Boosted by local cultural connections, Disney’s The Jungle Book has become the highest-grossing Hollywood film ever in India, taking $23.8m (Rs1.58bn) in 12 days.
The record was previously held by Universal’s Fast & Furious 7, which grossed $23.4m (Rs1.55bn) last year and was partly boosted by release on a wider number of non-DCI compliant digital screens.
Released on April 8, a week before its US opening, The Jungle Book grossed $8.4m on its opening three-day weekend in India. On its third day of release (Sunday, April 10), it took net collections of $2.5m, breaking the single day record for any Hollywood film.
The film has deep cultural ties to local audiences as Rudyard Kipling lived in India and was inspired by the country to write books including The Jungle Book, Kim and The Man Who Would Be King. In addition, the film was dubbed by Bollywood stars for its Indian release, including Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan, Nana Patekar, Om Puri and Shefali Shah.
“A lot of Indians have grown up on the adventure stories of The Jungle Book, so the nostalgia element and India connect became the unique selling point of the film for the local audience,” said Amrita Pandey, vice president, Studios, Disney India.
“We wanted the movie to travel across languages, and not just remain big in the English language, and we wanted the audience to be as wide as it is on big Hindi films.”
Disney also revisited the theme song from a 23-year-old Japanese animated TV series based on the book, Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai, which many Indians grew up with.
With so many local, nostalgic connections, the film has managed to cross over from big cities to rural audiences and played well with adults as well as children. The dubbed language versions (Hindi, Tamil and Telugu) account for around 56% of the total box office, with the original English version taking the remaining 44%.