Hollywood’s Tamil conquest

The dubbed film market, once dominated by Telugu cinema, is now ruled by English films

July 02, 2016 06:40 pm | Updated 06:41 pm IST

The first half of 2016 has seen Hollywood films, dubbed in Tamil, dominating the Tamil Nadu market. In the second quarter, the only Tamil blockbuster was Vijay’s Theri . At the same time, three Hollywood films – The Jungle Book , The Conjuring 2 and Captain America: Civil War – along with their Tamil dubbed versions, have done extraordinary business in rural Tamil Nadu’s B and C stations.

S Pictures’ Srinivasan, a leading exhibitor and distributor in North and South Arcot, says, “One could call 2016 the year of Hollyood films. Only they seem to be working in the dubbed films market, which was earlier dominated by Telugu cinema.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, Telugu films had a huge market when dubbed in Tamil. Films like Nagarjuna’s Shiva , and Vyjayanthi IPS were sensational superhits. Even Anushka’s Arundhati , which released in 2009, was a superhit. But the craze for those films has all but vanished.

S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali , which became a blockbuster here, cannot be called a dubbed film. One of its producers, Shobu Yarlagadda, explains, “ Baahubali is a Tamil-Telugu bilingual. Each shot in the film was taken twice with artists lip-syncing in Telugu and Tamil. But you can call the Hindi film a dubbed version of the Telugu one.” The trade in Tamil Nadu feels Baahubali worked because it had known Tamil faces and was promoted like any other big Tamil film.

Mahesh Babu’s superhit Srimanthudu , which was dubbed into Tamil as Selvandhan and released widely, did not work at all. Mahesh himself promoted the film in Chennai, but the Telugu version still collected more than the Tamil dubbed version. This prompted the producers of Mahesh’s last release Brahmotsavam , who had initially announced a Tamil version, to drop their plans.

Muthusamy, who used to specialise in buying Telugu films for Tamil dubbing, says, “The market has totally changed. Until a few years back, there was no simultaneous release of Telugu films in Tamil Nadu. So, if a film turned out to be successful in Andhra, the makers were then tempted to dub it in Tamil. Simultaneous releases, however, have killed the dubbing market. Even the smaller theatres in rural Tamil Nadu prefer Hollywood dubbed films to Telugu films.”

A spokesperson of the Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association says,“Dubbed Telugu films used to survive, because theatres needed content, as there were only 100 Tamil releases a year. Today, we have 200-plus Tamil films releasing, along with 50-odd Hollywood dubbed films.”

Another reason given for the decline in the dubbing market is that these films have no satellite value in Tamil.

As for Malayalam films, there has been no major dubbed film in the recent past. Apart from a short phase during which films of actor Suresh Gopi did well, even dubbed versions of Mammootty and Mohanlal films were accepted only for their satellite value, and not for a theatrical release.

Interestingly, films of popular Malayalam heroes like Nivin Pauly and Dulquer Salmaan now enjoy a huge opening in Chennai and other Tamil Nadu cities when subtitled. Recently, Nivin’s Premam , Oru Vadakkan Selfie and Jacobinte Swargarajyam and Dulquer’s Kali became hits. In fact, the buzz is that when they sign a Malayalam film, there is a clause in their agreement that says the producer cannot sell the Tamil dubbing rights.

Similarly, Bollywood films rarely get dubbed into Tamil, as the original version gets a wide release here. Ram Gopal Varma’s Hindi film Veerappan ’s dubbed version titled Villathi Villan Veerappan has just been released here. Its box-office performance will determine the future of non-star dubbed films from Hindi.

However, there have been a few exceptions like Dhoom 2 and Dhoom 3 (highest collecting Hindi dubbed film in Tamil), both action movies which worked. Similarly, Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish 2 and 3 , and Bang Bang! have been dubbed into Tamil and managed to do decent business. Hrithik’s forthcoming action-thriller Kaabil , where he is paired opposite Yami Gautam, produced by Rakesh Roshan and directed by Sanjay Gupta, will have a Tamil dubbed version, as it gets ready for a January 26, 2017, release. The producers of Hrithik’s Ashutosh Gowariker-directed Mohenjo Daro , releasing on August 12, are yet to confirm whether there will be a Tamil dubbed version.

Today, almost 90 per cent of films dubbed into Tamil are Hollywood movies, and this boom will continue for some more time. A theatre owner says, “Tamil audiences always had an affinity for big Hollywood films, right from Mackenna’s Gold . Our audiences are seeing these films in their own language in good theatres, with perfect sound systems and digital projections that enhance the film’s special effects and graphics. This, they cannot experience in any Indian film.”

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