core revenue for these high-budget titles still comes from their home markets in south India.

Despite capped ticket rates in regional markets, period drama Kalki 2898 AD starring Prabhas and Deepika Padukone earned 126 crore from the Telugu-speaking market, compared to 107 crore from its dubbed Hindi version on its opening weekend. Additionally, Rs. 14.86 crores from another southern state like Tamil Nadu. 

In December, Prabhas’ other Telugu film Salaar had clocked 145 crore from the Telugu market over the first weekend, while the Hindi circuits threw up Rs. 91 crore. 

Trade experts say the business in the northern market is growing, which explains the investment southern filmmakers make in getting popular Bollywood faces on board or promoting the film in Hindi states, but the core brand of the studio and lead actor cannot be dislodged from the south. 

The latter manages better business despite the relatively larger size of the Hindi belt, thanks to the stronger movie-going culture of the South, reasonably priced tickets, and better access to theatres.

“Hindi may be growing to bring a proportionately larger ratio of overall business over time but it’s not as big as the southern market (for these films),” Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas said. “What helps is the presence of a star cast that resonates with a Hindi audience. However, this phenomenon cannot be true of every south film.”

Home is where the heart is

The trend is clear: films perform best in markets where their original language is spoken or where the lead stars hail from, according to experts. 

Even the biggest Hindi films earn 95% of their box office collections from Hindi-speaking states. Tamil film actors like Vijay or Ajith, who rarely promote their films in the north, see Tamil Nadu bringing in 80% of their business, with other southern states like Kerala and Telangana contributing. Hindi markets play a minor role in the box office success of Tamil films.

“Telugu is the only unique industry that does extremely well in the home market while Hindi is also an active contributor,” independent distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi said.  

"That is because the sensibilities of Telugu films are quite similar to those of Hindi audiences and the lead stars often seem and act quite similar to those up north. Other languages are entrenched in their own cultural ethos

Even though hits like Pushpa have been huge surprises in the north, Rathi said it is noteworthy that two Telugu states can clock in more business for a film than multiple Hindi-speaking territories.

Without doubt, southern filmmakers have recognised the lucrative opportunity that lies in cracking the northern market. Kalki that had made over 190 crore at last count from its dubbed Hindi version, is likely to emerge as the biggest hit in the northern market so far this year, beating Hrithik Roshan-starrer Fighter that earned 199.45 crore when released in January. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that home states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will still contribute a greater chunk of the revenue.

“The home state is where brands are created, other markets are merely an extension of the same. It would play out in a similar fashion in the Hindi-speaking belt for a Shah Rukh or Salman film. It would never make in Tamil Nadu or Kerala what it would manage in a Delhi or Uttar Pradesh,” independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan said.

Read more: I drove the Kalki 2898 AD car. It's fit for an apocalyptic world

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First Published:8 Jul 2024, 11:13 AM IST
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