Kabali to Khaidi No 150: 'Big hero' South Indian films are setting global box office records
Clearly, these are good times for the big budget, mass, superstar-driven films in the South, with box office collections running into 100 crores within the first week. In terms of business, especially in the overseas markets, Telugu and Tamil films are nearing the mark set by Bollywood (read: the Khans' films).
Dangal may be dominating news of the movie business with its Rs 380 crore run. But a development that deserves as much attention, is the booming box office collections for the films of South Indian superstars.
Last week, Chiranjeevi’s comeback film after eight years — Khaidi No 150 — became the fastest grosser to hit the Rs 150 crore mark in collections in Tollywood. As per industry sources, the film earned Rs 150 crore in a fewer number of days than even Baahubali.
Last year, the king of the southern box office — superstar Rajinikanth with his Kabali — reportedly collected over Rs 200 crore in its first week worldwide. Though the film received mixed reviews, the film's producer Kalaipuli S Thanu claims it was a profitable venture. Another film which grossed over Rs 100 crore worldwide was Tamil superstar Vijay’s Theri, as did his Pongal release Bairavaa, which crossed that milestone in jut four days worldwide (according to an advertisement put out by its producers Vijaya Productions).
Meanwhile, in Kerala, Mohanlal’s action-packed jungle adventure Pulimurugan became the first Malayalam film to gross over Rs 100 crore worldwide. Mohanlal himself tweeted: “I’m happy to share the good news that Pulimurugan (has) become the first Malayalam movie to enter the Rs 100 crore club."
Clearly, these are good times for the big budget, mass, superstar-driven films in the South, with collections running into 100 crores within the first week. In terms of business, especially in the overseas markets, Telugu and Tamil films are nearing the mark set by Bollywood (read: the Khans' films).
The business of south movies changed with SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali in 2015. The film was a worldwide mega blockbuster. As per trade sources, worldwide, the film collected around Rs 600 crore, with the US market alone grossing $ 8.46 million. According to the trade website Andhra Box-Office: “Baahubali opened the doors to Telugu films grossing over 100 crore. Recently, Telugu biggies like Srimanthudu, Sarrainudu, Janatha Garage and now Khaidi No 150 have done it easily.”
How do south films collect over Rs 100 crore worldwide, when Tamil and Telugu movies (those with big heroes) have about one-third the market size of a Bollywood Khan film?
The south, especially Andhra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, have more number of screens than Northern India states. Nearly 55 percent of the operating screens in India are in the five southern states of Andhra, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. It has also the largest number of single screens in India, with most of them now being converted into multiple screens.
Another important factor is that politics and cinema are interlinked in Tamil Nadu, and to a certain extent Andhra. Mass heroism in films helped MGR, NTR to become chief ministers. The public think that most mass heroes will end up in politics — like Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna and in Tamil Nadu, Vijaykanth and Sarathkumar. And the younger lot of heroes have huge and dedicated fan bases that ensure a good opening for their films. These fans buy tickets at steep prices during the opening weekend, which ensures stellar collections — irrespective of content.
Moreover, the advent of social media has created a huge fan base for south Indian actors in the lucrative overseas market. The Telugu big hero market in the US is as big as the Khans', thanks to the large number of Telugu people settled there, working in the IT industry. Similarly Malaysia, Singapore, UAE, Europe are huge markets for Tamil superstars. The buzz is that overseas rights for Baahubali 2 The Conclusion have been purchased by an individual with political connections, for the unheard of sum of Rs 60 crore! Contrast this with the price paid for the overseas rights of Baahubali in 2015 — around Rs 9 crore. It is obvious the market has increased almost three to four times and now many NRIs are getting into south film distribution.
And trade experts believe that the market is going to expand further this year. Now the big thing is digital rights, with the entry of Amazon and Netflix. Already Amazon has purchased the digital rights of Rajinikanth’s Kabali and Vijay’s Theri. A leading overseas distributor of south Indian films says, "It is going to be a crucial year for south Indian big star films to catch up with Bollywood’s Khan films. All eyes are now on Baahubali 2, the Mahesh Babu-AR Murgadoss film and the biggest of them all — Rajinikanth’s 2.0: If these films succeed, it augurs well for south films.”
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