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New Delhi: Video streaming platforms are fast recognising the diversity of India as a nation and the importance of reaching out to Indians in their languages. Services, both local and foreign, are upping their dubbing game for marquee content.

Amazon Prime Video has got Arjun Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao to dub for superhero series The Boys 2. Tamil movie industry star Vijay Sethupathi will lend his voice to their animation film Dhira. After Netflix showcased international originals like Extraction, A Suitable Boy and The Jungle Book dubbed in Indian languages, SonyLIV has dubbed its popular original Scam 1992-The Harshad Mehta Story into Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Disney+ Hotstar had released Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada and Malayalam versions of its web series Aarya earlier.

Industry experts say the dubbing game is important to reach out to tier-two and tier-three towns that services have penetrated into during the covid-19 pandemic with even niche originals gaining popularity.

“Indian audiences have a strong appetite for localized content as can be seen in the success of localized marketing of global content in the country," Sushant Sreeram, director, marketing at Amazon Prime Video for India said.

Most Amazon titles launch with subtitles in multiple languages on the service, he added, including Amazon originals, popular US TV series, and Hollywood hits, making them accessible to customers across the country. Before The Boys 2, Amazon had got Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi to voice for the lead character in action thriller Jack Ryan. The company had also dubbed Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite into Hindi a few months ago.

“This unlocked audiences for our successful global shows by truly localizing entertainment, both in terms of language and the familiarity and appeal that Indian talent brings," Sreeram added.

Karthik Nagarajan, chief content officer at media agency Wavemaker India, said the extension of web show experiences from an audio perspective beyond subtitles was long overdue. Plus, the strategy takes inspiration from the popular Hollywood studio move of getting top Bollywood stars to dub for foreign flicks. Tiger Shroff had dubbed for Tom Holland in the Hindi version of Spider-Man: Homecoming while Varun Dhawan had voiced Marvel’s superhero movie Captain America: Civil War.

“The lines between cinema and OTT are blurring now," Nagarajan said. A lot of buzz is generated by having local stars associate with international content, he added, that aids the marketing and promotional campaign. Simply relaunching a known franchise or having a professional artiste do the job does not nearly have the same impact as publicity in mainstream as well as regional publications and being able to naturally tap into the star’s entrenched fan base.

“Also, there are certain characters that you tend to associate with certain stars because the star has years of work and a particular imagery behind him. It’s a great tool for storytelling that has always worked at least in animation," Nagarajan said.

People are inherently culturally curious, intrigued by stories from all over the world. And dubbing enables more people to discover and enjoy these great stories, Debra Chinn, director, international dubbing at Netflix had said in an earlier interview. The Reed Hastings-owned platform currently dubs and subtitles its content in up to 32 languages across the globe.

“This (dubbing of digital content in multiple Indian languages) is an extension of the strategy adopted by studios for theatrical release," Jehil Thakkar, partner at Deloitte India had pointed out earlier. “It is a lesson they learnt to make offerings more attractive for a wider set of subscribers, and not just by pricing. This is especially true now when multiple generations of families are watching content at home together."

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