Bollywood invasion coming to Seoul
Published : Apr 3, 2012 - 20:28
Updated : Apr 3, 2012 - 20:28
Three movies in different genres aim to attract local viewers

Three Bollywood films are opening in local theaters this month, only about a month after the Indian Film Festival in Seoul, expanding Indian films’ presence in Korea’s movie market.

The release of the three films -- “Stanley’s Tiffin Box,” “God’s Own Child,” and “The Robot” -- comes after a surprisingly successful year for Bollywood pictures in Korea. 
A scene from Amole Gupte’s drama “Stanley’s Tiffin Box.” (Time Story)

Ever since the 2009 box office success of British romantic drama “Slumdog Millionaire“ -- which told the story of a young man from the Mumbai slums -- in Korea, India-themed movies, as well as the term “Bollywood,” have become familiar among movie goers here.

Last year, director Rajkumar Hirani’s comedy drama, “3 Idiots,” drew some 450,000 viewers, while Karan Johar’s drama “My Name is Khan” attracted 380,000. Following the two films’ success, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s romantic drama “Guzaarish (Request)” drew 77,000 upon its release in November, a lot for a film considered “arthouse” by locals.

On top of the box office hits, CJ CGV and the Indian Embassy in Korea together organized the Indian Film Festival in Seoul last month. The festival featured six Bollywood films, including director Ashutosh Gowariker’s 2008 epic “Jodhaa-Akbar,” which pivots around the romance between the Hindu Rajput Princess Jodhabai and Muslim Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great; Aamir Kahn’s 2007 drama “Taare Zameen Par (Stars on Earth),” the story of a young boy who is dyslexic; and Ayan Mukerji’s 2009 romantic comedy “Wake Up Sid.”

“India is the biggest producer of feature films in the world and over 1,000 feature films are produced annually in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and other cities in India,” the embassy stressed in its statement during the festival.

However, Park Sang-eun, the local importer of film “God’s Own Child,” said his decision to bring the movie to Korea had nothing to do with the growing popularity of Indian films in recent years. 
A scene from director Vijay Amand L’s “God’s Own Child.” (Sidus FNH)

“I personally think Indian movies aren’t easy to watch for the average Korean viewer,” Park told The Korea Herald.

“Their exaggerated cinematic images and sound effects can really turn a lot of Korean people off. I decided to import the film because the theme of the film, which is about family and the parent-child relationship, was rather universal.”

The three films opening this month are in different genres: drama, romance, and science fiction. For those who are planning a movie night with their children, director Amole Gupte’s drama “Stanley’s Tiffin Box” would be a good choice. A story of an ever-positive elementary school boy who cannot afford to bring lunch to school, and his teacher who forces his students to share their food with him, the cheerful and heartwarming film also offers a glimpse into the issues of child labor and exploitation. The film is currently in theaters.

Meanwhile, director Vijay Amand. L’s touching drama “God’s Own Child” inevitably reminds one of the 2001 American film “I Am Sam,” which starred Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning. Slated to open in theaters April 19, the film tells the story of an intellectually challenged man who fights for the custody of his seven-year-old daughter. The film was featured at last year’s BIFF, and received positive response from the audiences in Busan.

“I was right about the movie’s theme about family,” said importer Park. “After the movie’s screening in Busan, I was once again convinced that such a theme would draw the people‘s attention.”

Director S. Shankar’s upcoming film “The Robot” offers a taste of Bollywood science fiction. The Tamil-language film is the first such Bollywood movie to be released in Korea. It pivots around a scientist’s struggle with an android robot which he created after he mistakenly programs the robot with software that allows the robot to feel human emotions.

“One of the well-known traits of Indian movies is their use of music,” said Kang Jin-kwon of Free Vision Entertainment, the local distributor of the film. “This movie successfully combines that musicality with the science fiction genre. That’s one of the movie’s qualities that makes it different from the science fiction movies made in Hollywood.”

The film has won a number of awards since its Indian release in 2010, including prizes at India’s National Film Awards and International Film Academy Awards. It opens in theaters on April 19, along with “God’s Own Child.”

By Claire Lee(dyc@heraldcorp.com)