Bombay Showcase

A song for all regions

One wouldn’t expect Manoj Tiwari, Harbhajan Mann, Arvind Vegra and Anupam Roy singing for the title song of Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan. These names are too local for the superstar’s new Hindi film, produced by Yash Raj Films, that has a broad, pan-Indian appeal. An Arijit Singh or even a Sonu Nigam would be a more natural choice any day. It has been sung by a relatively young voice Nakash Aziz, who’d sang a number of Hindi hits such as ‘ Saree ke fall sa’ and ‘ Dhating naach’. But the abovementioned names have been roped in by Yash Raj Films and composers Vishal-Shekhar to sing not in Hindi but their respective mother tongues. The ‘ Jabra’ Fan anthem, soon after its release, came out with the Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi and Bengali versions as well.

“It was a trip to see your own tunes being sung by six different singers in languages that they have such an authentic grip on,” says Shekhar Rajviani about the song whose essence and arrangement are intact with changes in lyrics and singer. But this is where the musical aspect of the regional versions of the Fan anthem end. The rest is all marketing. Manan Mehta, vice-president, Marketing and Merchandising, Yash Raj Films, agrees. “Whether these names are ideal for the song isn’t important. It’s more about who is popular in their respective regions. It’s from the box office point of view of how we reach out to people who may not have anything in common with the song except the star-singer they follow,.”

Fan may be the first instance where a song has been dubbed in other languages even before it became a hit. But music label T-Series has been dubbing Hindi film chartbusters into regional languages for a while now. They have dedicated YouTube handles to dubbed versions of Hindi songs. And it all started with bhajans and devotional songs sung by the likes of Anup Jalota about 20 years back, says Vinod Bhanushali, president, Marketing and Licensing (TV).

“The idea is to take the sound of a song that is familiar, that has been able to cut across barriers and use it to reach out to communities that understand Hindi but may have a different sort of a connect when they hear it in their own languages, can hum along. We in T-Series have always thought if we have a hit number, why not cash in on it? We want to keep repackaging older hits like we do with remixes as well.”

Bhanushali says these can go to absurd extents, such as a romantic song dubbed into a hymn of praise for Sherawali. The borderline sexist and crass ‘ Tu cheez badi hai mast mast’ was dubbed into a devotional track. Let alone examples from a decade ago, even the recent ones such as the Tamil version of ‘ Tum hi ho’ and the Bengali version of ‘ Chittiya kallaiya’ may evoke unintentional laughter among the urban, English-speaking. But the target audience here is the lower-middle class, non-English speaking rural and suburban demographic, who are more rooted to vernacular languages than Hindi.

Mehta says, “The audience that we count our movie ticket sales by are merely 1 or 2 per cent of our entire population. There is a far wider audience than we think we reach out to.”

But given the diversity of India, this may differ from region to region. While a Roy appeals to a relatively urban, educated middle-class audience in Bengal, Tiwari and Mann appeal more to the masses.

It also helps that the Internet has penetrated a large part of the target demographic. While smartphones and social media have opened up channels to reach out to a wider audience beyond urban centres, it is also relatively cheap entertainment. Bhanushali says, “Even if they don’t have great connections in rural areas, the way music is consumed today is digital, through USBs and SD cards, which they get from their local phone dealers. The mode has changed, but the content is the same, and it has only become cheaper.”

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 7:29:55 AM |

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