Southern films double their production budgets

NEW DELHI: The Telugu and Tamil film industries are seeing their budgets double for films as they find audience acceptance across the country through several dubbed releases. Prabhas’ upcoming film with KGF director Prashanth Neel, Allu Arjun’s Pushpa 2, SS Rajamouli’s upcoming film with Mahesh Babu and Ram Charan’s film with S. Shankar are among the many projects with budgets between Rs. 150 crores and 200 crore each, which envision large-scale, action and visual effects and wider distribution for nationwide success.

Southern cinema, especially Hindi-dubbed films, has seen its satellite television and streaming rights soar 300% over the past decade thanks to its growing popularity. As a result, producers were able to increase their budgets as they sought to appeal to audiences beyond their home country where they had already maximized yields, trade experts said. For example, Telugu star Chiranjeevi’s upcoming film Godfather, which also features Salman Khan and is slated for Dussehra weekend, has sold ancillary rights for around Rs. 100 crores.

Not only that, once the first part of a franchise is successful, a lot more money is spent on the second part. “The draw around the franchise needs to be preserved or expanded,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. Obviously, southern filmmakers understand the lure of franchises and movie stars and invest a lot of money in upcoming titles to woo mass audiences even in the Hindi belt. Film producer Anand Pandit said the success of the Baahubali franchise has led to increased budgets and southern cinema has delivered several pan-Indian hits. They also learned from Hollywood tapping the potential of several language markets in India through voice acting, he said.

In 2018, KGF: Chapter 1 made just over Rs. 44 crore from its Hindi version. In 2022, KGF: Chapter 2 clocked in at Rs. 434 crore from its only Hindi dubbed version. Actors like Ram Charan and Jr. NTR, who both found success in the Hindi belt with RRR, will feature in big-budget, untitled projects with directors S. Shankar and Koratala Siva respectively, which will see a wide distribution across the country.

Independent business analyst Sreedhar Pillai pointed out that filmmakers in the south are convinced of the appeal of the theatrical medium, with fans continuing to flock to the latest movies from the stars they revere. Between Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay, Dhanush, Suriya, Ajith, Arun Vijay and Silambarasan TR, Tamil cinema alone can guarantee a dozen veins each year. “Everything is calculated based on the market value of the lead actor,” Pillai said.

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar, however, pointed out that southern producers are much more cost conscious and do not spend lightly. “Even if the upcoming films, for example Allu Arjun, Suriya or Prabhas, are very heavy, they are based on what the script demands,” Johar said.

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