Why South Indian films are getting popular in the USA
The United States currently houses a large diaspora of South Asians. Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans have not only been active in white-collar IT jobs but are also getting dispersed in all sections of society.
Their infusion into American society, thanks to a large number of Indians mostly, has made South Asian culture accessible to the American masses, which was quite stereotypical in the past. The phenomenon has also made South Asian films quite popular among Americans recently.
Even in the early 2000s, South Asians were underrepresented in the American mass media, with the occasional Indian engineer here and there. But the last decade or so has seen South Asians get a mainstream position in the American entertainment industry, with shows such as Never Have I Ever being extremely popular in the USA.
Now that they are part of the American mainstream with little to no stigma associated with their culture, Americans are increasingly watching South Asian films, with Bollywood films and films from South India at the forefront of popularity.
Action movies such as RRR and Bahubali have become quite popular in the USA, debunking the popular stereotype about Indian movies being in a soapy romantic genre with item songs and dances.
Cinema halls in the USA have also started screening South Asian films in large numbers due to increased demand from audiences and to diversify their product.
Justin McDaniel, senior vice president of global content for the Cinemark chain, USA, told the Houston Chronicle,
"As the South Asian fan base has grown, the markets where we are seeing this demand have also increased. And we adjusted our distribution strategy accordingly."
The South Asian diaspora in the United States at the present moment is larger than at any time in history, with estimates that there are about 5.4 million people of South Asian descent at present.
South Asians, due to their increasing numbers, are becoming more visible parts of society, and Bollywood references are aplenty in popular movies and series in the USA, making the general American public more curious about Bollywood movies.
Shah Rukh Khan already had a large following in the USA even in the last decade, and his popularity also made many Americans watch Bollywood movies.
The popularity of Indian movies can also be attributed to the rise of Indian soft power globally. There was widespread criticism after the song 'Natu Natu' from the movie RRR won the Academy Awards, and critics have claimed that it was done largely to appease the large Indian populace.
However, films from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or other South Asian countries do not enjoy the widespread popularity that Indian films do, as audiences from these countries themselves are largely accustomed to Bollywood.