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NEW DELHI : The year 2022 will see several actors breach linguistic and geographical borders to debut in films not in their native tongues.

While south Indian actors like Vijay Deverakonda, Vijay Sethupathi and Rashmika Mandanna will be seen in Hindi films, Bollywood stars Alia Bhatt, Kriti Sanon and Deepika Padukone are working in what are primarily Telugu language films. The transition is part of the move to create films for pan-India audiences made either by Bollywood or southern film studios but to be released in multiple dubbed languages for reach across markets.

While Hindi film actors have realised the appeal of these large-scale southern films, south Indian actors are also keen to look beyond their core base. Prabhas’ Radhe Shyam, Adipurush and the untitled film with Padukone, Deverakonda’s Liger produced by Karan Johar and SS Rajamouli’s RRR are a few upcoming titles that will see actors crossing over to other languages.

“Audiences in the north have seen these southern actors on streaming platforms and know what they bring to the table. The actors, on the other hand, have saturated their home markets and want to increase recoveries for their films," said independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan. South Indian stars feel their films will do well in the north, he said. Deverakonda is a major star in the making and Ram Charan and Jr NTR, both of whom feature in RRR, are definite crossovers, he added.

Rajamouli’s Baahubali franchise had shown the way for Telugu and Tamil films to penetrate into the Hindi heartland including small towns in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Chauhan said and more recent films have built on the trend. Released late December, the dubbed Hindi version of Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise-Part One, had made over Rs. 70 crore at last count, with Maharashtra and Gujarat driving the business. This was Arjun’s first release in the Hindi market and had released without any marketing or promotional buzz.

Film producer, distributor and exhibitor Sunny Khanna said the earnings of Pushpa have demonstrated to audiences in the north the kind of scale that southern films and actors are capable of. “So we will definitely see more debuts (of actors in new languages). It’s how Hollywood decided to take over more of the world through dubs and subtitles," Khanna said.

While southern actors like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan had appeared in Hindi films or bilinguals even earlier, the attempts remained few and far between with little box office success in the north.

Film critic Manoj Kumar R said there is no real distinction between north and south Indian films anymore given how easy it is for any film to reach every part of the country.

“The south Indian actors enjoy great appeal among the masses and have an emotional connect with audiences which they can tap into. Every industry, including Kannada that would never dub films earlier, is looking at multilinguals now," Kumar said.

Most of these perform like regular Hindi films, cinema owners said, because the actors enjoy some kind of brand equity and fan base in the north even though they aren’t as popular as Bollywood stars. Kannada period drama KGF, whose second instalment is due for release in April, was the first film in the language to clock impressive numbers in the Hindi market with its dubbed version, with lead star Yash gaining instant following. Now Kannada stars like Darshan too are well recognised.

“It’s a good sign for exhibitors too because we would have more content to play," said Rajendar Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at INOX Leisure Ltd, referring to the numbers that dubbed southern films are bringing in.

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