The Korean Wave has Hit Bollywood with More Film Remakes on the Rise
Mar 30, 2018
- Writerby KIM Su-bin
Korean Films Need to Move Beyond Selling Remake Rights and Aim for Local Theatrical Release
Recently, India has been added to the top 10 Korean film export nations with an annual 10% growth in the entertainment field. According to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), ‘remake right purchase’ is the main factor for such an export increase in India. The fact that original Korean stories are emerging as a hot source in India where its local film industry continues to run strong should be noted. We will take a look at the Korean film remake boom within India’s film industry, especially Mumbai, the heart of the so-called ‘Bollywood’.
The Box Office Success of ROCKY HANDSOME, the Indian Remake of THE MAN FROM NOWHERE
The first Korean film to officially be remade in Bollywood is filmmaker LEE Jeong-
beom ’s The Man From Nowhere (2010). John Abraham, famous for his role in Water (2010), plays the lead in the 2016 film Rocky Handsome. Up until that point, there had been a number of unauthorized remakes of Korean films such as Old Boy (2003), The Chaser (2008) and A Bittersweet Life (2005), but Rocky Handsome marked the first time that an Indian production company had bought the rights to a Korean film to produce an Indian remake. That same year, filmmaker JEONG Keun- seob ’s thriller, Montage (2013) was also remade and released as Te3N (2016). Rocky Handsome and Te3N both topped the Indian box office earning INR 350 million (approx. USD 5.42 million) and INR 320 million (approx. USD 4.95 million), respectively. Indian film production company Azure Entertainment, which has been aggressively developing overseas IP, produced Rocky Handsome.
Efforts by Korean film production companies to develop the Indian market are another contributing factor to the Korean film remake boom. Te3N was co-produced by Reliance Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of India’s largest telecommunication company Reliance Communications, and Korean film production company Kross Pictures. Kross Pictures has been at the forefront of Korean remakes in India ever since it set up its Indian outpost in 2015. According to The Hollywood Reporter in its article, ‘Hallyu, Indian Style: Why Bollywood Is Betting on Korean Remakes’, Kross Pictures has plans for as many as 10 feature film projects that will produce Indian remakes of Korean films such as Miracle In Cell No. 7 (2013), A Hard Day (2014), Miss Granny (2014) and Tunnel (2016). Quoting from an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kross Pictures Managing Director and CEO Thomas KIM states that a remake starts, “with choosing the right story, which must be developed and produced by the right people who have the right background to understand the differences of cultures.”
Action and Emotional Appeal to the Young Indian Audience
Today’s young Indian audience, which is digitally savvy, no longer consumes just conventional Bollywood films. The increase in market demand and awareness of India’s high market value has influenced Hollywood to take a more aggressive approach towards Bollywood. However, according to the Hong Kong-based English-language news website Asia Times in its 2016 article, ‘Surge in Korean film remakes in India’, despite the fact that Hollywood films are released in India, Hollywood is no longer a hot source for material. And to quote an interview from Asia Times with trade analyst Vinod Mirani, “Music and high emotional quotient are very apparent commonalities in much of Asian content, so stories from Asian sources somehow have greater identification with India.” Founder and CEO of Azure Entertainment, Sunir Khetrapal explains, “Korean cinema churns out some spectacular stuff.” and picked ‘action’ and ‘emotional quotient’ as the strong points of Korean films, yet its high range of crime stories and violence requires room for a certain amount of dramatization. Kross Pictures’ Thomas KIM clearly sees Korean film remakes in the Indian market as a “long-term phenomenon” which he adds “has just started.”
But it’s not like remakes have just progressed in one direction. Kross Pictures is developing a Korean version of Indian film, Kahaani, which deals with a woman in the last month of pregnancy who desperately searches for her missing husband. The film’s sequel Kahaani 2 was showcased to great reception at the 2017 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. Kahaani was a hit, earning USD 16 million at the Indian box office.
Indian OTT Companies Keen on the Popularity of Korean Content are Gaining
In order for Korean content to acquire stable influence in the Indian market, exports need to move beyond selling remake rights and seek opportunities to theatrically release Korean content in the local market as well as build demands for an ancillary market and it seems prospects are bright. Based on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Korea and India, the 2015 cooperation arrangement to promote more audio-visual co-production between both countries has inspired opinions to push for a more aggressive move into the Indian market. Korean TV dramas have been selling well on digital platforms. Early last year, Indian mega TV enterprise Zee Network distributed Boys Over Flowers (2009) and Descendants of the Sun (2016) on a number of their self-owned channels. Zee Entertainment Vice President and Digital Head Archana Anand stated that in regard to the content “We’ve seen some strong uptake for these shows on our digital platform.” and added “There is a clear audience segment out there that’s more digitally connected and savvy, eager for new viewing experiences and hungry for content beyond the Hindi general entertainment fare.”
India’s overseas OTT companies are responding quite attentively towards the popularity of Korean content. Netflix has begun servicing Korean dramas such as This is My Love (2015) and Hello, My Twenties! (2016) in India. The Pan-Asian platform ‘Viu’, which is managed by Hong Kong-based PCCW, is also offering TV dramas such as My Love from the Star (2013) and Come Back Mister (2016). Viu is planning to acquire 20 Korean series by this March. Viu’s Country Manager, India, Vishal Maheshwari confirms, “The youth of India today are looking for world-class TV shows,” adding “Korean TV shows deliver on all aspects, from story to production, which makes it such a success. The trend of watching Korean content is picking up rapidly across the country.”
Interest in Kpop has been rising as well. Last September, Viacom18 India-affiliated music channel, VH1 launched K-Popp’d, which specializes in Korean music. Furthermore, as a testament to the soaring popularity of the locally held Kpop festival, ten times more teams are attending than 5 years ago. It seems that many eyes are on what lies in store for the Korean content introduced through diverse channels in the Indian market.