Indian Animated Movies Stumble at Box Office


A veritable flood of locally-made animated movies were released in India in 2008, but according to The Times of India,

Trade sources confirm that Bollywood has had a bad run with animation this year. Between Hanuman Returns, Krishna, Roadside Romeo, Dashavatar, Ghatotkach and My Friend Ganesha parts 1 and 2, insiders estimate animation losses will total up to about Rs 70 crore [over US$14.5 million]. “Indian animation has suffered quite a few hiccups,” says a trade source. “What’s worse is that many animation films that are complete and awaiting release have no takers.”

Barely a year ago when Walt Disney tied up with Yashraj Films to commission their first joint venture Roadside Romeo (Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor dubbed for the lead pair), Bollywood pundits went to town claiming that animation as a genre had `arrived’. In fact, at least 25 animation films were announced by various corporations, and an estimated Rs 4,000 crore [over US$831 million] was to be kept aside for the animation studios that were being planned across India. “Everything is on hold now,” says trade guru Amod Mehra. “Film corporations are shaken with the blow-hot, blow-cold response to this genre.”

Another story on the situation, in The Hindustan Times, notes,

Roadside Romeo at least stood out from animation point of view while Jumbo made waves due to Akshay Kumar factor. [Jumbo, it should be noted, was really a Thai movie,  Khan Kluay, even though it was promoted as an Akshay Kumar film.] However, rest just fizzled completely hence putting a question mark on the future of animation films in India.

The story then attempts to analyze what went wrote, including the complaint that Roadside Romeo was poorly promoted.

The new batch of animated movies was perhaps inspired by the earlier success of Hanuman in 2005, but the still new Indian animation industry has been chomping at the bit to show it can be a world-class player. And what better way than with feature films.

When I was working for Toonz Animation some 8 years ago as Festival Director of the Week With the Masters Animation Celebration, studio head Bill Dennis (a former Disney executive) was trying to get a movie based on the story behind the Taj Mahal into production; it was a serious effort with Ishu Patel (an Indian best known for his work with the National Film Board of Canada) attached as director; Western artists were to be brought in to do most of the key animation, with Indian artists assisting them. Alas, the project never came off.

I am not qualified to speculate as to why the latest batch of animated movies failed, though animation has traditionally not been well received in India. When I was there, it was pointed out to me that films like The Lion King did not really do that well outside of large cities; this was  attributed to both a bias against animation and the overwhelming popularity of Bollywood films over imports. When Cartoon Network opened its local branch, attitudes among the emerging middle class started to change towards animation; in fact, Cartoon Network buys were vital in jump starting the production of local animated TV series.

The Indian animation industry appears to still be suffering from growing pains, including a shortage of trained animators. As such, the failure of the new slate of animated movies may be the result of producers trying to do too much, too soon.

Author: Harvey Deneroff

Harvey Deneroff is a Los Angeles-based independent animation and film scholar specializing in labor history. He formerly taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was editor of Animation Magazine, Animation World Magazine, and Graiffit (published by ASIFA-Hollywood). He is the founder and past president of the Society for Animation Studies.

4 thoughts on “Indian Animated Movies Stumble at Box Office”

  1. As a keen observer of Films in general, and Animation Films in particular, for the last thirty years, I also agree that Bollywood had had a bad run with Animation films last year. One of the reasons for this is the lack of creativity in most of the animationd films released. Subject, narration, animation and the overall presentation style of most of the films were very poor. Whether it is 2-D or 3-D genre, the viewers did not get any satisfaction.

    Dr. Rajan Perunna

  2. So, if “Bollywood” films are so successful, also for the most part, somewhat formulaic in story, why not adapt that formula to animation playing to the strengths that animation provides. You need not go to Hollywood with such strong talent in India, only just use your strengths wisely.

  3. PS. having watched the “Roadside Romeo” trailer, I can see why animation isn’t so popular, while technically very sophisticated and really well made, it doesn’t seem to have the soul of India in it, but rather some sort of Disney-ized version of it.

  4. Traditionally India has plenty of mythological stories, which were presented through the medium of film, for last three-four decades. Unfortunately, most of the animated films made in India were also based on the same stories, having ‘puranic’ heroes like Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Gatolkacha etc. These heroes are worshipped by the Hindus as incarnation of God Himself. In fact common man cannot identify their Gods in the animated form. This may be one reason that Indian animation films are received poorly.

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