Big-ticket Hollywood films are penetrating markets in India thanks to local superstars lending their voices to dubbed versions
Ours is the largest film industry in the world, clearly establishing the fact that we Indians love watching movies. It is this very passion for films that has the most famous film industry in the world, Hollywood, now looking at the Indian market very seriously.
Why, the potential is so great that there have been occasions when English films have released in India even before they have been released in the US, while some Hollywood films enjoy a simultaneous release on both continents.
Contributing hugely to the success of Hollywood movies in India are Hindi dubbed versions of English movies, that too by some of the most popular stars both veteran and young. There are several films in recent times that have had well-known voices dubbing for Hindi versions and it is these films that have worked particularly well. Naturally, this trend is fast growing.
The Jungle Book, which did massive business in India and broke many records, was dubbed by Priyanka Chopra (Kaa), Irrfan (Balloo), Nana Patekar (Shere Khan) and Om Puri (Bagheera). Soon after that, Varun Dhawan dubbed for Chris Evans’ character Captain America in Captain America: Civil War. Arjun Kapoor too recently dubbed for Buck in Ice Age: Collision Course, while Amitabh Bachchan, Parineeti Chopra and Gulshan Grover are lending their voices to Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, which will release in India soon.
This formula is working so well that in regional markets, local stars are being roped in by corporate houses for regional dubbed versions of Hollywood films. For instance, Jagapathi Babu recently dubbed for The BFG in Telugu. Years ago, Ravi Kishan had lent his voice to Spider-Man 3 and it worked in the Bhojpuri market even though it wasn’t a trend back then.
The reason this formula works is that when local actors dub for Hollywood films releasing in their local markets, it forges a connection with the audience. And where the audience goes, money flows. Evidently, this is the magic mantra for English films to get even more popular across India, and Hollywood filmmakers are milking this opportunity.
This week, we spoke to the film fraternity to get their opinion on this thriving trend and its future. Here’s what they had to say:
Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios
Bollywood actors dubbing for Hollywood films is not a recent trend – Fox Star Studios had pioneered this concept two years ago with Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha who had dubbed for Rio2. Local dubs help widen the reach and appeal of the film among the audience, who prefer to sample content in their local language. Arjun Kapoor has dubbed for the quirky character Buck in Ice Age: Collision Course, and he has done an amazing job! Kapoor has a great connect with the audience in the Hindi heartland and his fans are going to love the film. Ice Age is a great franchise and by dubbing the film in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, we intend to take the film wide.
Over the past two years, there has been a significant increase in footfalls for Hollywood movies and we have seen the same reflected in box-office numbers as well. This increase in footfalls is seen not just in English language but also in Hindi dubbed language versions.
Over the years, we have taken several initiatives to widen the audience base for English films. One of our key strategies has been to ramp up the quality of the transliteration, tone and treatment of dubbing of our movies – evident in The Jungle Book. For instance, we roped in an A-list voice cast for The Jungle Book as the story widely resonates with Indians across the country. The Jungle Book is that rare international film with an Indian soul, and we felt the need to pass the legacy forward to the new generation as well as reconnect with existing fans.
Similarly, we got Varun Dhawan to dub for the Hindi version of Captain America: Civil War as the audience has a strong affinity towards the Avengers franchise through the previous films. So it is not mandatory for us to get a big star to dub every Hollywood release. The choice of talent for the voice cast depends on the treatment of the dubbing and the fit of the voice for the character.
The effort spent in transliteration of the dialogue, the treatment, the tone of the characters, casting of the characters and the lyrics for songs and getting the right voices to sing the songs – all went a long way in the success of The Jungle Book.
Vivek Krishnani, Managing Director – Sony Pictures India
The most important reason we dub is to make content relevant and entertaining for the audience in smaller towns so that they consume the content in a language they are comfortable with. So, making content relevant increases your reach. Since there are so many films releasing and the line-up is huge, using celebrity voices to dub helps differentiate your film. Roping in stars also helps you promote your film in India. But speaking of making content relevant, nothing is more important than the script, which is always the hero. It has to be colloquial, funny, incorporate the local pop culture and at the same time feel entertaining.
Rudrarup Datta, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures
As a market for Hollywood films, India has vastly grown over the last two years and has emerged as one of the significant revenue contributors. Two of the biggest contributors to this phenomenon are a superior visual experience driven by 3D, and increased reach through dubs in Indian languages. The use of popular celebrities makes the connection between the movie and the audience stronger and adds to awareness of the film, thereby increasing the box-office revenue. We had Akshay Kumar dubbing for Transformers – Dark Of The Moon a few years ago as the voice of Optimus Prime. This trend of using Bollywood celebrities to dub for big-ticket Hollywood franchises is catching on.
Sameer Chopra, Head of Marketing, Reliance Entertainment
The past few years have indeed witnessed a surge in demand for Hollywood films, especially franchise and event films headlined by established talent. There is a massive following for Steven Spielberg in India. With The BFG our objective is to reach out to the audiences that crave great content in their respective language. We at Reliance Entertainment are thrilled to have on board some of the most amazing talent to make this objective. Amitabh Bachchan, Parineeti Chopra and Gulshan Grover have voiced the Hindi version. The Hindi version is called Bade Farishtey Ji with Mr Bachchan voicing for The BFG. Jagapathi Babu lent his voice for the Friendly Giant’s character in the Telugu version and Nassar did likewise for the Tamil version. The film releases Pan India July 29.
I believe dubbed versions are the right way to connect with the Indian audience. There are many movie-goers who don’t connect well with the English language or prefer to enjoy a movie in the local language.
We have seen a huge growth in Hollywood, from a 5-per cent contribution in 2006, to almost 20-per cent in 2015. All the marketing initiatives like dubbed versions, celebrity voices and releasing the movie a week before the world does is only helping to expand the Hollywood pie. Local celebrities endorsing or lending their voice to popular characters also helps big time with public relations.
Tinku Singh, Group President And Chief Strategy Officer, SRS Group (Cinemas)
Considering the recent popularity of dubbed movies in Indian cinema, there is immense potential in the growth of this genre. Movies are an integral part of our cultural dynamics as India has a whopping 3.2 million movie-goers in diverse languages. Compared to 1,000 Indian movies rolled out every year, the US releases only 600, cementing India’s position as the largest film industry in the world.
Today, dubbed franchises such as Fast & Furious, Harry Potter and X-Men have gained mass appeal in India due to various Internet streaming services. Stars such as Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, with their recent Hollywood offerings, have helped to position Bollywood on the global map. Movies including The Jungle Book and the Ice Age franchise have found success in Indian markets due their star-studded dub. One can relate this to the recent rage among cinema-goers, Sultan, where the message of promoting a foreign product with an Indian connection is cleverly positioned. This has encouraged Hollywood productions to look at Indian cinema as a profitable market.
Girish Johar, Head – Global Revenue, Essel Vision
The West is slowly and steadily growing their market share in India, from a nominal 2 per cent to 10-12 per cent…and the growth is largely in the Indian subcontinent. Since the revenue potential is increasing, they are prepared to spend more. We are now seeing more simultaneous releases and in some cases, even before the release in the home market, even a week earlier! They are also engaging local talent to create awareness of their films by asking them to dub.
Now, when we are fixing the release dates of our Hindi films, we first check whether they would clash with a big Hollywood franchise film. A recent example is The Jungle Book, whose business in all languages in India combined, put India in their Top 5 revenue markets for the film. We need to sit up and take notice of this.
Rajesh Makhija, AVP Sales and Marketing, Carnival Cinemas
There is now definitely a market in India for foreign content, whether Hollywood or world cinema. Along with English, patrons come to cinemas to watch movies in Hindi and also regional languages. There is a good line-up of Hollywood films in the next few months, and depending on the scale of the releases in India, studios and distributors decide their marketing and promotion budgets.
The Jungle Book released in India a week prior to its world release, and collections and the number of shows in regional languages were more than those in English. Of course, we should not draw sweeping conclusions from this as it varies from case to case.
As an exhibitor, subject to demographics, we do take a call on programming and schedules of shows. Having said that, most certainly the market for dubbed films is growing in India and getting the stars to dub adds value to the film!
Sandeep Sarin, Exhibitor, Chhavi Mahal
Earlier, people used to watch Hindi dubbed versions of Hollywood films but with more and more people getting proficient in English, movie-goers are opting to watch these films in English. But a large chunk of the Hollywood movie business comes from small towns, especially from dubbed films. Interestingly, in the last year, production houses saw the audience rejecting bad quality films and that’s why they are focusing on quality in the Hindi dubbed versions.
First, they are making sure the dubbing is accurate and, second, they are getting Hindi film celebrities to dub so that the connect with the audience is greater. For example, when Ravi Kishan had dubbed for Spiderman 3, the film experienced very good collections in UP because the movie connected with the audience. Ditto with The Jungle Book. The Indian movie market is growing and the West is taking notice.
Avinash Singh, Exhibitor, APR
Hollywood now accounts for 8-10 per cent of the movie business in India and their research has revealed a lot more scope. Hollywood studios have realised this and have opened branches of their companies here. In the last few years, franchise films have done well but now even fresh new films are standing out. That’s one reason they have started promoting Hollywood films in India. Since Hollywood stars can’t always come to India to promote their films, the producers are roping in Indian stars to dub and also promote these films. There is most definitely a return involved, which is why they have started spending on promotions.
Arijit Dutta, Exhibitor, Priya Cinemas
People who understand English prefer to watch the film in English and the dubbed version is only for the non-metro audience. Earlier, movie-goers here who were not fully conversant in English watched Hollywood films for the visual treat they offered. This would apply to movies such as Jurassic Park. Today, offering spectacular visuals is no longer enough; the films also have to offer quality dialogue. Speaking of celebrities dubbing for Hollywood films… I don’t think the audience connects to the film because of them; it simply helps filmmakers promote their films because they have a face to help market the movie.
Gaurav Ruparel, Distributor, Girish Pictures
The business of The Jungle Book in Hindi was huge in small cities and the interior parts of the country. In metro cities, the audience first watched the English version and then the Hindi dubbed version. Irrfan, Priyanka Chopra and Nana Patekar’s voices worked very well for the film. Earlier, the quality of dubbing was quite awful but, now, the audience will not accept a badly dubbed English film, even if the movie itself is good.
Also, awareness of English films is constantly growing, and movie lovers who prefer to watch Hindi films are now also watching good English films. Naturally, the Hollywood industry is looking at India as a money making market and by getting A-list actors from Bollywood to dub for their big franchises, they are able to promote their films through these stars. According to some estimates, the business of English films has increased 40 per cent in the last few years.
Vijay Kher, Distributor, NR Multimedia
English movies usually don’t work in Tier II and Tier III cities but dubbed versions have been doing healthy business. A growth of 8-10 per cent has been observed, which is better than nil. It’s not that people in small towns don’t watch English films; they usually download them for viewing. But now that the film is available in a dubbed language, which people can understand, there is a growth in this segment. We need look no further than The Jungle Book’s Hindi business for proof of this.
Debashish Dey, Distributor, Aum Moviez
English films do better business in central Kolkata than on the outskirts of the city, where dubbed versions are preferred by the audience. In these parts, people are keen to watch English films but subtitling them is not good enough. In the last few years, the Internet has helped increase awareness and improved the reach and popularity of Hollywood films. That’s why movies like Ice Age: Collision Course, which released recently, has kids pestering their parents to take them to cinemas. In that case, we need Bengali or Hindi dubbed versions of English films.