‘Dookudu,’ the biggest hit you’ve never heard of


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The most popular movies at the multiplex this past weekend included some familiar titles: ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Moneyball,’ ‘Drive’ and ‘Dookudu: Daring & Dashing.’


‘Dookudu,’ an Indian cinema offering that blends action, comedy, romance and dance sequences (don’t they always?), scored three of the seven most lucrative engagements around the country, according to the trade newspaper Variety. At a multiplex in Fairfax County, Va., the movie took in a whopping $82,000 over the weekend, a sum surpassed only by a trio of ‘Moneyball’ engagements (at gargantuan venues such as AMC Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square in Manhattan and the ArcLight in Hollywood).


The Virginia multiplex was an outlet of the Phoenix BIG chain, which programs Indian films along with the ‘Abductions’ and ‘Dolphin Tales’ of the world. (The other two engagements, incidentally, came in Edison, N.J., and suburban Dallas, where the film took in $73,000 and $71,000, respectively, over the weekend.)

Making the feat more striking: ‘Dookudu’ is a Tollywood film, the nickname for the Telugu-language cinema from India’s Andhra Pradesh region. While Hindi-oriented Bollywood movies sometimes land on domestic box-office charts, reminding the American film industry of the shadow economy that is Indian cinema in the U.S., it’s rarer for a Tollywood film to pull off the feat.

So shadowy is said economy that box-office reporting sites like did not even receive weekend tallies from the film’s distributor (which makes a total weekend tally from the film’s 30 screens impossible to report). The distributor did not reply to an email from 24 Frames seeking comment.

[Update, 4:36 p.m. Sept. 27: Harish Sajja of distributor 14 Reels Ent. tells 24 Frames that the movie has grossed $1.4 million in just three days, thanks largely to word of mouth (and despite the fact that, without subtitles, even many Indians aren’t able to understand it). The previous record-holder for a Tollywood film is $1.2 million--over three months. Sajja hopes the movie holds this weekend and stays in theaters through the fall, even though it will have to compete with the glut of American films unleashed in the autumn months.’It’s a miracle,’ he said. ‘Nobody knows the movie is going to cross over like this.’]

Already a hit in India, the film pairs the very popular Mahesh Babu with the single-monikered Tollywood starlet Samantha in a two-hander that clocks in--in true India-cinema fashion--at a lightning-quick 3 hours and 10 minutes.

You can catch a trailer below, complete with ‘He is daring; he is dashing’ tagline and enough quick cuts to make Baz Luhrmann look like Merchant Ivory. (If you want to catch the movie in the Southland, you’ll have to head down to Norwalk, where it’s screening opposite summer holdovers like ‘Transformers’ and ‘Bad Teacher.’)


So what made ‘Dookudu’ so popular? According to one Indian cinema website, which cited ‘sleek action sequences’ and entertaining one-liners,’ it was a triumph of casting as much as anything else.

‘Obviously, the most important is the star of the film, Mahesh Babu; then the film is directed by Srinu Vytla, who has earned a name for making mass entertainers [sic]. The presence of popular comedians Brahmanandam and M.S. Narayana in the film is also an asset, and ‘Dookudu’ has a beautiful heroine Samantha Ruth Prabhu, sharing screen space with Mahesh for the first time.’

Well, that’s enough for us.


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--Steven Zeitchik