There's no other Tamil actor who does as much business for a film dubbed in Telugu than Rajinikanth.

20 in Telugu Why Rajinikanth is the king of dubbed films
Flix Tollywood Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - 17:14

Everyone’s talking about Rajinikanth, Shankar’s upcoming sci-fi adventure 2.0 and quite rightly so. The film has been in the making for a long time now, and it’s become one of the most talked about south Indian films since Baahubali 2.

Much like the scale of the film, the numbers alone are mind-boggling, whether it’s the budget or the number of screens it’s slated for release. While the film is expected to take a record-breaking opening in Tamil Nadu when it releases on November 29, the two Telugu speaking states - Telangana and Andhra Pradesh - are also expected to contribute a significant amount to the overall gross of the film. It wouldn’t be surprising if 2.0 sets a new benchmark not just for a Rajinikanth film in Telugu, but also for any film that’s been dubbed in Telugu in terms of its box-office numbers and number of screens it gets, among other things. 

It’s been more than 20 years since Rajinikanth made a conscious effort to enter the Telugu market, and his popularity in Telugu states is no less than that of any of the superstars in Telugu cinema.

Deepak Kodela, a trade analyst says, “Starting from Muthu, to his recent films like Kabali and Kaala, Rajinikanth has been consistently releasing all his films in Telugu, and he makes it a point to promote his films in Hyderabad. Today, he’s the only actor among all Tamil stars whose films will gross Rs 15 crores at the box-office, irrespective of the content. And he’s so popular with the Telugu audience that no Telugu film producer would want to release his film as a direct competition to a Rajinikanth film.”

It’s no secret that the market for Tamil films dubbed in Telugu has increased exponentially over the years. To put it in perspective, how the valuations have changed in the past few years, the Telugu theatrical rights of Rajinikanth-Shankar’s Robo (Endhiran in Tamil) were sold for close to Rs 30 crores. Today, with 2.0 soon in offing, the theatrical rights have been pegged at a whopping Rs 75-80 crores price range, as per industry insiders. The pre-release business is well within the range of a big-budget straight Telugu film, although, in recent years, films of stars like Mahesh Babu, Ram Charan, NTR, Pawan Kalyan, Allu Arjun have been sold for around Rs 75-110 crores, depending on the film.

The theatrical rights of 2.0’s Telugu version were initially bought by Global Cinemas, which had also distributed Baahubali : The Conclusion in Nizam territory. The film was supposed to release in November, 2017, and later, it was pushed to January, 2018. And then, it was once again delayed by several months before the makers finalised the release date. In the midst of all this, Global Cinemas opted out of the project, and recently, Lyca Productions, which bankrolled the film, announced that NV Prasad is going to distribute the film in the two Telugu speaking states.

“Lyca Productions is releasing 2.0 through NV Prasad, who’ll be distributing it on a commission basis, in the two Telugu states. The deal between the two parties isn’t the same as it was between Lyca and Global Cinemas,” says an industry insider, on the condition of anonymity.

For the time being, both Lyca Productions and NV Prasad are leaving no stone unturned to ensure a huge release for 2.0. Buzz is that the film might get permission for an extra show for a couple of weeks to cater to the demand in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

For the longest time, this sort of red-carpet treatment, has almost always been reserved for Rajinikanth. Kamal Haasan too is immensely popular, although his recent films haven’t made a big splash at the box-office. And, in the past few years, actors like Suriya, Karthi, and Vikram too have made inroads in Telugu market. Vijay Anthony starrer Bicchagadu, which released in 2016, was one of the biggest success stories for a Tamil film dubbed in Telugu, and it collected close to Rs 20 crores; however, his market has reduced ever since. After a long time, another Tamil star Vijay finally managed to score a hit in Telugu with Sarkar.

“When it comes to dubbed films, a lot depends on the director-actor combination, too. Shankar, AR Murugadoss, and Mani Ratnam are immensely popular because of the kind of films they make. In Sarkar’s case, this is what worked in their favour and the film did well at the box-office. Mani Ratnam’s Nawab flopped in Telugu, but it did really well in Tamil. Shankar, on the other hand, has continued to intrigue both the audience and the distributors because of the larger-than-life, epic films that he makes,” says a trade analyst from Andhra Pradesh, adding, “When it comes to dubbed films in Telugu, only Tamil films have been able to draw the audiences to theatres. In recent years, Mohanlal’s Manyam Puli (Pulimurugan’s Telugu version) did well in Telugu. Kannada actor Upendra had a good market at one point of time, and after several years, there’s a good buzz about Yash’s KGF in Telugu. The market for any actor depends on their track record and you can see that in terms of the openings their respective films get. From thereafter, it’s the content that has to speak for itself. Even a Rajinikanth film might crash at box-office, if the content isn’t appealing enough.”

A major development in recent years has been a conscious effort by Tamil film producers to release their films simultaneously in Telugu and Tamil.

“Post Baahubali, the entire south film industry has become much more streamlined in terms of looking for an appropriate release date. Now, producers aren’t willing to wait for too long to dub their films at a later point of time. Besides, social media has helped in keeping the buzz alive for any film, irrespective of the language it’s made in. Now, at least, people are aware of what’s in store for them, and a film producer doesn’t have to come up with a different marketing plan to cater to a different language,” Suresh Kondeti, producer, avers.

Even if the dubbed version doesn’t rake in big moolah, the stakeholders recover part of their investment through digital and satellite rights.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Except for major festivals like Sankranthi and Dasara, when most theatres would play straight Telugu films, it’s an open field for everyone else, including dubbed films. There are quite a few theatres in both AP and Telangana which need constant feed of fresh content, and this where an interesting dubbed film could find its footing,” he adds.

Till date, Shankar-Rajinikanth’s Robo holds the record for being the biggest hit ever for a Tamil film dubbed in Telugu. With 2.0 releasing on November 29, all eyes will be on this much-awaited combination to see if they can repeat their feat once again.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.