'Metro' blazes trail for small films overseas

Jun 16, 2007 Arpana

Mumbai, June 16 (IANS) Small-budget, character-based movies are finally making big bucks in the overseas market and the credit for the trend goes to "Life in a ...Metro".

Buoyed by word of mouth, Anurag Basu's film about flippant relationships in a big city has found takers in the US and Britain. It has earned $144,169 in the US and 148,208 pounds in Britain.

While biggies like "Krrish", "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna", "Fanaa", "Dhoom 2" and other spectacles with an overdose of love, melodrama and special effects did overwhelming business at the foreign box office, low-budget films "Traffic Signal", "Corporate", "Gangster - A Love Story" and "Page 3" had to face disappointment.

The Bipasha Basu-Kay Kay Menon-Rajat Kapoor starrer "Corporate" garnered just 21,600 pounds in Britain and 19,255 pounds in the US.

Basu's "Gangster - A Love Story" managed to gross only $20,740 in the US and Madhur Bhandarkar's "Traffic Signal" made 10,862 pounds in Britain and $4,200 in the US. In comparison, "Metro" has earned impressive profits.

Usually the NRI audiences are unadventurous when it comes to stars. They are hooked to big stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan.

But "Metro" has turned the tide. The film starring Shilpa Shetty, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan and Konkona Sen Sharma has been attracting sizable crowds and might just have changed the economics of small-budget movies in foreign markets.

Moviegoers are showing interest in subtle, content-driven offering.

"'Metro' hit bull's eye due to the changing tastes of audiences and an openness towards subjects rather than just star cast. At the same time the marketing push UTV gave to 'Metro' hasn't happened regularly in the past," Siddharth Roy Kapur, executive vice president of marketing, distribution and syndication, UTV, told IANS.

"A combination of audience openness backed by savvy marketing and distribution has helped the box office for 'Metro' in these markets."

Its success goes to prove that NRI viewers are accepting cinema that so far has not been part of their entertainment consumption.

However, distributors are still hesitant in taking up movies of this genre.

"It's still an uphill task for distributors to sell the realistic genre of movies in the international market. They would not want to take a chance," said Kapur.

"But this is changing as more films that are coming out of India are of a similar genre, which is very fresh and new for the international market. But the process has started...it will pick up."

Such realistic cinema is expected to flourish further when the audience watching Indian movies begins to include foreigners.

"It's primarily the South Asian diaspora that sees Indian movies, no foreigners. For the foreigners to enter theatres to watch Indian films would require a true Indian crossover film. Till such time, we would have to wait for India's 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' to happen," said Kapur.

Small-budget films may have just started to get momentum overseas but they are doing pretty well in the country.

Last year "Khosla Ka Ghosla" and this year Sagar Ballary's heartfelt comedy "Bheja Fry" have given the biggies a run for their money at the box-office. Nagesh Kukunoor's "Dor" and Bhandarkar's "Page 3" and "Corporate" and Saket Chaudhary's "Pyaar Ke Side Effects" were equally successful in India.

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