The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hollywood blow to Bollywood in Gulf

Mumbai, Oct. 3: Is it Bollywood blues in the Gulf' According to the Gulf Times Daily, for the first time in Qatar, Hollywood has toppled Bollywood at the box-office.

The report said American films accounted for 62 per cent revenue while Indian films, including Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil, accounted for only 24 per cent and Arabic films generated 12 per cent from January to August this year.

It added that in 1996, Indian films had 72 per cent share, while Hollywood had 24 per cent and Arabic 4 per cent.

If it’s a trend, it will take its toll on Indian film industries, as not only Hindi, but also Malayalam and Tamil films targeted at the many expats from the southern states settled there, depend heavily on the Gulf market.

Chandrakant Mehta of CA Films Pvt Ltd, which exports films, echoed the concern in Mumbai, though he said he could not provide figures.

“This year has been bad for Indian films in the Gulf, as anywhere else, because there have been no hits except Raaz and Devdas. But in the Gulf, only Devdas has done well. Raaz didn’t do well because films with no big names usually don’t do well in the Gulf,” said Mehta.

In contrast, Hollywood’s share went up because it successfully brought the latest blockbusters like Spider-Man, Men in Black II and Scorpion. Arabic films did better, too, because of increased production.

Mehta added that the strict censorship laws in the Gulf went in favour of Hollywood. “They make sophisticated movies in which sex is there, but not in such an obvious way. Or is there in a way that is integral. But Hindi or other Indian movies show sex in a crude way. The censors come down more easily on those. As a result, less Bollywood movies get shown in the Gulf theatres.”

He says if the spell continues, it will be bad news, as a film generally hopes to recover at least 30 per cent of its production cost from the Gulf market. But others feel that it is too early to press the panic button.

Amar Asrani, another major exporter of films, doesn’t agree that Bollywood’s stock has slipped drastically. “It depends from film to film, from year to year. So we can’t generalise and say that Bollywood is faring badly,” he says. But he admits that the Gulf favours Hollywood. “Of late, most of the theatres there prefer English movies,” he says.

Pehlaj Nihalani, president of a leading film producer’s organisation, says he is not sure if the sales have dipped at all. “Bollywood seems to be doing fine abroad, if not better,” he says.

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