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Reels of change: Hollywood distributors not afraid of Bollywood flicks anymore

While India has always been deemed as a niche market for Hollywood to crack, there were some hit franchises which struck a chord with the audience. Apart from the regulars though, Hollywood cinema was never considered a threat daunting enough for big Hindi releases.

The trend, however, seems to have undergone a drastic makeover. The surge in Hollywood cinema has almost been theatrical with movies like 'The Jungle Book', 'Captain America: Civil War' and 'Deadpool' making a remarkable entry into the Indian market and giving tough competition to Bollywood biggies. Maybe, it’s the authentic storylines, larger than life visuals, arresting cinematography or subtle yet striking performances. But whatever the formula, it seems to be working and has definitely raised the benchmark for Hindi movies.

Case in point: A much-awaited, big-budgeted affair like 'Fan' starring Shah Rukh Khan suffered visibly because of 'The Jungle Book'. The coming week will see popular franchise 'X-Men' going head-to-head with 'Sarabjit', starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Randeep Hooda in lead roles.

Despite releasing just a week before SRK-starrer Fan, The Jungle Book earned itself a mammoth R175 crore
Despite releasing just a week before SRK-starrer Fan, The Jungle Book earned itself a mammoth R175 crore

Kamal Gianchandani, CEO-PVR Pictures, says, “As film marketers in India, we have observed a rising demand for Hollywood over time. People are always on the lookout for good content, both visually and intellectually. Speaking of Hollywood, it undoubtedly has an upper hand in film technology as compared to Bollywood. In the past, Hollywood distributors would shy away from releasing their films at the same time as big budget Bollywood releases. But with changing demands, this trend is no longer applicable, the best example being the release of Udta Punjab and Now You See Me 2 on the same date.”

In a surprise feat, Deadpool made approximately R46 crore despite releasing with a biggie like Fitoor
In a surprise feat, Deadpool made approximately R46 crore despite releasing with a biggie like Fitoor 

While one could argue that movies like Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionare hit the right chord with the audience, thanks to their massive Indian appeal, even past visual spectacles like 2012 and Avatar, not to forget global superheroes like Iron Man and animated movies like Kung Fu Panda, created quite a stir with the audience pouring into theatres and preferring those to big Hindi releases at the time.

Suicide Squad will release on August the 5 and is one of the big Hollywood releases to hit the screens this year
Suicide Squad will release on August the 5 and is one of the big Hollywood releases to hit the screens this year

Says Vivek Krishnani, managing director, Sony Pictures India, “Hollywood films have particularly seen good growth thanks to an increase in multiplexes and 3D screens as well as changing audience preferences. We have always believed that there is an audience for all kinds of films in India, especially films that have quality content and it’s just a matter of getting space in this overcrowded and under-screened market. For instance, The Angry Birds movie has high awareness among ages eight to 80 years.”

Inferno, starring Tom Hanks  and Irrfan Khan, is this year’s  much-awaited release
Inferno, starring Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan, is this year’s much-awaited release

Amrita Pandey, vice president, Disney Studios, believes that Hollywood movies in India are enjoying their moment in the sun. However, this could be for a few tentpole movies each year. She says, “In 2015 too, three of the top 10 grossing movies were from Hollywood (Fast and Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World), which is a big deal, but if you take away the top five English movies each year, the business for the others isn’t at the scale of medium to big Hindi movies. It shows the massive potential that India as a market represents for a few big movies that our audience does take to. For both The Jungle Book and Captain America: Civil War, localisation was given huge priority. We pushed for the right voice talent and that helped bring in larger revenues from the regional markets.” Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios says the debate has little to do with Hollywood and Bollywood per se. “It’s a battle of good content vs the not so good content. Content is the king eventually and that can come from any industry.”

Tim Burton’s Alice: Through The Looking Glass is to release with five Hindi movies (Cabaret, Phobia, Veerappan, Fredrick and Waiting)  but has generated quite a buzz among cinegoers
Tim Burton’s Alice: Through The Looking Glass is to release with five Hindi movies (Cabaret, Phobia, Veerappan, Fredrick and Waiting)  but has generated quite a buzz among cinegoers

Grirish Johar from Zee Studios believes the foothold that Hollywood has been gaining along with strict competition with Hindi films has got Indian producers a bit rattled. “Bollywood producers are now keeping an eye out for big Hollywood franchises while fixing their release dates. So, that mental check has seeded itself in their minds,” he explains. Whether the trend continues being a threat to Bollywood and mid-budget movies also get the recognition they deserve remains to be seen. One can’t, however, argue that Hindi movies are feeling the heat and content-driven films are becoming the need of the hour.

Trade analyst Amod Mehra sums it up, “People want entertainment, whether it comes from Bollywood or Hollywood. This trend will grow furthur, but that does not mean all English films will work. Those already established franchises will have an upper hand. It’s a wake-up call to our producers.”
— Inputs by Gaurav Dubey

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