Global Box Office: Hindi Film Loses Its Plurality

Interesting week!  Nothing is happening as expected, the world is crazy and upside down, numbers are fun! (as always, numbers from bollywoodhungama)

I usually start in America, because there is the most information from there, and the most profit.  But this time, I starting in the UK because it is FASCINATING.  My personal theory is that the UK is closest to the Indian market, because it has the largest and most connected desi diaspora.  And in the UK this week, Hindi is losing.  Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 from Pakistan is number one, on 19 screens and $1,250 per screen in week 3.  Number 2 is Mar Gaye Oye, a Punjabi film in week 1, is on 11 screens and making $1,500 per screen.  Number three, Imaikkaa Nodigal a Tamil film in week 1 on 8 screens is making $1,500 per screen.  And only after all of that, we find Stree, the only Hindi industry film in the top five, making $1,100 per screen.  And the top five is finished off by another Pakistani film, Parwaaz Hai Junoon on 9 screens and making $900 per screen.

Image result for jawani phir nahi ani 2 poster

(Tall hot guys in scarves and tailored jackets.  No wonder the UK market loved it.  The BBC has taught me that tall hot guys in scarves and tailored jackets litter the streets of England)

Isn’t that interesting?  The UK market, a mix of immigrants from all over South Asia, the second home of the Indian diaspora, and it is swinging Punjabi, Pakistani, and Tamil.  The first two kind of make sense, you could say it is just generally north Indian populations enjoying their films.  But once you throw Tamil in the mix, it looks more and more like simply avoiding Hindi films.

The UK is the most extreme, but it’s not that different in America either.  First, let me say that Stree has stabilized as expected.  It’s on even fewer screens (40) but is making $3,300 per screen, which is very solid for a second week of a non-star film.  I predict a long run for it.  But even with that stable second week, it is still dragging behind the non-Hindi films.  The top this week is C/o Kancharapalem, a Telugu film, which isn’t even doing that well.  It’s making less than $2,000 on 91 screens in week 1.  Then there’s Stree.  Then there’s Geetha Govindam on 38 screens and making $1,000 per screen in week 4.  Then Manu, a Telugu film on 84 screens in week 1 making less than $500 per screen (ouch!).  Mar Gaye Oye Loko, the new Punjabi film, making $1,200 per screen.  And then the two Pakistani films, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 making $1,250 per screen on 15 screens, and Parwaaz Hai Junoon on 14 screens, making $900 per screen, both in week 3.

Related image

(Hindi films only hope)


This is a very odd pattern for the two largest Hindi markets outside of India.  Malaysia and Canada tend to go Tamil and Punjabi respectively.  Australia is hard to predict.  But America and the UK are supposed to reflect a nice homogenized equal group of immigrants.  An overseas version of India, more or less.  Maybe America has a slight southern leaning and the UK a slight northern, but no more than that.

The pattern should be the Hindi films having a plurality of the box office.  Not a majority necessarily, not more box office than all the other South Asian industries combined, but at least a larger chunk than any other individual industry.  Even in a bad week, even when nothing is a major hit, there should still be a Hindi plurality in America and the UK.  But not this week.  This week, Hindi films are falling behind Punjabi and Pakistani and Tamil and Telugu.

Why?  Well, it didn’t happen over night.  The Hindi plurality isn’t because of the big films, it’s because of the multiple solid little films.  This week was never going to be major hits, but there was supposed to be Gold and Satyamev Jayate still playing, Stree chugging along, and then Paltan and Laila-Majnu doing not-horrible this week.  Nothing spectacular, maybe nothing in the top 3, but at least something in the top 5, and several more in the top 10.

Image result for gold poster hindi

(Gold was supposed to be the film that united the audience.  But, it didn’t)

But instead, what happened?  The decent new openings were taken by the Tamil and Telugu and Punjabi films.  The solid little hits still going were taken by the Pakistani films.  There just wasn’t space left, or a need for, the Hindi films.

Maybe that’s the real problem, the overseas market is becoming an increasingly competitive space.  The southern distributors are fighting for screens for even their lessor releases.  Pakistani films are coming up and challenging Hindi in its home ground (primarily Hindustani speaking northerners).  Punjabi films are too.  But mostly it is because Hindi used to be able to get a plurality just because it was there, there were so many of them all the time and so few of everything else.  Even if a random Telugu or Tamil film hit, that was just one movie, the whole rest of the list was Hindi.  But no more.  Now films from all the traditional industries, and newer ones (Punjabi and Pakistani) are releasing almost as many movies overseas as the Hindi industry.  And unlike in India, there isn’t the basic geographical boundaries, all these movies are competing in the exact same place, often in the exact same movie theaters, for the same audience.

15 thoughts on “Global Box Office: Hindi Film Loses Its Plurality

    • Could be! Here’s some other popular theories:

      1. First generation built a new identity as overseas Indian, a separate new community that used Hindi films in particular (versus other Indian films industries) as a way of creating a shared identity, when there are only 50 desis in your town, you aren’t looking to create more divisions among that group, you are looking for something that can bring you all together, and pooling resources to rent Mughal-E-Azam and show it in a church basement. As the communities grew, so did the divisions, it became less about being an NRI, and more about being Tamilian or Malayalam or whatever else, just like it is in India. And the film audience fractured. On it’s most basic level, Chicago used to get one Indian film a year and it was always Hindi. And now it gets half a dozen films a week and only one of them is Hindi.

      2. Hindi films went too far after the diaspora audience. They used to be a taste of home slightly softened so it could translate to a new place. Now, that taste of home is almost completely gone. The dialogue has more English than Hindi, the wealthy leads live lives identical to the lives of anyone from anywhere, there is no sense of place, nothing different, nothing appealing. It is the regional films that still have that non-Hollywood feel, the masala flavor. Looking at this week, you can see Stree, the most grounded and specific Hindi film, is doing best. And Gold, a well-made film but also a very very Hollywood film, is doing terribly.

      3. Today, when we have first and second and third generation, they all relate to the films slightly differently and Hindi is not fulfilling any of their needs. The first generation enjoys feeling tied to their home culture, their “real” culture of the non-Hindi language films. The second generation wants something that speaks to their needs to feel connected to a culture within a larger culture. Hindi films are too Hollywood, aren’t “different” enough to do that. And the third generation is looking to rediscover their roots, and Hindi film doesn’t feel like a “discovery” it feels everywhere.

      Bottom line is, Hindi films are Indian enough any more. Which is funny, because in India everyone is talking about how “Hollywood” is the ideal, they just need to get rid of all these songs and melodramatic plots and so on. But I guess that is because they are going after the top 10% multiplex audience who aspires to be American, instead of in America where they are going after the 70% (or more) of the diaspora who is homesick and aspires to be Indian again.

      On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 12:27 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • Really really bad. I just caught a glimpse of the American numbers, and it was something under $500 per screen I think. And that was the best globally.

      On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 1:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  1. I’m disappointed especially for Paltan, but I hope this movie will be more appreciated once it will be in streaming and in tv.
    And with Laila-Manju I’m obsessed those days. First I wasn’t sure if I would like to see it, but now I can’t wait it will be avaiable. I hope soon.


      • I have seen it, thank you. I love how humble, and passionate for his work he is. And I was so proud of myslef when Vivek Ranjit said, Tovi started as a villain, and I was like: hey, it’s not true, I’ve watched his first movies so I know better.


        • Pretty sure Tovino doesn’t realise the non-Malayali fan following that he has😀But it is true that he gained notice was for the villain role in ABCD.There was a very interesting interview of his in a local news channel(so no hopes at all of getting any subtitles)which was on the lines of Hard Talk(aggression dialled to 7). He handled the three experienced journalists beautifully, giving well articulated & thoughtful responses on a number of questions including his propensity to kiss onscreen. I wish there was a way for you to watch & understand it. A complete fan’s delight he is.


          • I noticed (or maybe it’s only because I don’t watch/ follow other malayalam actors), that Tovino is very malayalam focused. I mean it’s hard to find something in english about him, and he too talks and writes almost always in malayalam on social medias and in interviews. But at least can practice letters reading 😉


  2. Manu and C/o Kancharapalem are such small movies that I’m surprised that they even got an overseas release, especially Manu. C/o Kancharapalem is actually produced by Rana and it’s getting a lot of praise from critics and people in the industry.


    • Yeah, that’s the thing, they wouldn’t have gotten a release just a few years back, the field would be clear for Gold and Stree and so on. But now, poof! Every film is everywhere and the playing field is level!

      On Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 5:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. I think the reason Hindi has lost its audience is because Hindi is no longer the only option that the diaspora has if they want to check out something in the theaters. Five-eight years ago, I only saw Hindi movies in the theaters. Today, Hindi is what I see the least simply because I have time only for so many movies – and usually the Malayalam, Telugu and Tamil trump Hindi in terms of reviews. I feel like I can wait for streaming to catch up on Hindi.


    • Here’s a funny option, maybe it’s because Hindi is too available on streaming/satellite? I make a point to get to the theater if at all possible for the Malayalam films because they are so hard to find after the theatrical release. Like you, I am more willing to relax a little about Hindi because I know it will be showing up somewhere soon.

      On Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 11:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Yes, its available too soon. Ditto for Tamil. btw, did you notice the comments below Namaste England’s trailer? People are shredding it to bits whereas Badhai Ho was well received. So there is this tug like you suggested between the diaspora and the home audience.


        • Ugh, I hate youtube comments! They are the worst. Even though I know they are sociologically useful for studying online peer pressure and stuff, I just can’t bring myself to read them.

          On Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 12:08 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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