London, Aug. 27: Bollywood is now making almost as much money in Britain as UK-made films, according to figures released today by the UK Film Institute.
In 2003, for example, 54 Bollywood films grossed £8.1 million at the box office, compared with £8,204,874 from 29 British movies.
This explains why a whole clutch of Indian stars turned up at the Washington Hotel in London’s Mayfair today to promote a concert they will be holding at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham tomorrow and another two at the Wembley Arena in London on Sunday and Monday, respectively.
Flying over stars who expect to be pampered at five-star hotels, ferried around in chauffeur-driven limousines and share a £150,000 jackpot per show is an expensive business but enough tickets, at prices ranging from £15 to £100, are sold to make the venture worthwhile.
The stars imported for this weekend’s concerts, labelled Temptation, include Shah Rukh Khan, who features in nearly all the big Bollywood successes in Britain.
When Shah Rukh performed at the wedding of Vanisha Mittal, the daughter of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, in Paris in June, he was said to have been paid £300,000 for an evening (Kylie Minogue was paid a similar fee at the same event).
Others who have come to Britain include Priyanka Chopra, who has pursued the now well-trodden route from Miss World beauty crown — she won the title, aged 18, in 2000 — to Bollywood, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukherjee. The two male stars in the group are Saif Ali Khan and Arjun Rampal.
After Britain, this Bollywood bandwagon will roll on to the US and Canada to complete an 18-city tour.
The promoter of the Bollywood concerts is the London-based Farhath Hussain, who has organised nearly 500 such events in Britain over 18 years.
“Bollywood’s popularity is growing bigger by the day,” he said. “Before, we did not get UK box office ratings because Bollywood films were shown only in Indian cinemas in Indian areas such as Southall. Now, they are shown in multiplexes throughout Britain and all of Shah Rukh’s films get into the British Top Ten.”
The biggest challenge is to extend the appeal of Bollywood films beyond the UK’s Asian-origin population of 2.5 million. It seems this can only happen when Bollywood-inspired films, such as Bend It Like Beckham, starring Parminder Nagra, and Bride and Prejudice, due for release in October and starring the “Queen of Bollywood”, Aishwarya Rai, are made under a UK banner. But such films are then classified as British.
In 2002, according to statistics from the UK Film Institute, 25 British films grossed £27,368,790, compared with £10.5 million made by 62 Bollywood films. However, the British box office take included £11,551.538 from Bend It Like Beckham.
The definition of a British film, under Schedule 1 to the Films Act 1985, is complicated, but basically “a film must be made by a company that is registered and centrally managed and controlled in the UK” and “70 per cent of the production cost must be spent on filmmaking activity in the UK”.
When it comes to foreign language films shown in the UK, Bollywood is way ahead of the rest of the pack. Last year, when Bollywood movies in Hindi made £8.1 million, 25 French films grossed £2.8 million; seven German films £2.4 million; two Portuguese films, including City of God from Brazil, £2.4 million; and 10 Japanese films £1.3 million.
However, everything is eclipsed by Hollywood, the figures show.
In December 2001, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone took £66,096,060. The same month, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which was shot mainly in Britain at Waddesdon Manor, Bucks, and Bleinheim Palace, Oxfordshire, and which starred Shah Rukh, climbed to number three in the British charts but grossed “only” £4,498,281.
Shah Rukh is clearly critical to the health of Bollywood. Between 1989 and 2004, 24 Bollywood films entered the UK Top Ten, with Shah Rukh featuring in all the top five biggest Bollywood openings.
Out of the Top Bollywood films released in the UK, Shah Rukh has featured in eight of them, Rani in three and Saif and Preity in one each.
Priyanka’s recently released Muhjse Shaadi Karogi reached number eight in the UK charts.