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Dubbing adds a local flavour to streaming sites’ foreign content

Photo: APPremium
Photo: AP

  • Netflix’s Extraction starring Chris Hemsworth may not have extracted the best reviews but is no less than any Hollywood big-screen spectacle with its Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions
  • Amazon Prime Video had released Oscar-winning south Korean black comedy Parasite dubbed in Hindi and also has an entire catalogue of films that it has localized itself for Indian audiences

NEW DELHI: Going to theatres may seem like a distant dream for most movie-goers in India now but video streaming services are leaving no stone unturned to make sure home entertainment matches theatrical standards and penetrates as deep as it can into the heartland, in terms of both scale and local sensibilities.

Netflix’s big action original released last week, Extraction starring Chris Hemsworth may not have extracted the best reviews but is no less than any Hollywood big-screen spectacle with its Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions accompanying the English original. Earlier in the lockdown, Amazon Prime Video had released Oscar-winning South Korean black comedy Parasite dubbed in Hindi and also has an entire catalogue of films that it has localized itself for Indian audiences, such as romantic comedy Notting Hill, historical drama Gladiator, Jim Carrey-starrer Liar Liar and others. Meanwhile, Lionsgate Play, the streaming service owned by Hollywood studio Lionsgate, has international titles such as Kickboxer, War, Step Up available in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi.

“We are always working to ensure that our members have access to diverse stories available on Netflix, across languages. 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 said. The Reed Hastings-owned platform currently dubs and subtitles its content in up to 32 languages across the globe.

Given the large scale action in Extraction, it makes sense to reach out to even non-Hindi speaking audiences across India and make it a mass offering. The only other time Netflix had brought out multiple Indian language versions of an original was in 2018 with Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle for which Bollywood stars such as Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor Khan had lent their voices.

Rohit Jain, managing director, Lionsgate South Asia said India is many small countries within one country. We see food, language and culture changing every 50-100 kilometres and content is no different, while people love out-of-the-box stories and strong characters across the country, it’s always sweeter in their own language.

“As a Hollywood studio, we see regional dubbed content as a key strategy to eliminate the language barrier and increase penetration of our content. The regional audience does understand English and can also talk in English but enjoy watching Hollywood content in their native language more," Jain said adding that Lionsgate Play has seen growth of almost 45% since January in regional language consumption. Apart from Hindi and southern languages, it is also looking to explore heartland languages like Bhojpuri.

Jain points out that out of the 50 major English-language titles released by Hollywood studios in India last year, close to 50% were dubbed for theatrical release, leading to almost 100% growth in box office.

“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 agreed. “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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