India may have delivered yet another in a growing trend of critical and commercial hits with Asoka, the latest Bollywood film to break onto the festival circuit.
Even before the Santosh Sivan-directed epic had its world premiere in Venice, it was gaining commercial momentum in one of its key markets. In the UK - which enjoys a large concentration of the Indian diaspora, as well as an increasing volume of successful Bollywood product - local distributor Enzo Pictures and Martin Myers' Miracle Communications have trebled their planned release campaign from 20 to 60 prints.
The October 26 release will be the biggest-ever for an Indian film in the UK, where Bollywood titles are becoming a regular feature in the weekly - and indeed annual - box office charts.
The print run compares with Momentum Pictures' 70 print release for French title Amelie, which needs to become the biggest-ever French-language success in the UK just to break even on its p & a spend.
And Asoka's release strategy could expand further still. "We have had bookings from the multiplexes, but have not yet got into negotiations with the independent sector," said Lopa Kothari, producer Enzo Pictures' distribution consultant. She has secured the 30-screen Warner Village megaplex in Birmingham, the UK flagship for Bollywood programming, for the launch of the title and reports that the Odeon chain is also "very enthusiastic." Through the Cine UK chain the film will also have multi-print releases in Feltham, Wood Green and Wolverhampton.
The film, about a warrior who renounces war in favour of Buddhism, is also set for a high-profile launch in France. Earlier this week, head of the Buddhist faith, the Dalai Lhama agreed to attend a premiere of the film in Paris on October 13. Sales consultant Mark Burton of Wonder Films and producer Jay Mehta said that they expect to close deals for France, Japan and Italy next week in Toronto where it moves next. Burton is representing the film in conjunction with Overseas Filmgroup.