Cable Sankar



The money from Malaysia & Singapore, Dasavatharam, sivaji


FMS (Foreign, Malaysia, Singapore)

FMS, the business for Foreign, Malaysia and Singapore is a sector that produces admirable income for Tamil films. The courage to produce a movie from 25 Crores to even 150 Crores like Endiran could not be mustered counting only the local market. FMS market has got bigger only recently. Earlier, it was mainly Malaysia, Singapore and Srilanka as the Tamil population was higher only in these three nations.

Those days, movies were released in these three countries only after a few days of local release date. As the population and migrated workforce constantly (but slowly) raised the global demand for Tamil movies, the common release date was adopted. During the peak of ethnic clashes in Srilanka, Tamilians from there started migrating across the globe. This is the turning point for Tamil films as their international rights, which were not so great until then, started to grow significantly.

An FMS buyer would also buy satellite and video rights as a package. Thus, within a few days of theatrical release in that country, they would bring out the DVD of the movie, using the DVD rights. The videos thus released only were trafficked to India, copied and sold in the piracy markets. During the peak of piracy period, first phase of pirated CDs of a movie would have been shot illegally in theaters and known as ‘Theater print’. Later these CDs, which are copied from international trafficking, would invade the market. Due to better clarity, these prints were well received in the piracy market.

Few producers have realized that the piracy is channeled from abroad, which is rooting from overseas rights. They tried not selling overseas rights and controlling in - theater shooting (theater prints) with the help of Police. However, taking advantage of the loopholes in our copyright law again, the people thus arrested could easily come out within a week’s time, pay the fine and re-start their business gloriously.

Later, security guards were placed in each release centers along with every print. Result? Expense and more expense. Government too has strengthened the law by increasing the punishment for piracy (one year imprisonment under Goondas act). Despite all these, since there are no strict and continuous actions, even now within a week of the release, pirated CDs are freely available in the market.

Coming back to the topic, due to increased demand in FMS regions, Tamil films started commanding good prices in overseas sales. Movies like Sivaji, Endhiran and Dasavatharam earned few crore rupees only from overseas screening alone. Encouraged by this, Tamil films saw their budget increased to multiple crores.

All Tamil films do not enjoy good income from FMS. Again good prices are paid for superstars’ and successful director’s films. For instance, Venkat Prabhu’s Chennai - 600028, though was released in Singapore and Malaysia, and was not released in US and Europe. After its success in released areas, his next film Saroja was released in US and all across the world and became a success.

Before anyone, it was Kamal who understood there are business possibilities for Tamil movies in regions like US, UK, Far East and Middle East. He also urged the individual sales of rights rather than bundled rights. Through his model, big stars’ films started to earn really good returns through FMS sales. Distributors indeed owe a lot to Kamal for bringing in this new trend. It is only because of him, Tamil movies with budgets of 100-150 Crores are a reality. Dividing areas and selling the FMS rights area-wise has become a possibility as well. The FMS rights were generating a bounty of income to their buyers. As population of Tamils increases in countries like Australia, the urge to release Tamil films increased as well. During the beginning, the FMS rights for Australia were bought with the cost of one print for a town theater in Tamilnadu. For people who were enjoying great returns with such a low investment, Kamalhasan’s new trade policy has come as a shocker.

Historically in FMS, only Hindi films, even that with front line heroes, were favourites. EROS International and Yashraj Enterprises directly rent theaters in abroad and release their films. There are also individuals who release the Hindi movies overseas, renting out theaters. Of late, more than 50% of a Hindi film’s budget is recovered only from overseas collection.

Hindi films have grown to a level of having dedicated screens in abroad from the state of one or two shows per day. Personalities like Deepa Mehta and Meera Nair are smart in the screening front. Though they screen their films in an unknown theater, they would generate enough publicity with the interviews and premiere shows with the movie’s actors and ensure multiple times of investment in returns from the box office.

For Malayalam movies, the fans would be more than happy if somebody takes risk and screen a Mammootty or Mohanlal film for a show or two in a week’s period. It would be great to see even four Malayalam films in Australia per year. As Telugu population has increased on par with Tamils, one could see a Telugu movie released every week in Australia.

Kannada films are rare species in Australia. According to available information, only Rajkumar’s Sabdhavedhi, which was released in 2000, was the only Kannada film ever released in Australia.

Remake and Dubbing rights

If a film is accomplished with famous cast and director, with considerable budget, you bet it has got an important additional source of income.  If a film’s lead is Kamal or Rajini, with Rahman’s music and directed by Shankar or Manirathnam, the producer surely has got a huge business potential with the movie in the form of Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi’s language change rights, called dubbing rights. In most cases, films of Rajini, Kamal, Shankar or Manirathnam earn as much as the first language collection in their dubbing releases.

Kamal’s Dasavatharam and Rajini’s Sivaji enjoyed price and collections in Telugu equal to their Tamil versions. Kamal’s many films have been dubbed into Tamil from Telugu and became super hits as well. Salangai Oli was as big a hit in Tamil as it was in Telugu. Similarly, Kamal’s Tamil movies enjoy success in Telugu too.

Films of Manirathnam and Shankar choose a common plot for their theme, which is acceptable across the language barriers. Hence dubbing becomes easy and also guarantees a big income during the film puja itself.

Occasionally, a small budget film would become a surprise hit. If the hero or heroine of this film were a known face in any neighboring state, movie would be immediately dubbed in to that language to earn easy profit. Compared to film production, only a fraction of money is needed for dubbing. As a matter of fact, a separate group functions to take care of this dubbing business. In this satellite age, each individual channel is in demand for a new film for its own telecast to entice the audience. This fuels the increasing demand for dubbed movies.

It is notable here that ‘Kaadhal’, superhit Tamil movie, was dubbed in Telugu and became blockbuster in Tollywood also. Movies like Dasavatharam, Sivaji and Endhiran are built with universal storyline and themes that would not look out of place in a Tamil, Hindi, Telugu or even Malayalam. That is how the humongous budgets of 100+ crores are made possible.

[to be continued..

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