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Malayalam Movies Beat Bollywood at NZ Box Office

Malayalam movies are proving to be strong competition for Bollywood in New Zealand

Malayalam movies are giving Bollywood a run for its money in New Zealand, a trend one industry insider is attributing to not just good cinema but also migration. 

Two of the top three Indian films that made the biggest bucks in the opening weekend this year are Malayalam language movies. ‘Aadujeevitham-The Goat life’ and ‘Manjummel Boys’ both made it to the $100,000+ club–a feat only ‘Fighter’ could achieve so far this year. 

‘Aavesham’ made it a hit trio for Malayalam cinema as the three movies are so far among the top 10 opening-weekend grossers in Aotearoa in 2024.

Survival drama Aadujeevitham - The Goat is an adaptation of the 2008 best-selling Malayalam novel ‘Aadujeevitham’, which is based on the real-life story of a Malayali migrant. The movie released across cinemas in New Zealand on March 28 and raked in $103,247 in the opening weekend. 

At $101,432, survival drama Manjummel Boys that released a month earlier trailed close behind. The movie is based on a true incident revolving around a group of friends from a small town called Manjummel near Kochi, who decide to have a vacation in Kodaikanal. 

Aavesham, which was released on April 11, earned $68,859 on the opening weekend. The action comedy is based on the story of three students from Kerala who arrive in Bangalore to pursue studies. 

Pritesh Raniga of Forum Films, one of New Zealand’s biggest distributors of Indian movies, says regional cinema is on the rise. 

“2023 was the year of Tamil movies and now 2024 Malayalam movies have taken a big step forward. Content is king and they have recently made some really good stuff. I think migration has also added to the box office in New Zealand cinema.”

A record number of migrants have arrived in New Zealand over the last year after the Covid-19 pandemic. The inclusion of nursing roles in the relatively easy green list residency pathway has many of these new migrants are nurses and their families–a sector where Kerala has for long sent workers overseas.

Sasi Nambissan of Organisation of Hindu Malayalees NZ says content is king, and the success of these new movies back home has fuelled the interest among the Malayali diaspora.

“After not being able to see movies in theatres due to Covid, 2024 has started off with very good Malayalam movies...this has now brought the audience back to the theatres…

“...their reviews on social media have tempted the migrants here to go back for the theatre experience rather than waiting for movies to release on OTT platform. 

“This is especially commentable when people are going through a cost of living crisis . It is simple, you make a good cinema and people will come to watch it.”

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