Made in India, Sold in Japan
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When Kabir Khan's Ek Tha Tiger premiered last week in Osaka, Japan, it was a "totally different experience" for the filmmaker. The audience was not familiar with the lead actors Salman Khan or Katrina Kaif. Yet, they cheered for Salman when he beat up the baddies. "They are not aware of the stars but wanted to know more about the ISI and RAW agents," says Kabir, who will release 30 prints of his film across Japan on April 20.
Last week, Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om, too, premiered to a grand reception in Japan. Fifteen prints of the movie released across the country. On April 20, Bollywood films such as 3 Idiots, Don 2, Stanley Ka Dabba and Jab Tak Hai Jaan, with as many as 30 prints for each, will release in Japan. The releases will take place in nine major cities of Japan such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo and Kobe. "The Japanese are not really aware of Bollywood films. They only know that all our films have some amount of song and dance in them, and we adhere to heightened emotions," says Kabir.
The sudden resurgence of Bollywood in Japan is a result of the efforts of Japanese distribution company Nikkatsu. Aki Sugihara, Executive Vice-president of Nikkatsu, aims to make Bollywood films accessible in Japan by dubbing or subtitling them into Japanese. The distribution company, to test waters, is releasing films from different genres. Sameer Rao, CEO, Vinod Chopra Films, says, "For a while, Indian films have been releasing all over Asia and been doing well. For instance, when we released 3 Idiots in Taiwan, it was a huge hit. This prompted us to take it to South Korea as well as China. The release in Japan now is a case of natural progression."
Bollywood's first tryst with Japan happened when Joy Mukherjee shot his film Love in Tokyo in 1966. In spite of the film's success, Japan never picked up as a popular shooting location. Bollywood filmmakers instead chose Europe and America as more convenient choices, since most of them were familiar with those.