R-rated comedies score with nation's youthful filmgoers

LONDON — R-rated comedies are not just for young Americans. India’s youthful filmgoers have taken a liking to local laffers replete with blue language and gross-out moments.

With more than 65% of India’s 1.21 billion people under the age of 35, such studios as Viacom18 and Yash Raj Films have launched youth shingles to cash in on this lucrative market, while UTV Motion Pictures has been consistently catering to the segment over the years.

In May, Yash Raj had box office success with Hindi-language teen pic “Luv ka the end,” which featured a few bleeped-out swear words, a virginity-taking competition and references to testicles — a departure for a studio known mostly for family-oriented romantic dramas.

May also saw the release of Viacom18’s Hindi-language “Pyaar ka punchnama,” which follows three hapless twentysomething males and their disastrous love lives. The film included bleeped out words and sexual situations. Made on a budget of $2.2 million, including P&A, it went on to gross more than twice that.

Producer Abhishek Pathak made four trips to India’s Central Board of Film Certification for the pic,and fought to get it a UA certificate, which allows unrestricted public exhibition while requiring parental discretion for children under 12.

“As the audience grows and matures, it is only natural that we depict language used by everyone in real life,” Pathak says.

But the film that really broke boundaries was Aamir Khan Prods.’ and UTV’s “Delhi Belly,” a caper written by UCLA screenwriting grad Akshat Verma that follows three friends in a scrape after a package of smuggled diamonds gets mixed up with a stool sample. Producer and Bollywood superstar Khan asked for, and received, an adults-only certificate, and got away with a film littered with unbleeped expletives, exposed body parts that are usually private in polite society, a sex act and gross-out moments with all manner of flatulence, and even excretion.

“We were hoping that the target audience of youth and the young-at-heart would love it (and make it) a deliciously path breaking film for Indian cinema,” Khan says. “We were aware that a certain section of the audience would find the film offensive; in fact if this section of the audience did not find (the film) offensive enough then it probably would not have worked for the target audience.”

The largely English-language “Delhi Belly,” released July 1, was made for $5.6 million, including P&A, and has grossed $16.6 million and counting. “We’ve managed to redefine comedy and open up the floodgates of what’s acceptable in Indian popular culture,” says UTV chief exec Siddharth Roy Kapur.

The floodgates might open further when India’s certification laws are reformed in August.

“I am hoping that the certification board and the information and broadcasting ministry stands firm on the progressive stand they have taken over the past few years,” Khan says.

Meanwhile, the trend of brazen young films continues. Pathak is planning a “Punchnama” sequel set in Miami.

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