Magazine article Variety

Double Success for Hindi Indie

Magazine article Variety

Double Success for Hindi Indie

Article excerpt

"NEWTON," INDIA'S CONTENDER at Oscar's foreign-language category, is that rarity, an indie that achieved box office numbers comparable to midrange mainstream films.

Drishyam Films produced the Hindi-language film, about a rookie poll officer who overcomes the odds to conduct free and fair elections in a remote tribal area, on a budget of 45 million rupees ($692,000). It opened Sept. 22 in India and grossed $4.8 million.

Of the independent films chosen to represent India at the Oscars in the past decade, 2010's "Peepli (Live)" is the only one to collect similar numbers. That film had a $1.5 million budget and made $6.2 million. However, "Peepli (Live)" had deep-pocketed backers including Aamir Khan Prods. and Disney's UTV Motion Pictures. A publicity campaign by Khan, India's most bankable star, was enough to send audiences in large numbers to the cinemas for fare they might not normally consume in such volume.

2015's "Court" rode into Indian cinemas on a wave of acclaim and awards from global festivals including Venice, Vienna, Antalya, Hong Kong and Singapore and best film wins at the Mumbai Film Festival and India's national awards. It took a modest $385,000. Last year's contender "Visaranai" (Interrogation) grossed $1.7 million in India. Other recent submissions including "The Good Road" and "Liar's Dice" barely registered at the box office. In this context, the numbers for "Newton" are remarkable.

"Newton" was also released following considerable international festival play and the CICAE award at Berlin, as well as the jury prize at Hong Kong. It also benefited from being released in India by Bollywood giant Eros Intl.

"Anand L. Rai and Eros, the presenters, decided to release the film in a big way," says "Newton" director Amit Masurkar. "Rai has had a series of successes at the box office and has a considerable clout with exhibitors, thus ensuring us good screens and show [times] in the first weekend, despite heavy competition. His decision to release the film on 427 screens in the first week speaks of his optimistic approach and belief in the film."

"Newton" opened on a packed weekend to universal critical acclaim alongside mainstream action comedy "Judwaa 2," which was predicted to be a box-office smash and duly delivered $35 million, although the other openers, "Bhoomi" and "Haseena Parkar," were poorly reviewed and underperformed.

There were other factors at play in the film's success, too. "We definitely had full faith in the film but we got an added boost when the Oscar selection coincided with the day of the release," says "Newton" producer Manish Mundra. …

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