Bollywood turns the dubbing game around

‘M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’ has minted about Rs.6 crore from its Tamil version, the highest-ever for a dubbed Hindi film in Tamil Nadu so far


Sushant Singh Rajput in a still from ‘M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’
Sushant Singh Rajput in a still from ‘M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’

New Delhi: Neeraj Pandey’s biographical sports film M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story seems to have scored a six with its domestic box office collections touching Rs.129.15 crore within three weeks of release, according to movie website Bollywood Hungama. But the film, already having emerged as the second-highest grosser of the year, has thrown up a bigger surprise with the massive success of its dubbed Tamil version which minted about Rs.6 crore in Tamil Nadu, the highest-ever for a dubbed Hindi film in the state so far.

The Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer, however, is only part of a slew of Hindi films being dubbed in regional languages lately, as opposed to the earlier trend of regional language movies, including the recent Baahubali and Kabali, being dubbed in Hindi. Earlier in the year, Salman Khan’s wrestling film Sultan was released in Tamil and Telugu; his Diwali 2015 blockbuster, Rajshri Productions’ family drama Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, got a Telugu release too.

“It’s a simple matter of filmmakers trying to widen the mass reach of their films by getting the Hindi version to play along with those in local languages,” said Girish Johar, head of global revenue, Zee Studios. “It’s always a help to the footfalls and overall collections.”

While Johar added that the trend was still in its nascent stages, there is more to the recent success of M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Storythan just the overpowering pan-Indian appeal of the much-loved cricketer who has served as captain of the Indian Premier League team Chennai Super Kings and commands a huge fan following across Tamil Nadu. It has thrown up the likelihood of the connect that Hindi films dubbed in regional languages can make in B and C markets in those states as well.

“Unlike regular Hindi films that manage a screen count of 50 in their dubbed version, Dhoni was released in about 200 screens in the state and in towns beyond the big cities of Chennai, Coimbatore and so on,” said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai, confirming that the film beat the collections of the previous releases of Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan who are considered the three most popular north Indian stars in the region.

To be sure, not every Hindi film can seek a dubbed release, though it is entirely the individual filmmaker’s decision. Small, niche or experimental outings that do not reach out, cover and connect with large audience bases are unlikely to work especially in a state like Tamil Nadu which anyway harbours strong sentiments against any sort of imposition of the Hindi language.

“It has to be a mass entertainer appealing to the B and C centers,” Pillai said. “A Pink, for instance, will never go beyond Chennai city.”

That said, what filmmakers cannot ignore is the growing importance of the regional market.

“Of course they take it very seriously. Especially considering how strong social media is down south,” Pillai said, referring to the region’s ability to impact the overall box office prospects of Hindi films.

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