He announced on Facebook on Monday that he has contacted Disney about getting the dubbing rights of The Jungle Book

To dub or not Why Lucia director Pawan Kumar wants Mowgli to speak KannadaImage courtesy for Pawan's photo: Facebook
news Cinema Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 18:54

If cerebral Kannada director, Pawan Kumar, has his way, we could soon hear Mowgli and his jungle companions speaking in earthy Kannada. The Lucia director commented on Facebook on Monday that he was tired of hearing “the same old rants” about The Jungle Book not being dubbed in Kannada, and suggested that people do something about it.

And true to his words, a few hours later, he announced that he had spoken to a representative at Disney and raised the possibility of purchasing dubbing rights to the film. He also urged Kannadigas to be a proactive audience, and crowdfund the rights to the film and the cost of dubbing the film in Kannada. In an email interview with The News Minute, Pawan talks about why he wants to dub the film, why crowdfunding it is important and his own take on The Jungle Book.

Why do you think it is important to dub The Jungle Book in Kannada? Will it be very different for audiences to hear Ka’s smooth, entrancing whispers in Kannada instead of Hindi or English?

If a good story is made into a good movie, it is an experience to watch. Why should anyone with the right to buy a ticket, be denied the pleasure of watching that movie in their own language, especially when it is made available in other languages?

If I don’t understand English well, if I am unable to understand the accent, how will I be able to connect to Ka’s voice... I might end up just watching the visual effects and not really get involved with the story. If I have the option to hear her speak the language that my soul can instantly connect to, then why not? I'd love to be immersed in that movie.

Do you think dubbing this film in Kannada will make it more accessible to newer Kannadiga audiences?

Of course yes. Kids especially. I have a daughter and I see that she has such little content made for her in Kannada. I really wish she hears more Kannada through these mediums because that is where you learn the most, and very quickly. I am sure this is the case with all new parents. We'd love to see them sing songs and rhymes and tell their stories in their mother tongue. That is what makes them so rooted to the family and to the land they are growing up in.

Where do you stand on the long-standing debate about dubbing other language films versus making original Kannada films? 

Dubbing will not stop story tellers from telling their stories. Nothing can ever stop someone from making their art. The industry fears that there will be no room for original Kannada content. 

But audiences (consumers) are not fools, they are the smartest. They know what they want to consume. They won’t just buy into any junk that is dubbed. They will consume what appeals to them, and if there is an original Kannada movie which is more appealing than the dubbed movie, then of course they will consume the original.

If I had the resources to make the Jungle Book story in a more fascinating way than the original in Kannada, I'd love to present it to the audience, and they'd watch it too. But it’s not possible... not in the near future. Then why is dubbing harmful?

Instead of fearing that we will lose the audience, I'd like to take up the challenge of making my original Kannada movies so engaging that no matter what is playing as dubbed content, I should be able to get my audience to watch my work. Now that is a level playing field, not through bans and having no competition.

Do you think you will be able to find enough support among Kannada film watchers to carry out this idea?

I don’t know. The voices are there. The echoes are heard every time a movie like The Jungle Book comes out. I am just a facilitator. I am just representing the audience. I am doing nothing other than being their mouthpiece. If they don’t want it enough, then it won’t happen. I have no regrets. At least I know I tried.

What was the initial response from Disney about your proposal for getting the rights to dub The Jungle Book?

I found a pretty strong contact in Disney and told them that I am just representing the audience and asking why they wouldn't release the film in Kannada, while it has been released in other south Indian languages. Then I asked them if I could take the rights from them to dub it in Kannada. They said they will discuss the matter internally and get back to me. I am awaiting their response.

If you do get the rights to dub the film, do you already know who you would want to cast in the different roles?

No, not yet. This whole process was very impulsive and just happened on Monday morning. I was in a cab looking through my Facebook feeds and I saw so many people whining about not having the option to see The Jungle Book in Kannada. I got a bit agitated. I mean why whine when you can have it done? So I just posted that it’s better to do things than crib. I suddenly saw that a lot of people were supporting me and asking me to take it forward. That is when I felt like calling up Disney and asking them directly for a response.

You've said people should crowd fund the dubbing of the film in Kannada. Why do you think crowd funding is important? 

Dubbing is a tricky thing in Kannada. There is a general fear that looms over the producers. There have been some pretty bad experiences in the past and no one wants to risk their money on things which can get messy.

Crowdfunding takes care of the funding part. But, moreover, it’s a community effort. I love it when a community comes together to make something happen. It think it’s one of the most amazing things to happen. That is what defines us all. We should all address our problems and fix it ourselves instead of waiting for “someone” to do it. So I like crowd funding for that reason, the involvement of crowd and how they all share the responsibility to make something important happen.

How were your own experiences of watching Jungle Book as a kid? What kind of memories do you retain of that childhood experience?

I remember the song. I remember teasing my little brother when he was running around in the diapers by singing that song. I remember the tiger and Balu, so yes, it’s been part of my growing up years. And because we had no Youtube, the only option was to wait the whole week for Sunday, just so that you could watch The Jungle Book.

You talked about taking your daughter to watch the film. How do you feel about the film being rated U/A and the claim that it may be a bit too scary for young children?

Apparently, there are some effects which may scare the kids. Well, U/A means it requires parental guidance, and I will be there when she gets a bit scared and clenches my hand. But honestly, they are really watching a lot scarier stuff today. And I don’t think a bunch of animals coming at them would scare them much. I don’t think that’s a worry at all.


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