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Bollywood’s southern conquest

Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan is turning into one of the star’s biggest hits, breaking the record set by his earlier blockbuster Dabangg. In its opening week, Bajrangi Bhaijaan has grossed around Rs. 184 crore from India domestic theatricals, beating even PK and Happy New Year’s records.

In Tamil Nadu, considered one of the smallest markets for Hindi films in India, Bajrangi Bhaijaan has done extraordinary business. The film has grossed Rs. 2.10 crore in its first week from nearly 50 screens in the State, despite facing competition from films such as Baahubali and Dhanush’s Maari.

Bollywood is finally making inroads into the Tamil Nadu market. Earlier, 80 per cent of the box office share of a Hindi film came from Chennai and its suburbs alone. Now, even tier-2 towns in Tamil Nadu, such as Tiruchy, Vellore, Kanchipuram, Salem and Madurai are giving priority screens to big Hindi films. The biggest Hindi grossers in Tamil Nadu are Shah Rukh Khan’s Chennai Express and Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots.

Theatre owner Annamalai from Tiruchi, says: “Earlier, Hindi films used to run only in Chennai and Coimbatore. But more towns in Tamil Nadu are screening them on a regular basis now. The advent of multiplexes, the influx of Hindi-speaking audiences in the IT industry, growth of social media and subtitling have created new audiences for Hindi films in the state.”

However, there have also been cases in the 60s and 70s, where films such as Aradhana, Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Bobby and Sholay, ran for over 100 days in Chennai. Actor and Tamil film historian Mohan V. Raman points out: “In the mid 50s to early 70s, DMK’s pronounced anti-Hindi stance made sure that Hindi films were limited to the Mount Road area of Madras city. I remember watching films such as Sangam and Aradhana, which were runaway superhits, but they never released beyond Tambaram those days. But all that changed when the MGR regime took over as he adopted a more nationalistic view. The connect between Kollywood and Bollywood industries was strong even during the time of AVM Studios and Gemini Studios. In 1970s and 80s, south Indian heroines even dominated the Bombay film industry. Today, the best technicians in Bollywood are from the south. And the growth of the IT sector has also brought about a change, as more Hindi-speaking people have come into the state.”

The corporatisation of Bollywood has also helped Hindi films percolate down into smaller towns. Films such as Queen and Piku screened with subtitles managed decent business in the multiplexes of these towns. Apart from that, even coverage for a Hindi film in the Tamil media has increased, thanks to social media. In fact, Bollywood stars are promoting several brands in Tamil Nadu, which were reserved for local faces.

The success of Hindi films has also pushed the price of big star movies through the roof. A few years back, small-time distributors handled Hindi film distribution in the state; now, most biggies are distributed directly through local subsidiaries of Mumbai companies. Theatres in rural Tamil Nadu too are now willing to screen Hindi films as they are commercially viable.

Preetha Ramaswamy, manager, PR and Marketing, SPI Cinemas, says :“The scenario for Hindi films in Tamil Nadu has undergone a tremendous change over the last six or seven years. With the growth of multiplexes and increase in the number of screens, it is now possible to programme more films that cater to a wider range of audiences. All the major Hindi films now open big here. There is a regular audience for these films and the expectations are huge for big banner releases.”

It looks like Bollywood has finally conquered its last frontier.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 1:11:39 AM |

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