It's ironical that superstar Rajinikanth-starrer "Enthiran" was the first Indian film to cross the Rs.200 crore mark at the box office. After that, quite a few Bollywood films minted more than Rs.100 crore, but not a single southern film could replicate the success. Popular actor Akkineni Nagarjuna says "aggressive marketing" and "wider release" can make it happen.
"We should be touching it (Rs.100-crore club) in two or three years. The rate at which the Tamil industry is now progressing, it is likely to touch it first. The Telugu and other industries are likely to follow. I think it is just a matter of time," Nagarjuna told IANS in an interview.
In recent times, Vijay-starrer Tamil action-drama "Thuppakki" reportedly fetched over Rs.80 crore at the box-office. It was however made on a budget of Rs.70 crore.
"We need to understand that Bollywood has a wider market. A Hindi film is screened across the country, but a south Indian film only plays in its respective state. Even if it's played in other states, it is usually on limited screens," he said.
Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Chennai Express", which was aggressively marketed in the south, reportedly minted over Rs.8 crore in its first three weeks in Tamil Nadu alone.
"Hindi films are released in over 2,000 multiplexes, but a Telugu film is only released in about 200 multiplexes. Bollywood films have a wide release abroad vis-a-vis most south Indian films that rarely have a global release," Nagarjuna added.
Nag, as he is fondly called by his fans, pointed out that Bollywood is synonymous with aggressive marketing.
"In the recent past, Bollywood films are being dubbed in foreign languages too. I haven't so far seen a south Indian film being dubbed in a foreign language. This type of aggressive marketing has helped their industry to rake in the moolah, whereas we are still dependent on box-office collections," he said.
The 54-year-old believed that south Indian cinema's box-office collections have nothing to do with the content.
"It's a misconception that our films don't make money because of poor content. Most Bollywood films that entered the Rs.100-crore club were remakes of southern films. We have to admit that we need to market our films aggressively," he said.
Hindi films such as "Wanted", "Singham", "Bodyguard", "Ready", and "Rowdy Rathore" that touched the Rs.100-crore club were all south Indian remakes.
"A south Indian film gets a pittance from satellite rights in comparison to its Bollywood counterpart that's paid three or four times more. There is also a cap on ticket prices in the south. In a multiplex, viewers are paying more money for a bucket of popcorn than for a movie ticket," Nagarjuna added.
In Tamil Nadu, the government has capped ticket prices at Rs.120.
"If you travel by an international airline, you'll mostly find only Hindi films and rarely a south Indian film. But I'm sure all this will change in a few years from now," Nagarjuna said.
(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at email@example.com)