Since March 25, we can see “RRR” in India, but also in Rouen, Montpellier, Chambéry… However, as with most Bollywood films, the arrival in France of this delirious action film is is done with total discretion. Decryption.
Tired of Hollywood blockbusters with pasteurized scenarios and disembodied action scenes? RRR is a formidable Indian alternative in its return to old-school exotic adventure cinema – including the refreshing naivety with which SS Rajamouli rewrites the story of two Indian revolutionaries as enemy brothers allied against the British Empire in the 1960s. 1920 – but above all by a jubilant sense of the spectacular. The saga generously links pieces of bravery and sequences as inventive as they are delirious. But still it is necessary to know that it exists! Despite a presence that some French films would dream of – more than sixty theaters across the country – the release of RRR, on March 25, remained of absolute media discretion.
A surprisingly routine spell for Bollywood production. Agilane Pajaniradja, distributor of RRR for Desi Entertainment, recalls that“There are around twenty to thirty Bollywood films released in France each year. The specificity of these releases is that they are all simultaneous with India. It would be difficult to do otherwise: the public concerned does not wait, they know where to find films on the Internet, discussion forums or, for some time, on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, which offer certain titles a few weeks after their release. Indian. Still, we are talking about a niche audience, delighted to see these films in theaters, which is therefore not only very present from the first screening, but above all capitalized. : Who says niche audience says assurance of a certain base of spectators, therefore a relative financial guarantee.
This is perhaps what has transformed the distribution of Bollywood films in France, long the prerogative of quasi-clandestine neighborhood cinemas. RRR is primarily distributed in multiplexes, with Indian blockbusters next to Hollywood ones. An economic necessity for Agilane Pajaniradja: “There is a kind of win-win: I know that my sessions will not fall below a minimum admission threshold, and the multiplexes know that this audience is not exclusive and can come back for more. other feature films. The perverse effect is that the multiplexes have no interest in extending the screenings of Indian films too much, either because of their long duration, which reduces the number of screenings, or so as not to crystallize the public on these films. »
Mapping of Indian communities
With a combination of theaters in a wide network, from Paris to Montpellier, Rouen or Chambéry, the release of RRR reveals a true cartography of the Indian communities. “All cities are selected by demand. I never set foot in Chambéry but I received a call from a Tamil association which wanted to organize a screening, assuring me that it could bring together at least a hundred spectators. » A satisfactory ratio but which nevertheless remains far below certain other community phenomena, such as manga adaptations [Demon Slayer : le train de l’infini et ses 727 889 entrées l’an dernier ou, tout récemment, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 aux moyennes spectateurs/séances pulvérisant celles de The Batman, ndlr]as little publicized.
It’s not for Agilane Pajaniradja’s lack of desire. “A Bollywood success in France today, and that’s not insignificant in the current context, it’s 35,000 admissions for a hyper-community film, and 20,000 for the others. Some could well exceed 100,000, but the specific distribution scheme prevents usual marketing: press screenings do not exist in India, producers do not show their films before release. When I talk to them about hiring a press secretary, they think I’m crazy. »
For this professional, this particularity is logical, given the Bollywood production system: “The money comes exclusively from the private sector. Three-quarters of the producers, who are independent, use credit companies or private lenders. There are only five companies set up as studios, with shareholders, that do not need to go through this process. So the idea is to repay the loans as quickly as possible. That of better preparing for a trip to France is a concept that is totally foreign to them. When I started distributing Bollywood films here and asked the producers for French subtitles, their response was: but why? »
Local business practices
An answer not so illegitimate as that: Indian cinema, of which Bollywood provides an imposing part, has a market share that is as unequaled (93%) as it is stable in Indian cinemas. Why would this industry take into consideration the public potential in France? Local business practices neglect it anyway, explains Agilane Pajaniradja: “The course is different elsewhere: an Indian producer sells his film to a distributor for India and to a company that will take care of foreign rights. Who will resell them continent by continent, where they will then be resold country by country. Between a producer and me, there are generally four, even five intermediaries. When I do financial uplifts, it does not go beyond the first level. »
Life in French theaters of a Bollywood film does not rise much higher. From the lack of media coverage to the permanent traffic pushing the films off the screens, it is destined to be ephemeral. “The current model has turned Bollywood production into a commodity. The rights are generally sold for two to six months. If I call a producer or the French beneficiary for a re-release, they hang up on me after telling me that, for them, it’s a thing of the past, they are already on the next films. »
Agilane Pajaniradja does not however despair and also knows how to look back: “In 2009, when I created my first company, the distribution in France of popular Indian cinema was limited to screenings in an abandoned UGC theater at Porte de la Villette. Associations rented it by the day. I had just arrived in France and was delighted to see Bollywood films, but in comparison with the visibility of other films called “world cinema”, it was violent: the room was unsanitary, we sat on the edge of the armchairs, the floor and the ceiling collapsed. We’ve come a long way since then…”
RRR, of SS Rajamouli. In theaters.