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After the huge success of Hindi dubs of Telugu and Tamil films such as RRR, Pushpa: The Rise- Part One and Rajinikanth’s 2.0, Kannada cinema is eyeing the north Indian market, too. Though action drama KGF: Chapter 2 is among the highest grossers of all time, making Rs. 434.70 crore on its release this April, two other relatively smaller films—777 Charlie and Vikrant Rona -- have also managed impressive numbers in Hindi recently. Trade experts said the Kannada industry is making a conscious effort to create larger-than-life films rather than region-specific narratives and stars like Yash and Kiccha Sudeep are also finding recognition in north India.

“Some recent Kannada films have managed numbers that Hindi films haven’t (in the north) so there is definitely reason to celebrate. Everyone wants a pie of the Hindi-speaking market now and southern filmmakers are building big on it," said Bihar-based exhibitor Vishek Chauhan admitting that a star like Sudeep today grabs more eyeballs in his town than, say, Ayushmann Khurrana or Rajkummar Rao who’re known more to multiplex audiences.

Even Kannada cinema now feels the need to bring new markets into its fold, having penetrated its home turf, Chauhan said. “It is great for exhibitors like us because the southern movie template of mass entertainers and visual spectacles ensures an experience that cannot be replicated at home," Chauhan said.

The Kannada film industry has definitely started reaching out to wider audiences, agreed Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. “Earlier, the industry itself was considered very small and these films were not acquired by television broadcasters for dubbed satellite premieres. But they are gradually being taken more seriously," Mohan said. The KGF franchise has been instrumental in turning the tables and now several other Kannada filmmakers are looking to mount bigger films. Over the next year, he sees more Kannada films releasing dubbed versions and stars from the region attaining popularity in Hindi-speaking belts.

There are two aspects to the Kannada industry widening its horizons, said Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas. The first being that audiences have been exposed to a lot more information and content with the rapid growth of OTT platforms and multiplexes are cashing in on the same and utilizing their full potential to schedule different films as per customer needs and wants. “Secondly, films like KGF 2 and Vikrant Rona are high on mass appeal and are being dubbed in multiple languages to be able to reach a larger audience, the ultimate aim being to collect better at the box office and attain higher footfalls," Puri said.

Rajendar Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at INOX Leisure Ltd said traditionally, Telugu and Tamil films have dominated business in the south Indian market, making up 75-80% of overall collections. The Karnataka industry never dubbed its own films or allowed other films dubbed in Kannada to play in the state. “Kannada films were never produced on a large scale, though as a market, they release maximum number of movies per year. But as they see other languages gaining wide acceptance across the country, they are learning to scale up," Jyala said.

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