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We’ve become language agnostic: PVR’s Sanjeev Bijli on growing market of non-English films in India

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New Delhi, July 1 (PTI): Language is no longer a barrier when it comes to good content, says Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Executive Director, PVR INOX Ltd, who has acquired Sundance Film Festival breakout “Past Lives” for India release.

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“Past Lives”, by first time director Celine Song, is an English-Korean relationship drama that has earned rave reviews with critics hailing it as one of best movies of the year. It has already been released in the US and hits Indian theatres on July 7.

Bijli said the commercial success of Japanese anime film “Suzume” inspired them to look beyond English titles and experiment with the kind of movies they want to distribute in India through PVR INOX Pictures, the motion picture arm of PVR INOX Limited.

“In the last few years, we have become very language agnostic. We now watch Tamil films in Tamil with subtitles, Malayalam films in Malayalam, which is why Hindi remakes don’t do so well. We just need good content now and that made us realise that we need to go beyond only English movies and Japanese anime which gave us the confidence to look at other languages,” Bijli told PTI in an interview.

“It’s hard to ignore a good film when you have seen it… We saw “Past Lives” at the Berlin Film Festival in February and fell in love with the film. It comes from a studio called A24 who we bought and distributed films for in the past as well,” he said.

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Movies are a risky business, but Bijli is happy that “Past Lives” has garnered so much love, attention and positive reviews, since they acquired it for Indian markets.

“We have been buying and distributing 30-35 films a year. We have been in the business for 20 years. Most of them have been in the English language but we have been very keen to introduce foreign language films because we think there is a market for it,” he added.

According to him, “Suzume” by Japanese director Makoto Shinkai made about Rs 10 crore, which was previously rare for an anime movie in India.

“In the past, we have experimented with French films. We did ‘Notre-Dame on Fire ‘ last year. One of them that became a significant revenue segment for us was Japanese Anime. We experimented… The whole DNA of the company is that we must experiment because Indian audiences have become mature now. They now have access to all kind of content on OTT platforms,” Bijli said.

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“Past Lives” takes viewers on a journey of time and fate through two young souls in South Korea, who, torn apart by destiny, reunite decades later in New York.

The movie features Greta Lee as Nora, South Korean star Teo Yoo as Nora’s childhood sweetheart Hae-Sung and American actor John Magaro as her husband Arthur.

Bijli said they are planning to release the film in about 75 to 100 cinemas in metro cities, a release strategy that worked well for “Suzume” where they started small but increased the screen numbers as the demand grew.

“Normally, we buy films in different stages but this time around, we could see the finished product and it just resonated with all of us. It will resonate across cultures. It is half Korean, half English but so well made. We are very happy to bring the film to India on July 7.” PVR also distributed 2020 Oscar-winner “Parasite” in India and the film made over Rs five crore at the box office, he said.

The popularity of Korean content has continued to grow ever since with viewers in India also embracing K-dramas and K-pop in a big way in recent years and Bijli said the company is “keen to get more and more Korean films” for distribution.

Next on the slate for PVR INOX Pictures is another anime film called “First Slam Dunk”, horror movie “Talk to Me” and “White Bird”, starring Helen Mirren.

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