The Indian film business may be striking high-profile global partnerships and attracting an unprecedented influx of investment, but at the UK box office in 2007 the news was less upbeat for Bollywood.

In search of the crossover hit

The UK - the biggest market for Bollywood product outside India - usually sees around two to four Hindi-language films passing the $2m (£1m) mark annually. But only one film - Eros International's Om Shanti Om - managed it last year, taking $2.6m (£1.3m).

The 52 Hindi-language films released in the UK last year grossed a total of $28.5m (£14.5m), according to figures from Nielsen EDI and the UK Film Council, down from $29.9m (£15.2m) in 2006 from 50 films.

'The problem is that although we had some big product, the middle range didn't really work,' says Andreas Vass, film buyer at UK exhibitor Cineworld. 'That would have bulked out the box office.'

Audience taste has also diversified. Pranab Kapadia, Eros International's president, distribution, Europe and Africa, says: 'Romantic comedies with a big star cast in a film produced by a big production house is usually the staple entertainment diet. But in the past two years, we've seen audiences support different genre films such as Rang De Basanti, Provoked and Cheeni Kum.' All of these made around $1m at the UK box office last year.

However, the slight year-on-year drop looks like a temporary blip, with both distributors and exhibitors upbeat about the prospects for 2008. The year has got off to a flying start, with UTV's historical love story Jodhaa Akbar passing $2m (£1m) following its release on February 15. Another UTV project, the slick thriller Race, has earned $1.6m (£800,000) after three weeks on release.

'2008 is going to be an exciting year for Bollywood,' predicts Studio 18's Tanuj Garg, head of UK and Europe, international motion pictures. 'There's a lot of tentpole titles, a lot of star-studded titles, a lot of heavyweight titles. I'm expecting as many as four, if not five, films to touch $2m (£1m) or come pretty close if all these titles release on schedule.'

Nathan Gilligan, film booker at exhibitor Odeon Cinemas, agrees: '2007 was a year of consolidation and a time for film distributors to firmly establish themselves in the marketplace. As a result, we can expect 2008 to be a great year. Already on the horizon are four or five big titles, all of which are expected to gross $2m (£1m) plus.'

The product may be stronger for 2008 but the market is becoming tougher for distributors of India's domestic film industry. The influx of capital may be improving the corporate structure of Bollywood, but it also means salaries, acquisitions prices and production budgets are rising.

'Production costs are definitely going up because there's a lot more money in the market - a lot more clean money in the market, actually - than in the past,' says Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures. 'You've got a lot of corporates in the game to make movies and obviously the talent pool hasn't increased to that extent. You think of the same five stars that can open a movie and now they're being pursued by 20 people instead of five.'

Eros' Kapadia says star salaries will always be a reflection of returns possible from any film. 'There are times when the economics of film-making have not matched up with returns, and such phenomena usually end with a few companies being made casualties. We at Eros have a firm eye on our bottom line.'

Rising costs inevitably mean the pressure is on distributors to drive up revenues. And that can be tricky in a market where piracy stings and a film has only a few weeks to make most of its money. 'As a film distributor and marketer, I wake up to a new challenge every morning,' says Studio 18's Garg.

As a result, Bollywood distributors are exploring new platforms and revenue streams. 'There are more revenue streams and you've got the ability to de-risk your movie much more than you were able to do earlier,' says UTV's Kapur. '(But) I'd still have to say that revenues are not rising commensurately with the growth in costs.'

While theatrical continues to be the dominant revenue generator for the UK's Bollywood distributors, new media is becoming critical. 'One cannot ignore the changing tastes in audiences seeking entertainment through new distribution means,' says Kapadia. 'Eros has been at the forefront of exploiting such revenue streams.'

Garg says that while theatrical will always remain the mainstay in terms of revenues, 'as the market grows it isn't possible or feasible to rely on the conventional streams of revenue either. One has to start exploring unconventional routes.'

One such route is, set up this year to provide South Asian films for download and streaming. 'It has reached the 1 million hits mark, with 50% coming from the UK Asian market,' says Nigel Glynn-Davies, the website's CEO.


Bachna Ae Haseeno (UK dist: Yash Raj Films)

Scheduled for release in August, Siddharth Anand's Bachna Ae Haseeno stars Ranbir Kapoor as a carefree man involved with three women. The cast also includes Bipasha Basu, Minissha Lamba and Deepika Padukone.

Delhi 6 (UK dist: UTV)

An autobiographical tale from director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, whose Rang De Basanti was Bafta-nominated and passed the $2m (£1m) mark in the UK. Delhi 6 stars Abhishek Bachchan and is scheduled for release later this year or early 2009.

Drona (UK dist: Eros International)

Starring Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra, Drona is a fantasy action-adventure directed by Goldie Behl. The film was shot partly in the Czech Republic and is scheduled for release on August 15.

Ghajini (UK dist: Reliance-Adlabs)

A Hindi-language remake of the Tamil action film Ghajini, directed by A Murugadoss and starring Aamir Khan, Asin and Jiah Khan. The film was shot in Namibia and South Africa. A release date is to be confirmed.

God Tussi Great Ho (UK dist: Eros International)

God Tussi Great Ho from writer-director Rumi Jaffery features superstar Amitabh Bachchan, with Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Sohail Khan. Scheduled for UK release in July.

Golmaal Returns (UK dist: Indian Films-Studio 18)

This sequel to 2006 comic smash Golmaal: Fun Unlimited, which took $350,000 at the UK box office, stars Ajay Devgan, Kareena Kapoor, Celina Jaitley and Arshad Warsi. Directed by Rohit Shetty, the film is set for October release (TBC).

Kidnap (UK dist: Indian Films-Studio 18)

Dhoom and Dhoom:2 director Sanjay Gadhvi returns with this thriller, starring Sanjay Dutt as a man whose daughter is kidnapped. The cast also includes Imraan Khan, Vidya Malvade and Minissha Lamba. Out in July (TBC).

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (UK dist: Yash Raj)

This is the first film Bollywood heavyweight Aditya Chopra has directed since 2000's Mohabbatein. A romance starring Shah Rukh Khan, it is set for a December release.

Sarkar Raj (UK dist: Eros International)

Sarkar Raj, from director Ram Gopal Varma, has a glittering cast that includes Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The drama is a sequel to Sarkar, about the politician-underworld nexus in Mumbai, and is set for a May release.

ShoeBite (UK dist: UTV)

Featuring Amitabh Bachchan, this emotional marital drama, directed by Shoojit Sircar, is scheduled for release in October.

Singh Is Kinng (UK dist: Indian Films-Studio 18)

This action comedy from Anees Bazmee follows a small-town boy who unintentionally becomes a gangster. Shot partly in Australia, the film stars Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif and is due to open worldwide on August 8.

Tashan (UK dist: Yash Raj)

Tashan is the directorial debut of Vijay Krishna Acharya, the writer of blockbusters Dhoom and Dhoom:2. An action film starring Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, the film is set for an April 25 release.