Picture perfect, for locale & lucre

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By CHANDRIMA S. BHATTACHARYA in Mumbai
  • Published 26.12.03
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Mumbai, Dec. 26: With Kal Ho Naa Ho, overseas has become the hottest territory for Bollywood.

Even as the film — whose script is being sought by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its library — looks set to be the biggest story from Bollywood this year, its box-office performance is most dramatic where it was shot — overseas.

Karan Johar’s venture, which has Shah Rukh Khan playing a terminally ill man bent on spreading sweetness in other Indians’ lives in New York, has almost bridged the gap between domestic and foreign markets.

Kal Ho Naa Ho (KHNH) continues to spell magic in the overseas territory. The film has grossed $1,787,378 (roughly Rs 8,93,68,900) in the US and £1,294,079 (which is roughly Rs 9,05,85,530) in the UK,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

“The success of the film on foreign shores has strengthened the belief of producers that overseas continues to be the hottest territory today,” he adds.

Now in its fourth week, KHNH has collected Rs 24 crore from the domestic market. From the UK and the US alone, its collections are over Rs 18 crore.

“It’s still at number 10 in the UK charts,” says Johar, the film’s producer and the brain behind the Shah Rukh-starrer.

The film also had a whopping opening abroad. According to the International Business Overview Standard, its first-week collections were £11,543 in the UK and $14,581 in the US and its revenue from the India opening was around Rs 10.69 crore.

Johar says several reasons contributed to the overseas performance. “It is a young, friendly film, which is also for family audiences, with a modern look.”

“For the past few years, overseas — for a certain type of films — is a huge market, almost 40 per cent,” says Reliance Entertainment Pvt Ltd chairman Amit Khanna.

The “certain type” is slick family entertainment, epitomised by KHNH. These are the biggest grossers abroad — and at home as well — except one or two significant exceptions.

The NRIs like their films star-studded, sugarcoated and well-done.

So Baghban — a tearjerker with Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini playing parents rejected by their children — that is still showing has managed almost Rs 11 crore from the US and the UK. It has grossed about Rs 25 crore in the Indian market.

Chalte Chalte, a trendy love story starring Shah Rukh and Rani Mukherjee, has grossed about Rs 10.5 crore from the US and the UK and Rs 18.3 crore in India.

Another love story, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, a Rajashri production with Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor, grossed almost Rs 10 crore in the US and the UK and Rs 19.6 crore in India.

But another Hrithik-starrer, boasting the home-grown Jadoo of Koi Mil Gaya — accused of being a desi rehash of Steven Spielberg’s ET — possibly proved too simplistic for those across the oceans. Though it remains the top domestic grosser this year at Rs 46.8 crore, it got about Rs 3.2 crore from the US and Rs 4.84 from the UK.

Another film that had woeful collections in the US and the UK, compared with its domestic gross of Rs 25 crore, was the Sunny-Deol starrer The Hero. The argument goes: If you have Jackie Chan, why go for another action hero, especially an ageing Sunny?

What one India likes, the other may not. “Kal Ho Naa Ho is extraordinary at big centres, but not as strong at small centres,” says Adarsh. This is where Koi Mil Gaya scored. But then it’s a few months old whereas KHNH is only four-weeks old.

But the world is yet to be Bollywood’s playground despite an overseas market that has grown so much of late.

“Distribution of Hindi films reaches 100 countries, but they are still restricted to the South Asian diaspora,” Khanna points out.