How is dubbed South Indian content saving theatres in India?

Be honest okay? I am not going to tell anyone. If you are a north Indian, you must have surely seen Hindi dubbed South Indian movies. Shivaji-the boss, Aparachit, Makhi, Om Shanti Oshama, Meri Jung: One man army and the likes keep playing in an average Indian household. This has been a trend for approximately more than a decade now. 

Indian Cinema

The content industry has been disrupted on a large scale. Definitely agreeing to the conversation that the content pipeline due to the lockdown (as a result of the pandemic) has shifted towards smaller creators and they are getting their due recognition. However, what I would like to specifically point out is the magnificent impact and legacy that the Indian cinema carries. 

Visiting an Indian theatre is not just about the content that you view. Indian cinema is an experience of its own kind. Keeping the content factor aside totally, the theatrical experience, the loud and expressive movie with a lot of background dancers and (I hate to say this) but that funny group of commenting viewers that just adds on to the movie. 

For most in our country, movies are about escape. Escape from reality. OTT platforms somewhat can’t tap on this feeling yet. 

The Problem

Currently producing an average to high budget movie is very difficult due to the various restrictions imposed due to obvious reasons. The cost of producing any new piece is high as compared to reusing content. It has been two months since the theatres were allowed to open but sadly there is not enough content for them to attract the audience. Cinema halls in India largely showcase Bollywood produced content only. A lot of the Bollywood films had shifted their release to OTT platforms due to the uncertainty regarding the opening of movie halls and if people would like to visit them during such stressful times. 

 Also, in spite of meeting all the sanitation prerequisites, people are skeptical about the threats involved. 

Making/scripting in a controlled environment is tough due to various reasons. Especially in the case of high budget action or thriller movies where setting up the equipment or scene takes time. If I have to put it in a very blunt fashion, I would say that the production costs are increasing due to the added safety measures and the box-office is in no state to give anyone a very huge unexpected number. 

ICRA  expects a 80-85 percent YoY  contraction  in  revenues  in  FY2021  for  the  film  exhibition  industry.” In Maharashtra, the entertainment tax is around 45 percent. 

The (closest to) Solution:

Theatre owners and box- office experts have admitted that the charm of South Indian movies is a whole different section in itself. The 2018-19 report published by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), India stated that Hindi entertainment channels relied on dubbed films for ‘at least 11 percent of the viewership’. Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam languages ‘clocked at least 135 billion hours’ of viewership.

These dubbed movies give the audience the correct masala that is required to keep them hooked. The correct blend of escape that makes an average viewer go back to the theatre. Cinema owners are looking at screening Hindi-dubbed movies, starting with Telugu films. As already mentioned above due to the huge viewership that they enjoy. About 70 percent of the single screens in states like Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and parts of Maharashtra are up for this unique strategy. 

Trade experts are positive about this strategy and are hopeful that it will bring in some revenue to the pandemic struck theatres who have earned close to nothing during the lockdown. Moreover, there were many theatre owners who were forced to sell their property. Even the ones who held onto their establishments are not in a decent position. 

While hindi dubbed South Indian movies is not a long term response to this problem but overall a good initiative to rope in some monetary benefits. 

If you have been to the theatre lately, I would love to listen to your experience. Also, don’t forget to mail me your rants about the movie industry in India! I love that tea. 

Author: Anukriti Khemka

Anukriti Khemka is the Digital Ninja of The Wonk. She handles all the digital needs of The Wonk. She also writes for her column "Talking Trends". She loves to analyse digital trends and make sense out of them.

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