The ‘big bang’ launch

Among Bollythemed entertainment, Bombay Dreams on Broadway and Bride and Prejudice in the UK have both trended sharply downward after strong openings. Two other desi (but not Bollywood) projects, Vanity Fair and Harold and Kumar, also did weak box office.

It’s tempting to conclude from the business torpor that America is not yet ready for desi culture, that the existing revenues reflect mainly interest from niche, culture-sampling subcultures. But take a look at it from the perspective of the ’big bang’ launch: the $1B marketing campaign for the presidency, the $250M spent on the Windows 95 launch and so on. Creating a market via customer education is far more expensive and time-consuming than just selling into existing positioning slots (Spiderman 2). The former is a long-term campaign, while the latter is straightforward, tactical awareness-raising: hit the magic 7+ impressions per customer, and you’ll get higher sales.

I’m pretty sure fusion desi culture in the U.S. is not a fad. It’s a strong subculture with intense palettes, a supporting South Asian American population and rising awareness. So each desi cultural product, no matter how it performs, is also an in-kind contribution to the ‘big bang’ launch for Desis in America. This launch is being done in pieces, as befits a small, innovative product growing organically. The endgame is probably similar to the awareness and saturation of desi subcultures of the UK or Canada, albeit more dilute.

So while Meera or Mira or Gurinder or Kal may be nibbling discontentedly on their numbers, they can take some consolation in their contributions to a larger campaign, no matter how unintentional.

2 thoughts on “The ‘big bang’ launch

  1. It’s tempting to conclude from the business torpor that America is not yet ready for desi culture, that the existing revenues reflect mainly interest from niche, culture-sampling subcultures.

    Or maybe it’s that the movies you mentioned were not critically lauded either. Especially since Bend it like Beckham exhibited quite the opposite trend, building a huge box office based on word of mouth and very positive reviews. Then again, I haven’t seen Bride & Prejudice yet, so maybe I’m speaking out of school.

  2. I have a lot of american friends who borrowed indian movies from me and watched indian movies. They all like the costumes and colors but cannot relate to sudden outburst of songs inbetween, oversentimental overemotional families, parents controlling kids and the same romantic storylines with hero and herione running around trees. so they cannot relate to movies like bride and prejudice or any indian movie..

    If I forsee it right probably this is not going to change for years to come, indian movies with soft mushy romance are not for the straightforward action oriented west nor can they relate to all the family values and pomp of the indian movies. Only indians (first ,second and third generations) will be main source of revenues for these indian movies released in US for decades to come.

    They can relate to bend it like beckham because its very realistic and atleast three out of ten indian girls would have experienced bend it like beckham parminders experiences ..parents discouraging girls to get into sports or career and wanting girls to learn how to make roti.. probably most people saw the movie more out of curiosity to see cross culture interactions in this movie.thats the same reason why raj kapoors movies mera naam joker, awara are a big hit with western and other asian audience (china , russia , japan). They are realistic.

    coming to series like spiderman, killbill being successful, I agree with u once the first one becomes a hit sequel has a chance to be more successful.

    But a lot of new movies also do well in hollywood.. I think crowd in america are more broadminded and are ready to try knew things than people in india or elsewhere. In india u see the same romantic themes repeated all the time, stories repeated again and again and you donot see much of science fiction or anything new.

    But what I as a big improvement in indian film making is in the last ten years there are a lot more indian directors who are making atleast movies of oscar/cannes calibre and are getting noticed in international market like salaam bombay, elizabeth , lagaan etc., finally indian directors are understanding the basic ingradients they need for a oscar calibre movie ( look at ashotosh of laggan fame, he is making swadesh another patriotic film and aamir khan is into periodic films like ), they are venturing into offbeat themes and are mastering the art of movie making.

    so my prediction is more indian directors are going to be noticed and more indian directors will win oscars/cannes awards but the indian movies still will not find much of western audience unless they are realistic and get out of those songs/dance/overemotional scenes which western audience will never be able to relate to.