Last week, the romantic comedy Barfi! was released in 40 cinemas across Turkey, the first time any Indian film has enjoyed such a wide theatrical release in the country.
Starring Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, Barfi! was one of the most successful Bollywood films of 2012. It told the story of a deaf-mute boy who falls in love with an autistic girl. Apart from critical acclaim, the actors and the director Anurag Basu won several awards for their work.
In an effort to gauge the audience's reaction to the movie, film distributors in Turkey had been playing trailers of Barfi! at more than 200 cinemas in recent weeks. It was received positively – and the film was released in cinemas on May 10.
“My grandfather [Raj Kapoor] was a great star and the older generation in Turkey know him well. For me to get this kind of reaction from the same country is thrilling and totally unexpected,” said Kapoor in an interview.
UTV Motion Pictures, which produced Barfi!, is the first Indian studio to enter Turkey. The Mumbai-based trade analyst Taran Adarsh said he's not at all surprised to see these new markets for Bollywood films popping up.
“There is a growing population of cinema-goers in the world who are acquiring a taste for Bollywood and distributors in those countries are releasing them with subtitles or after dubbing,” said Adarsh. “Any film that has universal appeal can be seen globally – language is not a problem.”
The fact that some recent Bollywood movies have been shot in Turkey – and the shoots have been covered in the local media – has helped raise awareness about the Indian film industry.
The Turkish actress Meltem Cumbul starred in the 2011 film Tell Me O Khuda, which was shot almost entirely in Turkey. Parts of Salman Khan's Ek Tha Tiger from last year and Game from 2011 were also shot in the country.
The International Indian Film Academy Awards, considered the Oscars of Bollywood, are held every year in a different country. Last year, it was Singapore. This year’s venue is yet to be announced – and the Turkish ambassador in New Delhi has said he would like Turkey to host the awards because it would encourage tourism and trade.
For the director Basu, the Turkey release was the icing on the cake to the overwhelming response to his movie.
“I’m very pleased indeed, not just with the Turkey release but the fact that it’s going to be shown in Russia, Korea and Japan. When I first pitched it to UTV, I’d always said this is going to be a universal film with audiences around the world.”
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