With many B-Town makers taking the OTT route, peeved exhibitors are in talks for dubbed versions of upcoming Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam releases
Cinema halls across the country have been shut since March owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Even though shoots have commenced, there is no official communication yet from any of the state governments on when theatres can open their doors. Meanwhile, several Bollywood producers have decided to release their films directly on digital platforms. Exhibitors across the country have protested this move, saying this will leave them with little content to screen when they reopen. Now, Mirror has learnt that these cinema owners have found a way to fight back. They are in talks with producers of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam films for dubbed Hindi versions of upcoming releases featuring popular stars and having a pan-India appeal
“With tent-pole films like Bhuj: The Pride of India and Laxmmi Bomb going off our radar, we’re exploring the possibility of demolishing the language barrier,” informs Akshaye Rathi, a Nagpur-based exhibitor, adding that this will also give South producers an access to thousands of screens across the country.
He believes that South actors like Prabhas, Allu Arjun, Mahesh Babu, Jr NTR, Vijay Deverakonda, Vijay, Ajith, Rajinikanth, Yash and Mohanlal are more popular than some of the upcoming Hindi film stars. “They have a phenomenal draw on TV and we’re now looking to take these so-called regional stars to viewers across the country,” he states. Akshaye is betting on SS Rajamouli’s RRR, Allu Arjun’s Pushpa, Vijay’s Master, Yash’s KGF 2, Vijay Deverakonda’s Fighter, Prabhas-Deepika Padukone’s sci-fi and Ajith’s next, produced by Boney Kapoor, to draw the crowds in the months to come. Prabhas, Allu Arjun, Mahesh Babu, Jr NTR, Vijay, Ajith, Rajinikanth, Yash and Mohanlal have a phenomenal draw on TV and we’re now looking to take these so-called regional stars to viewers across the country –Akshaye Rathi, exhibitor from Nagpur Gurmeet Seble, an exhibitor from Delhi, agrees that despite poor dubbing, these South Indian films find an audience on TV. “With proper dubbing and marketing, they can revolutionalise cinema. Anyway, most of the Hindi films coming on OTT would have been theatrical disasters,” he asserts, pointing out that this will also cut down on South remakes and prompt Bollywood filmmakers to think out of the box to compete.
According to the exhibitor, Hollywood films, too, are bringing in numbers, on par with top Bollywood stars. “Collections of South films, too, will spike with every passing year. Wait for KGF 2, it will explode!” he promises, adding that if the Hindi versions of these films do well, it will push South actors to dub for themselves. “This will make them huge pan-India stars.” Gurmeet shares that in the Delhi-UP territory, the rights of some dubbed films sell for as little as Rs 2.5 lakh, but the recovery is very high. With proper dubbing and marketing, South Indian films can revolutionalise cinema. Anyway, most of the Hindi films coming on OTT would have been theatrical disasters — Gurmeet Seble, exhibitor, Delhi-UP Vishek Chauhan, an exhibitor from Purnia, Bihar, endorses this, saying dubbed films like Bahubali 2, 2.0 and Saaho have been the biggest hits in his theatres in the last few years. “Imagine a three-film old Prabhas opening on par with Salman Khan in Bihar; it’s possible. KGF released alongside Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero with zero hopes and surprised all the exhibitors,” he avers. He adds that some films like Mahesh Babu’s 2017 thriller, SpyDer, would’ve opened big in Hindi belts too. “I got at least 500 enquiries for the film, but the makers didn’t dub it. However, with social media at its peak, good content is travelling by word of mouth,” he says, confident that cinema halls will survive the virus, but isn’t too sure about the future of Bollywood. “I fear soon most Hollywood and South films will perform better than those in Hindi. Bollywood will be shocked when 10 to 12 South films clash with them at the box-office. The day is not far because now it’s all about entertainment.”