It was in the year 2010 that a Hindi film starring reigning superstar Shah Rukh Khan titled ‘My Name is Khan’ became the first ever to cross over a 100 crores in box office collections internationally. It is a figure that still boggles the mind because to this day it is not easy for a Hindi film to make a hundred crores domestically let alone do this feat overseas. But in what is a testament of how the international revenues of Hindi films are going northwards, four years later director Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘P.K.’ took it a few notches higher by becoming the first to make 200 crores outside of India ending up with over 300 crores. In the last few years three films have crossed the magical figure of 200 crores globally with this year’s biggest hit ‘Dangal’ turning out to be the latest movie to achieve this feat. What are the implications of this incredible turn of events and how it will impact the way films are made and marketed in this part of the world remains to be seen.
Two films in the mid 1990s chiefly brought back a huge diaspora of Indian audiences worldwide back into the theaters. The films were ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ and ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ and both films had one thing in common, both reaffirmed Indian traditions and family values. For a good many years after that it was usually NRIs aka non resident Indians who patronised these films. What is different in recent years is that the new generation of filmmakers are making films that are on par with their Hollywood counterparts. Not merely in terms of production values as well as technical excellence but more importantly content. These new films are bold and original in content as well as universal in appeal. As a result of which many non Indians have begun to frequent cinema halls playing these films.
These are films that are pushing the envelope, and hard.
That is one big reason why the overseas market for Hindi films which has been traditionally limited to four or five regions like the US, UK, Australia and the middle east. This is where the concentration of the expat community loyal to Hindi films has been. But with content assuming great importance in recent years this market has expanded to include newer markets like France, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa. Asian markets in China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong which have a strong presence of Chinese, Korean and Japanese cinema have been resistant to films from India though they have been more accepting of Holly-wood big releases. Not anymore for Hindi film are now breaking new ground by making their presence felt here as well. The stupendous success of Tamil superstar Rajnikanth’s films in South East Asian markets have played their part in opening up new avenues for Hindi films.
It was early last year that the American trade magazine ‘Variety’ made a forecast that the Bollywood industry is expected to grow at a rate of 11% every year. In contrast Hollywood film are barely growing at 5%. Not to forget that Bollywood makes more than twice the number of films every year than Hollywood. Clearly there is no dearth of content.Then there is the incentive to foreign investment in Hindi films that has led to big studios like Disney, Fox and Sony not just distributing films but even getting actively involved in production and marketing too. Commercial Hindi films are usually candy floss stuff with the typical song and dance that appeals to the domestic market. Radical change in this has meant more riveting, edgy cinema that is drawing attention and gathering praise at international film festivals. The going is good and will only get better.