Bollywood film 'Kites' rises abroad, falls at home

Bollywood film "Kites" started strongly at the box office in India, raising hopes of the industry's first, badly needed blockbuster of the year, but mixed reviews have dented initial enthusiasm.

Distributors Reliance Big Pictures said the movie, Bollywood's biggest ever overseas release, grossed more than 650 million rupees (13.8 million dollars) worldwide in its opening weekend.

"Kites" was the most anticipated Bollywood film this year and had been aggressively marketed, given the lack of other movies to make an impact at the Indian box office other than the recent comedy "Housefull".

Starring heart-throb actor Hrithik Roshan and Mexican actress Barbara Mori, opening-day collections in India on Friday of 104 million rupees were second only to Aamir Khan's hit "3 Idiots" that day, the company said.

Box office tracker hollywood.com said the romantic drama, set in Mexico and the United States, made the top 10 in North America in its opening weekend - a first for a Bollywood film - with takings of one million dollars.

But mixed reviews, difficulties in relating to the subject and extensive subtitling of the English and Spanish dialogue have conspired to turn domestic audiences and critics off the film, reported to have cost 32 million dollars to make.

"The film had a fantastic opening weekend. It made Rs 30.5 crores (305 million rupees) net and business at multiplexes was strong, but single screens saw large drops," said Bollywood trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

"The film has cost its distributors an exorbitant amount and at the rate the business has started sliding downwards, they would incur heavy losses on this one," he wrote on bollywoodhungama.com.

One movie-goer, Jitendra Panchal, told AFP after seeing the film: "My eyes were hurting to read Hindi subtitles when Barbara Mori speaks in Spanish - and she speaks a lot in the film."

Another audience member, Anita Desai, agreed: "I didn't go to watch an English film. I went to see a Bollywood film and I felt cheated because 'Kites' was an English film."

The disappointing reaction comes after total Indian cinema revenues fell 14 percent last year due to a producers' boycott of multiplex venues, swine flu fears and a string of big-budget flops.

Two versions of "Kites" were made, one in Hindi lasting 130 minutes and another in English cut to 90 minutes.

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