Bollywood cinema booms in Oz
When Mind Blowing Films launched in Australia in 2002, its first Bollywood film made just $30,000. Dhoom 3, its latest release, raked in $1.7 million in three weeks, occupying prime slots in the Christmas/New Year holidays at Hoyts and Event Cinemas.
The Melbourne-based firm has 18 titles, predominantly Hindi, on its slate for 2014 and co-founder Mitu Bhowmick-Lange is looking to add several more.
Mitu attributes the steady surge in popularity of Bollywood fare to several factors, not least the rise in immigrants from the sub-Continent.
By ensuring each film is sub-titled, she is sure the appeal is broader than the resident Indian community. “A lot of second-generation Indians bring their Australian partners,” she tells IF, ”and the genre is popular with the gay community.”
An action adventure starring Abhishek Bachchan as an assistant police commissioner and Aamir Khan as a circus artist who uses stage tricks to pull off bank robberies, Dhoom 3 has eclipsed the company’s previous highest grosser, 3 Idiots, which made $1.25 million in 2010.
A typical release earns $300,000- $500,000. The distributor relies primarily on theatrical returns because piracy is so rife it does not distribute films on DVD. Mitu laments that counterfeit DVDs of Bollywood films are widely available for as little as $1 a pop.
Bhowmick-Lange is discussing releasing titles on VOD via Hoyts Stream, which is due to launch in the first half of this year.
Commissioned by Film Victoria, the company is staging the Indian Film Festival Melbourne in May. More than 30 films will screen at Hoyts City and Chadstone cinemas and this edition will see the debut of the IFF awards for best film, director and performances.
Separately Mind Blowing Films runs the Indian Film Festival – Bollywood & Beyond , a program of about eight titles, which is due to be held in Sydney in late May then travel to Adelaide.
Mitu, whose business partners are Bidyut Dumra and John Molloy, is looking to broaden the slate with films from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
She is keen to handle select Australian films but is puzzled by Screen Australia’s processes. Mind Blowing Films is deemed an acceptable distributor for producers who want to use the producer offset. But when a producer sought production investment from the agency, nominating it as the distributor, the pitch was rejected.
“I find that very odd,” she says. Since 2009 the firm has released theatrically more than 60 titles in Australia and New Zealand.
Screen Australia’s production investment department assesses each project on its merits, taking into account many different criteria. There is no list of “acceptable distributors” for production investment or the producer offset.
So, in future, a project with Mind Blowing Films attached may well secure production investment if the elements and overall deal pass muster.