The dubbing row has a divided house. While the anti-dubbing lobby fails to give answers to practical questions, the pro-dubbing group cites only economic reasons. Are language and culture no longer important questions?

The spectre of dubbing other language films and television serials in to Kannada, which is haunting Kannada film industry from decades, surfaced with renewed energy now, as an expert committee formed by Competition Commission of India (CCI) submitted its report favouring dubbing. Anyhow, CCI is yet to pronounce its final verdict on the controversial issue.

Meanwhile, the issue is being fiercely discussed, as one enthusiastic producer is attempting to release Nanna Gandana Hendti, a dubbed version of Bollywood’s My Husband’s wife. According to film industry sources, the producer is all set to release the film and even the printed poster, citing that dubbing has legal sanction.

Legal expert K.V. Dhananjaya also supports their stand. “At the very outset there is no government bar or prohibition of any kind upon the dubbing of a film in to Kannada from other language. Similar is the case of tele-serials as well. The arguments against dubbing are centred around “collective emotions” rather than on “objective standards,” he notes.

While Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) is in a dilemma over taking a stand on the issue fearing the wrath of CCI, Kannada organisation, especially Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Party, which took up the issue seriously, has called for Kannada film industry bandh on January 27 opposing the dubbing culture.

Interestingly, majority members in Kannada Film Producers Association (KFPA) have decided against participating in the bandh as they claim that their “economic survival” hinges on welcoming dubbing culture. They have in fact sought an explanation from the anti-dubbing lobby on their silence about remaking other language films in to Kannada and promoting artists and technicians from other language films. However, anti-dubbing lobby has no “satisfying answer” for that. Other sectors of entertainment industry including Kannada Film Workers, Artists and Technicians Federation (KFWATF) have extended support to the bandh call.

The issue is not unique to Kannada film industry. Dubbing culture is being opposed by other entertainment industries across the country, including Bollywood, Tollywood, and Kollywood. Regional entertainment sector is describing the move as an attempt by big-multi-national corporate entertainment giants to gain control over regional market.

Bollywood is trying to convince the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to ban dubbing of English films in to regional languages. Similar is the opinion of bigwigs in Tamil and Telugu entertainment industries. They are apprehensive of fall in number of original tele-serials and those involved in both big and small screen will be affected severely. Except dubbing artistes everyone else in the unit will lose their jobs. Besides affecting livelihood of thousands of artists and technicians, the dubbing culture poses serious threat to native culture, observes president KFWATF Ashok. He is pinning his hopes on actor and Housing Minister Ambarish, who is regarded as ‘father figure’ of Kannada film industry after Dr. Rajkumar. Supplementing the opinion, multi-lingual actor Prakash Raj recently said nobody dared to speak in favour of dubbing when Rajkumar was alive. “I will fight against dubbing in an individual capacity,” he said. Award winning director T.S. Nagabharana is of the opinion that dubbing is detrimental to culture and language. .

Not only country’s film makers. European film makers are also opposing dubbing, considering its impact on native culture. Noted film editor Andrew Bird said, “I would rather read subtitles of foreign films than watching a dubbed version with bad sync,” he said, during an interview with The Hindu recently.

KFCC is maintaining silence as it is not ready to enter into legal complications. The film industry is not united on the issue unlike in the past. While some opposing dubbing fearing impact on local film industry, a large number of film makers welcoming the phenomenon citing tantrums of lead artistes and ‘exorbitant fees’ being demanded by them. Sensitive film makers like S.V. Rajendra Singh Babu, who won awards and produced landmark films, are now supporting dubbing, citing economic considerations.

Sources in KFCC confessed that rights of over 250-other language films are being taken by local producers. “These remake rights come packaged with dubbing rights as well. Instead of spending large amount on remaking films with local stars, these producers are planning to spend little and dub them in Kannada,” said another office-bearer of KFCC.

However, the KFCC decided against making any move till CCI pronounces its final verdict in view of committees report.