NEW DELHI : Cashing in on holidays and festivals may not be new for filmmakers in India but the industry is definitely looking beyond the traditional pool of Diwali, Eid and Christmas. Valentine’s Day has emerged as the new release window that both Bollywood and the south Indian industries want to grab, especially for youth-oriented romantic films, with nearly four movies scheduled for release this Friday, across languages.

Hindi-speaking audiences will have Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal starring Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan, a modern take on young love and relationships that Ali had also attempted with the original featuring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone in 2009. But there is also Telugu language romantic drama World Famous Lover starring Vijay Deverakonda of Arjun Reddy fame, along with Raashi Khanna, Aishwarya Rajesh, Catherine Tresa and Izabelle Leite. Plus, there are two Tamil films, Oh My Kadavule starring Ashok Selvan, Ritika Singh and Vani Bhojan and Naan Sirithal featuring Hiphop Tamizha and Iswarya Menon.

“While technically Valentine’s Day is not a government holiday, a lot of the youth does celebrate it and it is a great way for filmmakers to attract young audiences who make up 70-80% of the opening weekend viewer base anyway," said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar.

Johar said Valentine’s Day is an international phenomenon that has come to be fairly accepted by the urban millennial segment. There is definitely a 10-20% jump in business given that multiplex-going youngsters hold movie-viewing as an important leisure activity. Last year, Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy had made Rs. 50.71 crore over its opening Valentine’s Day weekend. Particularly over the last two years, filmmakers have tried to cash in on the niche occasion rapidly growing in popularity.

“Even this year, Love Aaj Kal seems to fit the vibe of the festival and is poised for a good start," Johar said.

Meanwhile, in the south too, Valentine’s Day is gaining traction especially with the whole conversation around right-wing Hindu groups viewing it as a Western celebration of love that goes against the grain of Indian culture. Protests like Kiss of Love have spread from the southern state of Kerala after vigilantes harassed couples sitting in a restaurant.

“In the Tamil industry, there used to be a big gap after Pongal (in January) almost till summer. But in the past few years, filmmakers have found an audience for romantic comedies on Valentine’s Day, especially among the youth. This is the best holiday period to cash in on till the end of February after which school examinations begin," independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai explained.

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