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Mumbai film festival: Global buyers hungry for Indian film titles

The overseas market for Indian films is growing and is likely to increase by about 20 per cent in the next five years, according to global and Indian buyers and sales agents.

Anusha S | October 28, 2011 | Updated 11:06 IST

Anusha Subramanian
Gone are the days when Indian films appealed only to the Indian Diaspora overseas. Today, audiences in non-traditional markets like China, Korea, Japan and Germany are eager to see Indian films - especially the Bollywood flicks.

Global interest in Bollywood has been further fuelled by the success of films like Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots and Shah Rukh Khan's Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and My Name is Khan, in markets such as Taiwan, Korea, Germany, France, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Poland, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and Belgium.

The overseas market for Indian films is growing and is likely to increase by about 20 per cent in the next five years, according to global and Indian buyers and sales agents.

According to the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on the Indian entertainment sector, the Indian film industry clocked overseas box office revenues of Rs 770 crore in 2010 and this is estimated to go up to Rs 1,250 crore by 2015, a compounded annual growth rate of 10.2 per cent per annum.

Film industry veterans say ten years ago the overseas market for Indian films was just about 3-5 per cent of Bollywood's entire theatrical business. 

No wonder then that the Mumbai Film Mart (MFM), the film marketplace created for the first time at the 13th MAMI film festival, saw 40 global buyers and sellers looking to meet Indian producers and independent filmmakers. The focus was largely on growing non-traditional markets for Indian cinema.

"The three-day event from October 15-17 saw at least 500 meetings from over 2,000 meeting requests taking place between buyers from non-traditional markets eyeing all kinds of Indian films," says Rashmi Lamba, manager, MFM. The mart is a marketplace created by the Indian film fraternity for the Indian and global film industry.

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Large global buyers like B.J. Park of Apex Entertainment, Stephan Holl of Rapid Eye and David Jourdan, senior vice president of International Sales at IM Global, though were present for two days only but made the most of their meetings with Indian filmmakers during the time.

B.J. Park of Apex Entertainment released 3 Idiots in South Korea.

"The emotions in 3 Idiots resonated with South Korean cinema viewers. Besides, Indian cinema is getting bigger and better," he said.

Apex Entertainment has acquired titles like Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Guzaarish and Amol Gupte's Stanley ka Dabba. The company plans to release at least 200 prints of Guzaarish in the Korean region.

Eugene Kim of Showbox, another South Korean company adds, "Before Black and 3 Idiots released in my country, we had no idea about Indian cinema. But now we are looking for films with potential to release in South Korea. The next big Hindi film to be released in South Korea is going to be SRK's RA.One."

The movie will release across 200 screens in South Korea and in about 25 screens in Taiwan. Korea was also open to regional (southern cinema) from India.

German cinemas have long enjoyed SRK and many have released his films and other Hindi films.

"Indian films - both Bollywood and regional cinema - have huge potential in the German market," says Stephan Holl of Rapid Eye, responsible for making Shah Rukh Khan a household name in Germany.

Latin America is one of the markets that Indian filmmakers are exploring, says Lamba.

Rakesh Roshan's Kites was a big success in Latin America. David Jourdan, senior vice president-International Sales, at US theatrical distributor IM Global says: "Kites did better than usual in Latin America region. It captured 70 markets as against the usual 30 markets that generally Indian films capture."

Indian cinema has a huge fan following in Latin American, Eastern European and African countries and distributors from these countries are keen on acquiring Indian films.

MFM also saw interest from Japanese buyers. One of the companies present at MFM was Nikkatsu Corp, one of the oldest production and distribution companies in Japan. Nikkatsu has produced and distributed over 5,000 titles in various genres. It has also distributed a wide range of foreign films, including Eastern Promises, CHE, Burn After Reading, The Ghost Writer and Wrestler. The company was keen to explore Indian films to be distributed in Japan.

"It's a pity that not many Indian films are released in Japan. Most Japanese have a pre-conceived notion about Indian cinema. I want Indian filmmakers to make new kind of cinema that can be shown to the Japanese," said Akifumi Sugihara, director of the film business division and a buyer from Nikkatsu Corp.He attended MFM.

Despite that, South Indian super star Rajnikanth is a big hit in the Japanese market and every Rajnikanth film is released in Japan, a trend that began with Rajnikanth's hit film Muthu.

It's not only the global buyers eyeing Indian films. Senior representatives from Indian production houses like Balaji Motion Pictures, UTV Motion Pictures, Eros International, Yashraj Films, Shemaroo Entertainment and independent filmmakers were at MFM to showcase their products and find a place for their films in non-traditional markets.

Eros International and Big Pictures are in talks with Japanese buyers for some of their upcoming releases in Japan. Eros showcased films such as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and upcoming films such as Ra.One, Rockstar and Desi Boyz. Balaji Motion Pictures showcased all its titles till date and its to-be-released film The Dirty Picture at MFM.

Indian films are also seeing potential on foreign home video, digital and satellite platforms.

Vikas Arora, International programming manager for Dish Network, the largest TV platform in the US, attended MFM at MAMI for the first time this year to meet with Indian production houses and buy content for the Dish platform.

"Dish network is currently expanding its video on demand content offering and we are looking for South Asian content, both Hindi and regional cinema. I am here therefore to meet with the content makers," he said.

Arora was specifically meeting with large Indian studios. "There are second- and third-generation Indian audiences that are interested in Indian films," he added.

Dish Network currently offers 12 different Asian language channels and 85 regional language channels.

Adam Davies, chief operation officer of the UK-based Sonona, was looking to acquire Indian films. Sanona is a worldwide digital distributor for non-English feature films.

Film marts are still a new concept at film festivals in India. They are not as robust as at Cannes or other international film festivals.

One of the representatives from an Indian production house who was present at the buyers lounge adds: "A market is the most important aspect of any festival held across the world. I am glad that MAMI took efforts to set up MFM for content creation companies and it has proved to be fruitful."

A film bazaar has been held at the International Film Festival of India (IFI) for many years now. The goal of the film bazaar is to facilitate the export of Indian content, establish and position India as a location for global content creation and create a platform for new digital entertainment streams for Indian films.

But the difference, say industry members, is that this mart was put together by industry. Hirachand Dand, vice president of the Indian Film Exporters Association and Honourable General Secretary of the Film Federation of India says: "The Mumbai Film Mart is a collective initiative by the industry and for the industry in the film capital of India, which produces more films than any other country in the world."

Although Bollywood still rules the roost, small and independent filmmakers also got a good response from global and Indian buyers. Film marts like MFM are a great opportunity for small and independent filmmakers who do not have the resources, knowledge or bandwidth to travel abroad to major festivals like Cannes, Toronto or Berlinale, where they can interact with buyers from around the world.

There was a booth for Marathi films, where producers could sell their films to global buyers. Buyers like Germany's Rapid Eye showed keen interest in films like Harishchandrachi Factory, said people at the booth.

The regional cinema industry is also exploring non-traditional overseas markets. According to attendees, a buyer from Korea has already acquired a Tamil film.

Sarah McKenzie is managing director of the UK-based Creative Screen Associates, a company that provides a range of international and national services for the creative and screen industries in Europe, North America and Asia. Creative Screen Associates is in the process of developing an independent digital distribution platform for Indian independent filmmakers to get wider release, she said.

There was a separate booth for independent filmmakers to showcase their films on DVD to international buyers.

"Even Indian film buyers like UTV and PVR have come forward to buy international films. The plan for next year would be to involve more countries. We want people who are willing to support Indian films," says Lamba, who said he was overwhelmed with the success of MFM.

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