Boom Time

Posted in Cinema by Suganth on April 30, 2009

jackie chan

Vistas open wide for dubbing industry in Chennai as television channels migrate to dubbed films and serials for content

Guess what’s pulling eyeballs and bringing in the bucks on telly these days? No, it’s not the reality shows or Tamil movies. It is, in fact, the dubbed Hollywood films that are bringing in great TRPs. Surprised, right?

The phenomenon of dubbed films has always been in Kollywood. Films from Telugu were regularly dubbed into Tamil and films like Jaganmohini, Vyjayanthi IPS and Idhu Dhaandaa Police enjoyed a glorious run in theatres across Tamil Nadu.

However, it was The Mummy, released in the year 1999, that kick-started the trend of dubbed Hollywood films raking in the moolah at the box-office, says Mohan Kumar, who owns a dubbing studio which provides content for Vijay TV.

In fact, it was Vijay TV that started this trend of showing dubbed Hollywood films on TV. What was it that prompted the channel to go in this direction? Says Ajay Nair, the operating head of the channel, “We had this three-hour slot for which we needed alternative content. Since we had a few titles with us and movies being movies, whether dubbed or otherwise, we started going for these dubbed flicks. The first film to be shown was Titanic in the year 2003.” Ajay reveals that it is action flicks and movies involving animals like Babe that are mostly dubbed as they appeal to kids who form a major part of the audience.

While the other channels like Sun TV, Kalaignar TV and Raj TV have caught up this trend only of late, the response they’ve received has been tremendous. That Sun TV, which has the rights of many popular Tamil films (reportedly over 3000 titles), has created two prime-time slots (11.30 am and 7.30 pm) for these dubbed films from last Sunday should prove the lucrative nature of these films.

Today, a Hollywood flick is sold to regional the TV channels non-exclusively for Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs. Films of action stars like Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and special-effects heavy films like Underworld, Mummy and X-Men are hot in the trade. The dubbing costs for a film vary between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakhs. Most channels outsource the dubbing to private dubbing studios. So how do these studios go about the process?

Says Mohan Kumar, “First, we thoroughly go through the dialogues of the film. Then, we translate them. Later, we select the dubbing artistes whose voice might suit the characters and dub the film. We preview the film and once we’re satisfied, we do the mixing and hand over the film to the studio.”

The Tamil dialogues are perhaps the major attraction for many viewers, especially the teenagers. “Watching Jackie Chan talk in Chennai slang or Arnold mouthing Rajinikanth’s punch dialogues certainly provides a different experience,” says Praveen Kumar, a college student.

However, Mohan Kumar feels that going overboard with such gimmicks will alienate viewers from the movie. “Viewers should forget that they’re watching a dubbed film. They should only feel that they’re watching an English film,” he says. His principle, he says, is to retain the essence of the English dialogue and ensure that the concept doesn’t change during the translation.

Now, the trend has also caught up with serials, especially the mythological ones. Sun TV’s Ramayanam, a dubbed version of the serial being shown on NDTV Imagine and Raj TV’s Jai Sri Krishna have been garnering impressive TRPs.

The greatest benefactors of this phenomenon are the dubbing artistes. “Earlier, we were largely dependant on regional dubbed films, which were far and few, for our income. Now, with the demand for foreign films on the big screen and the small screen increasing, an established dubbing artist is easily able to earn over Rs 50,000 per month,” says Marudhu Pandian, a former secretary and treasurer of the dubbing artistes union.

Agrees Muralikumaar, who is the voice of Jackie Chan and Nicholas Cage, “Today, a junior dubbing artiste can easily earn over Rs 20,000 per month thanks to television content. It’s not just films but cartoons and serials that have increased the volume.” Aptitude and an eagerness to learn the ropes can make a beginner a voice-in-demand in a short period, he says. That should attract more prospectors in these times of recession. What say?

Behind The Scenes
A few stars and those who lend their voices for them

Tom Cruise, Pierce Brosnan — Ravi Shankar
Arnold Schwarzenegger — Vijaya Kumar
Jackie Chan, Nicholas Cage, Jason Statham — Muralikumaar
Shah Rukh Khan — Shekar

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