Bollywood is not having the best of days.
Until the release of Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan two weeks ago, India’s predominant film industry had failed to make an impression at the box office this year. The only two exceptions were Tanu Weds Manu Returns, a May-release and the first film to inaugurate the Rs100 crore benchmark this year, and ABCD 2, which earned Rs100 crore within India in July.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan—the biggest Bollywood film of 2015 so far—has saved the day by earning almost Rs285 crore within India since its release on July 17.
But the lack of Bollywood hits is even more stark considering that 65 Hindi films have been released so far this year. Not only many small productions, but also overhyped, big-budget films—Bombay Velvet, Roy, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, and Tevar, among others—failed to deliver.
Besides, the success of Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan is hardly a surprise. An actor of the masses, he now has eight films—the highest number for any Bollywood actor—in the elite Rs100 crore club in India.
But with increasing competition from every direction, Bollywood cannot possibly just rely on a handful of top actors.
Threat from the west
Hollywood has taken a major share of the profits in India so far this year, with three of the country’s top five blockbusters in the first half of 2015.
Furious Seven—the seventh instalment in the Fast and Furious series—received the biggest release for any Hollywood film in India. It came out on 2,800 screens in English and several dubbed languages, earning more than Rs100 crore. Jurassic World, the fourth in the Jurassic Park series, also earned that much after being released in Hindi, English, Telugu and Tamil. Avengers: Age of Ultron earned Rs69.8 crore ($10.9 million).
In recent years, the market for Hollywood films in India has been on the rise. Even in 2014, Hollywood’s gross box office collections in the country jumped to Rs420 crore ($65.6 million) from Rs320 crore ($50 million) in 2013, according to a report by consulting firm KPMG and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
“The consumption of Hollywood content in India is rapidly changing amongst the audience, driven by the youth and emergence of new centres in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where largely dubbed content performs well,” the report noted.
In 2014, American franchise movies such as Amazing Spider Man 2, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction, and X-Men: Days of Future Past generated close to Rs210 crore in gross box office collections in India.
And regional films…
Another blow to Bollywood this year came from within India.
Typically, big-budget Hindi films, heavy on special effects, fail to deliver the goods. But the blockbuster two-part multilingual film Baahubali—made on a budget of Rs254 crore ($40 million), a quarter of what is usually spent on Hollywood’s special effects blockbusters—is a lesson for the film industry.
The film has raked in huge profits, and broken several records, including the first non-Bollywood film to make it to the list of the country’s top 10 films that received the biggest international openings. In its fourth week of release, the global collections figure exceeded Rs500 crore.
Meanwhile, the Hindi-dubbed version is inching close to Rs100 crore—with the net collections at Rs95.76 crore as of July 31.
“Bollywood should be worried. All the innovation, the out-of-the-box thinking—it’s all coming from outside,” Shailesh Kapoor of Ormax Media told Reuters. “Whether it is Bahubali or Hollywood franchise films, they are finding a lot more favour with audiences than before.”
Besides Baahubali, Tamil films I and Kanchana 2 have earned more than Rs100 crore at the Indian box office this year.