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Business News/ Industry / Media/  Bollywood fails to take dubbing battle to south markets
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Bollywood fails to take dubbing battle to south markets

Trade experts say the original Hindi versions perform well only in metros in southern states like Bengaluru, Chennai and parts of Kerala because the dubbed southern versions have limited releases and are seen as small experiments currently

Big Hindi films perform well in their original versions. Premium
Big Hindi films perform well in their original versions.

NEW DELHI : Bollywood continues to trail the success of movies made in south Indian languages that are dubbed and offered in the Hindi-speaking heartland. For instance, the dubbed versions of southern films like RRR, Kantara and KGF: Chapter 2 were favourably received among Hindi audiences even as Bollywood hits such as Pathaan and Brahmastra: Part One-Shiva barely managed to attract people in southern states with their dubbed versions.

Trade experts say the original Hindi versions perform well only in metros in southern states like Bengaluru, Chennai and parts of Kerala because the dubbed southern versions have limited releases and are seen as small experiments currently. Further, these films are still to penetrate deep into mass-market pockets of south India because audiences in these markets already witness such commercial offerings.

“Bollywood hasn’t been able to break into the hardcore Tamil or Telugu-speaking, non-metro markets. In the South, you’re looking at audiences saturated with commercial fare whereas in the north, one is completely starved of it," independent film exhibitor Vishek Chauhan said. The reason why a film from a different language breaks into a state that isn’t its home territory is that it’s differentiated from what audiences there are used to, Chauhan said, explaining why movies like RRR and KGF: Chapter 2 managed to lure people in the Hindi-speaking heartland.

However, in that sense, a film like Pathaan, one of the better Bollywood performers in south India off late, isn’t very different from a well-made Tamil action flick. “That is why Hollywood films do very well in the south; that kind of scale and ambition isn’t present in their local offerings," Chauhan said.

Big Hindi films perform phenomenally well in their original versions and expecting the similar response for the dubbed versions would be unfair, Kamal Gianchandani, chief business planning and strategy, PVR Inox, said.

“Overall, the audience reception to dubbed versions varies and is largely dependent on the quality of the dubbing and the appeal of the film itself. The lack of marketing and awareness for these dubbed versions may possibly be one of the reasons for the underperformance of these movies. Very few big Hindi films have been dubbed in southern languages; also there has been a fair bit of experimentation with the release size and scale," said Gianchandani.

He said, however, that this is a growing trend and upcoming releases such as Jawan, Tiger 3, and Dunki will achieve the same success for their dubbed versions in the south as Baahubali, KGF, and Pushpa did in the north region with their Hindi versions.

Over the past few months, for example, superhero film Brahmastra starring Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt netted around 230 crore across India. The contribution of the Tamil and Telugu-speaking territories, however, only stood at 4.92 crore and 14.68 crore respectively.

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said even in the south, these films are promoted as big Bollywood offerings and most shows are allotted to the original Hindi version. “The business is skewed towards multiplexes that primarily play the Hindi version. Some of the tier-two and three towns may screen the dubbed Tamil or Telugu versions but that is seen more as value addition rather than what needs to be pushed," Johar said. Given the limited showcasing and marketing push, the dubbed southern versions aren’t doing too badly, he added, but it’s clear that audiences there have far too much commercial content to choose from and will not flock to cinemas unless the word-of-mouth is extraordinary. The fact that Bollywood is increasingly dishing out remakes of southern films doesn’t help.

The producers of movies whose primary language is Hindi are making a good attempt at releasing them in the five southern states, said Pankaj Jaysinh, chief executive officer of India operations at cinema distribution network UFO Moviez. “These movies are released in key locations like Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and others. This habit of watching Hindi films will gradually grow, depending primarily upon strong content," Jaysinh said. He added that post the pandemic, geographical and linguistic boundaries have blurred as seen even in the success of Japanese movies like Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and Suzume.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata writes about the media and entertainment industry for Mint, focusing on everything from traditional film and TV to newer areas like video and audio streaming, including the business and regulatory aspects of both. She loves movies and spends a lot of her free time in theatres, which makes her job both fun and a bit of a challenge given that entertainment news often just talks about the glamorous side of things. Lata, on the other hand, tries to find and report on themes and trends in the entertainment world that most people don't notice, even though a lot of people in her country are really into movies. She’s a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.
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Published: 14 May 2023, 09:55 PM IST
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