Harlequin Enterprises takes the regional route with translations of its popular Mills & Boon English titles into four Indian languages. Madhumitha Srinivasan has the details

If there’s one company that can romanticise the outcome of increasing literacy rates, especially in the regional language sector, it has to be Harlequin Enterprises, the publishers of the iconic pulp love fiction genre — Mills & Boon.

A gap in the regional romance fiction market proved to be the perfect opportunity for Harlequin to break into it with translations of their popular English titles into Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi.

“Our target readers are youngsters and the young at heart — specially those in Tier 2 and 3 towns where the penetration of social media is rapidly increasing and where aspirations are high,” says Manish Singh, country manager, Harlequin India.

One look at the regional versions and you can quickly gauge their target readers — a magazine-like format with Indian models on the cover featuring horoscopes and write-ups on everything pertaining to love, friendship and romance, apart from fiction stories.

The Boss’s Valentine by Lynne Graham (Bossin Kadhal/Raaste Pyaar Ke/Daivane Je Lihle) and They’re Wed Again by Penny Jordan (Avargal Meendum Inainthaargal/Punar Milan/ Punar Vivaah) are frontrunners in Harlequin’s indigenous plans. “The translation retains the western names and settings; just the conversations have been made colloquial. We are confident of our content. The titles have been a success across the world and will surely work here too,” he says.

“Mills & Boon is synonymous with romance fiction and there are very few who wouldn’t have read at least one in their growing-up years. We know what the content is like and it would be interesting to know what the translators have done with the content and to what extent censorship has been exercised, if at all,” says Karuna, a college student, and an ardent M&B fan.“At a time when ‘provocative’ mannequins are being banned because they could promote ‘wrong acts’, the availability and popularity of these translated versions only seems like irony,” opines Deepika, a young mother, who has read M&B “once”.

Irrespective of these points to ponder, Harlequin seems to be on a front-footing — in its first week of release, the Tamil versions were distributed in 222 towns in Tamil Nadu and the Hindi versions in over 700 locations. Next month will see the launch of the Malayalam versions in Kerala and another popular market — Dubai. The Tamil version will go global too with the publishers identifying potential in Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

“We began by getting Indian authors to pen indigenous stories in English. Now we are reaching out to specific regions using translated versions. Next on our agenda is to rope in local regional authors to pen regional versions,” reveals Manish Singh of their plans. Two titles will be released every month and will be available at book stores, magazine and news stands, and organised retail stores at an introductory price of Rs. 10 ( original price Rs. 25).

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