Selecting a universal story that would be liked by all, casting actors from across the industries, adding VFX, creating larger-than-life sets, choosing the right music directors – there are many ingredients for making a successful pan-India film. The potential of a pan-India movie was explored in 2015 with the success of Baahubali and then re-affirmed in 2017 with Baahubali: The Conclusion. The SS Rajamouli mythological epic featured Telugu superstar Prabhas and managed to earn Rs 500 crores at the box office. 

Ever since then, filmmakers and actors tried to achieve the same success. We recently saw RRR earning Rs 602.67 crores at the box office. The film stars Ram Charan, NTR Jr. Ajay Devgn, and Alia Bhatt. Prashanth Neel’s KGF: Chapter 2 starring Yash is also breaking records by becoming only the fourth Indian movie to surpass the Rs 1000 crore mark worldwide. 

Wondering what are the ingredients that make a pan-India film successful? Khuda Haafiz director Faruk Kabir tells us, “Content is king with the audience. At the same time, everyone’s attention spans are dwindling. So, a fast-paced storyline with a music album that complements the screenplay grips the audience. A power-packed ensemble cast across regions also helps garner a huge fanbase.”

He further explains, “South directors and their vision is definitely one of the key factors to attract a huge fanbase. Also, South directors understand the commercial pulse of the audiences and do it with a certain backing n conviction that tends to make it unique yet popular to all.”

Producer Jay Shewakramani, known for films like Jawaani Jaaneman and Malang, feels that the success of Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise, RRR, and KGF: Chapter 2 shows that a commercial action film works the best at the box office. “A story that appeals to the nation will make a successful Pan-India film. Then, it’s the director’s vision to make the story better that adds to the film’s success. The inclusion of actors from all over might not be a necessity as recent successful pan-India films don’t have that. It is actually the story that has to appeal to the audience.”

He also feels that it is important to find a solid local partner in each industry that can properly present the movie. “If you notice, Baahubali and 2.0 had backing from Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani were behind KGF: Chapter 2. They help the film to reach the regional audience on a wider level.”

For producer Pragya Kapoor, it is the content that can make a film work and language is no barrier. She tells us, “Content is the king and it is bound to receive admiration from the audience. With the right emotion and story, any film, irrespective of the language has the potential to set the screen ablaze.”

She further explains how OTT platforms are changing the game for films to reach the right audience. Pragya feels that if the content is good, viewers are ready to watch it even with the subtitles. “With the explosion of streaming services, the entertainment ecosystem has broadened beyond the film theatre; as a result, the audiences are now exposed to a wide gamut of content. The audiences’ tastes have evolved; the viewers are more than willing to cross the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles in order to engage with quality films.”

Having said that, Pragya adds, “South Indian films have actually managed to breach regional barriers with their larger-than-life ideas, stunning visual effects, and of course, great storyline but it is the director who is integral to the success of any film project. If the director is able to capture genuine emotion, one can translate beyond the language. Well-told stories have always managed to pull audiences and will continue to do so.”

Director, producer and screenwriter, Mozez Singh tells us that the pandemic has changed the game for the industry. He says, “I feel a lot has changed over the course of the last two years. After fighting with disease and time, the audience is breathing a sigh of relief and is looking for an escape, a world that can engulf them, entertain them, and make them believe in anything that is a departure from reality. And that is the primary purpose of a film. The recent few super hits Pushpa: The Rise, RRR, and KGF: Chapter 2 succeeded in delivering exactly this and became blockbusters. So, any content that understands the viewers’ demands, captures their pulse and most of all, allows their imagination to unleash and fly, will work pan-India, irrespective of the barriers. Ultimate, it’s the story that Matters. But we are in a transition. We are yet to find out more about the Pan-India film as a phenomenon. This is just the beginning.”

Filmmaker and founder of Platoon One Films, Shiladitya Bora elaborates, “A pan-Indian film for me is one that transcends the language, and regional barrier with the sheer universal appeal of its content, mostly in terms of its scale and storytelling approach rather than casting. The Bahubali franchise had mostly the main cast from the Telugu film industry, yet it was hugely popular from Assam to Gujarat to Himachal to Kerala. With RRR, Rajamouli has gone one step beyond, with western critics’ media as well also discovering the extravaganza. In RRR Ajay Devgan, Alia Bhatt’s role can be best described as guest appearances only, so it’s more to do with the vision and the craft than the casting that goes into the making of a pan-Indian film. Also, by making the films available in multiple languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Hindi, Bhojpuri, etc the filmmakers are being able to reach more nooks and corners of the country.”

While sharing her perspective, Bengali actor Ritabhari Chakraborty says, “Ultimately, it is the content that wins. The recent pan-Indian films have had very Indian and entertaining content. It has been something that everyone across the nation would like to watch. I am not taking away the evolution of content over the years, especially with the rise of OTT platforms, but we should remember that forms of entertainment are different for everyone in our country. For me, the biggest appeal of a pan-India film is something that it can make one believe in its universe. No matter how much one amplifies and magnifies it cinematically, the core of the story needs to be relatable and Indian for it to become a nationwide phenomenon.”

Casting director and co-founder of Casting Bay, Anmol Ahuja throws light on how good script can overpower anything. He says, “In the film The Dirty Picture there was a dialogue ‘Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment’ which I think a decade later is replaced with ‘Content, Content, Content’. I have observed that for any film to work pan-India should have a relatability factor. A story that is relatable to the masses will always work. With the relatability factor, if the world created by the makers has aspirational values, then that ought to be accepted by the audience with open arms. A star cannot make a film work if the story doesn’t have either of the above.”

Netflix recently released the first-ever Malayalam superhero movie Minnal Murali and that went on to become a hit among audiences across ages. The Great Indian Kitchen, a story that revolved around how women are expected to take care of the household work of cooking and cleaning, was a hit with critics for its storytelling. 

2022 is all set with the release of several pan-India films like Nagraj Manjule’s Bheed with Amitabh Bachchan, Mani Ratnam’s epic historical drama Ponniyin Selvan: I with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Vikram, sci-fi film tentatively titled Project K starring Prabhas and Deepika Padukone, Saif Ali Khan and Prabhas’s Adipurush, Ananya Panday’s Liger with Telugu star Vijay Deverakonda and Brahmastra featuring Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Bachchan, and Nagarjuna Akkineni.