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Regional films challenge Bollywood on global turf

Surajeet Das Gupta  |  New Delhi/ Mumbai 

Punjabi film Dharti is making waves among Indians in Australia. The low-budget movie, released two weeks ago, has collected Rs 1.19 crore from 10 screens, overtaking the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer Dum Maro Dum. Both were released around the same time. The star-studded Hindi movie has collected Rs 95.40 lakh from 26 screens. This makes Dharti the top grosser among Indian films in Australia.

Dharti’s success is not confined to Australia. It is number one in returns to exhibitors in the UK from an Indian film. The average collection per hall has been £1,771. For Dum Maro Dum, the figure is £833.

With audiences looking beyond Bollywood, regional films are fast catching the fancy of Indians living abroad. More than a dozen movies in an array of languages — Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu, Bhojpuri, Bengali and Marathi — are scheduled for overseas launch this summer.

DHARTI (Punjabi) made Rs 1.19 crore in Australia
MR PERFECT (Telegu) made Rs 1.1 crore in the US
MANMADHAN AMBU (Tamil) made Rs 92.56 lakh in the UK
ENDHIRAN (Tamil) made Rs 70 crore across the globe 
KO (Tamil) made Rs 40 lakh in the UK

Many of these will have English sub-titles for a wider appeal, a trend that started last year with Tamil film Vinnayithaandi Varuvaayaa. It was followed by Rajinikanth’s Endhiran, which earned Rs 70 crore overseas.

Film distributors are moving fast to cash in on the trend. Eros International, for instance, has kept 15 per cent capital expenditure for distributing regional films overseas. It aims to ensure that 15-20 per cent of the total revenue from regional films comes from abroad. “We are looking for growth in these markets. Typically, regional movies are made on a budget of Rs 60 lakh to one crore, but revenues are Rs 3-4 crore. The returns are high,” says Kamal Jain, CFO, Eros International.

Eros says the number of regional prints in overseas markets will also increase. “On an average, regional language movies are released with 50-100 prints overseas, while a Hindi movie is released with around 250 prints. The number for the regional market will grow by 20-25 per cent,” he says.

UTV has lined up eight films in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam for release in the US, the UK and the Gulf countries, besides South-East Asian countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures, says the company is also signing broadcast deals for these films with foreign TV

Even actors are benefiting. Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan has tied up with Eros to launch his new movie, Satyameva Jayate, overseas. The aim is to tap Indians who know the language in Fiji, Guyana, Surinam, Mauritius and Bangkok.

Even the Tamil film industry is looking at new avenues. Mahendra Soni, director, Venkatesh Films, says, “We are constantly in talks with interested international sales agents for taking films to other countries and audiences. The US, Canada and the UK have shown interest in our films.”

US-based Databazar Ventures is talking to Bengali film producers to provide them platforms to screen movies in the US.

With contributions from  Varada Bhat & Swati Garg

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First Published: Mon, May 09 2011. 00:59 IST