From Hollywood, with love: Focus on India as next big market?
As Tom Cruise readies to shoot Mission: Impossible 6 in India, HT takes a look at how Hollywood is focusing on the Indian market to woo local audiences.
Back in 2011, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series had an Indian connect with Anil Kapoor doing a cameo in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (bits of the film, too, were shot in Mumbai with Tom’s body double). Now, the Hollywood star’s super successful franchise has a new Indian connect. The sixth instalment of the series is set to be shot in India along with other international locations.
Hollywood’s interest in India probably got fuelled when Furious 7 (2015) became the first Hollywood film to enter Rs 100 crore club in India. Last year, The Jungle Book made close to Rs 180 crore at desi box office, which was followed by other biggies such as Captain America: Civil War, The Conjuring 2 and Deadpool, etc.
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It’s interesting to note that of late, Hollywood’s tryst with India has only been getting bigger, and experts readily admit that H-Town is “trying to expand its base and woo Indian audiences” through various means. Earlier this year, Vin Diesel (along with director DJ Caruso) and Jackie Chan were in India to promote their respective films, xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Kung Fu Yoga.
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According to Caruso, Hollywood “should look at all the markets”. He added, “It seems that seeing what Furious 7 and The Jungle Book (2016) did [in India] was eye-opening. And when Hollywood executives see such a potential, they must be like, ‘how do we get into that game?’ I am sure they are going to target India now knowing that those films have done so well.”
That’s not all. Hugh Jackman and Emma Watson uploaded special videos on social media for their Indian fans in a bid to promote their respective films, Logan and Beauty And The Beast. While Hugh spoke about India’s favourite sport, cricket and superheroes, Emma wished Indian fans “a very happy Holi”. Also, the trailer of Spider-Man: Homecoming is slated to be released in 10 Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi and Bengali, among others.
For the uninitiated, Hollywood already has a strong hold in Asian markets such as Japan, China and Thailand. Experts feel there’s nothing wrong if Hollywood is “looking to exploit Indian market” in “today’s global world”. “India is a huge country, and especially with growing population of English-speaking audiences, Hollywood think tanks are confident that India can become the next big destination for them, and help them mint as much money as other Asian countries,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
At the same time, experts point to the fact that casting Indian actors such as Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Ali Fazal in big Hollywood projects (Baywatch, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, and Victoria and Abdul respectively) shows the “kind of importance” Hollywood is attaching to Indian market. Interestingly, Diesel — during a promotional trip to Mumbai in January — told HT that he hoped his film (xXx: Return of Xander Cage) “allows people across the world to feel that they can work with one another”.
During his Mumbai trip, Hollywood star Vin Diesel told HT that he hoped xXx: Return of Xander Cage “encourages other films — regardless of whether they are made in Hollywood or Bollywood — to find the appropriate talent to create the magic that you intend to make.”
Diesel, who will next be seen in The Fate of the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 this year, further added that “a film is supposed to represent the global harmony”. He said, “I think one of the things that the world and Hollywood would talk about is that we went beyond the borders [of Hollywood] to find the appropriate cast [for the movie].”
Experts, however, feel that Hollywood is looking into the future. “Why is Hollywood showing so much interest in India? The simple answer is India’s 1.3 billion-strong population. India is seeing constant growth in the exhibition business, burgeoning demand for entertainment platforms and its population, so Hollywood is sowing the seeds — and rightly so — at the right time before the market booms,” says exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi.
Rathi also points out that India could be Hollywood’s “next big market” in Asia, and could be “as big as China”. “In fact, unlike China, which restricts the number of foreign-language films, our country is an open market, and so Hollywood’s eyes are trained on India,” he says.
Pulling up the socks
Both Adarsh and Rathi feel it’s high time Bollywood “pulls up its socks”. “While quantity is important, we need to focus a lot on the quality of our films. For so many years, Bollywood has stood its ground in the face of competition from Hollywood, and we need to do the same by playing to our strengths,” says Adarsh.
At the same time, Rathi points out that Indian film-makers need to “up their game”, as Indian audiences have benchmarks — from Hollywood to video-streaming and internet — to compare Hindi films with. He says, “Indian film-makers have to up the game vis-à-vis their films’ production values, storytelling and even their vision.”