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.