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The box office success of several big budget Bollywood films, slated for release in the next few months, may be on a shaky ground with audiences rejecting remakes of southern language films lately. Producers of remakes such as Vikram Vedha, Drishyam 2, Shehzada and Bholaa , some with budgets upwards of 80 crore, may be worried after the recent box office failure of films like Jersey, HIT: The First Case, Tadap and Bachchhan Paandey, all remakes of Tamil and Telugu films, which, trade experts said, has cast uncertainty over Bollywood’s over-used formula of remaking films from the south.

Trade experts said the surge in adoption of entertainment on video streaming services during pandemic made the original films easily available to audiences dubbed in different languages or with subtitles. For instance, popular star Akshay Kumar will be seen in the remake of Suriya’s Tamil film Soorarai Pottru that won the national award for best feature film last month. But the film is streaming on Amazon Prime Video in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada as well as in Hindi, titled Udaan.

“Picking up a remake has been seen as the easier path for many years now. But it will be interesting to see how it plays out especially for big stars now," said film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar referring to whether the draw of the individual star will be able to bring something entirely new to the table.

“Earlier, there was barely any access to original south Indian films and they certainly weren’t aired with subtitles on television for Hindi-speaking viewers. Now they are available along with countless other titles across languages for as little as Rs. 1000 per year on an average streaming platform," said film distributor and exhibitor Sunny Khanna. When a remake is announced or is up for a release, it is likely that a consumer would want to catch up on the original and subsequently lose interest in the new film, especially if it is a frame-by-frame copy as was the case with Shahid Kapoor’s Jersey, he said.

The honeymoon period for filmmakers banking on the tried and tested appeal of a south Indian film by acquiring remake rights for as little as Rs. 5-7 crore, is over, said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. “The only way out for the Hindi producers is to also acquire the north Indian dubbing rights of the southern film so as to make sure it is at least not available in Hindi on YouTube or TV," Mohan said referring to the controversy around Kartik Aaryan’s Shehzada, the remake of Allu Arjun’s Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. Plans to release a dubbed Hindi version of the Telugu film on TV and OTT were abruptly put on hold after the Shehzada makers intervened in order to improve the prospects of their film.

For several years commercial entertainers in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada have provided fodder for Hindi film narratives. Between 2009 and 2019, Bollywood remade 38 south Indian films, 18 of which have been hits. Tiger Shroff-starrer Baaghi 2 (a remake of Telugu movie Kshanam), Ranveer Singh’s action comedy Simmba (Telugu film Temper) and Salman Khan’s action romantic comedy Bodyguard (Malayalam film of the same name) rank highest on the list, with profits of Rs. 101 crore, Rs. 100 crore and Rs. 74 crore, respectively.

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