By Haricharan Pudipeddi and Sandeep Sharma (With IANS)
The appetite for southern films in the country's northern belt has increased following the phenomenal success of the Hindi dubbed version of S.S. Rajamouli's "Baahubali". It's a promising time for India's regional cinema, say trade gurus.
"Baahubali" turned out to be the first Hindi dubbed film to have successfully completed its 50-day run in cinemas, and turned out to be the first dubbed Indian film to rake in over Rs.100 crore.
According to Mumbai-based trade expert Rajesh Thadani, the success of "Baahubali" has opened the avenue for other such films, making the audience receptive towards such films.
"It's a raise of bar for the southern film industry and it has raised the limits for the kind of performance that dubbed films are into. That obviously gives an encouragement to other films.
"Also, it opens doors to audiences pan-India, that even dubbed films can do well and that as long as they have content, they are very good in terms of watching," Thadani told IANS.
Although there's been a decent market for dubbed southern films over the years, it has increased exponentially post the success of "Baahubali".
"In the past, films such as 'Robot', 'Kochadaiiyaan' and 'Vishwaroopam' have enjoyed a good run across India. (But) The extraordinary success of 'Baahubali' has definitely expanded the market," Rajender Singh, vice president - Programming, INOX, told IANS.
The success of "Baahubali" has also resulted in increase in footfalls for dubbed southern films in north India, says Devang Sampat, Business Head - Strategy, Cinepolis
"It has given an opportunity to entire north/east/west residents to explore another region's film in their local language. The good part is that most of Hindi watching audience have watched 'Baahubali' as their first south regional content, which will give them confidence to come again and buy tickets for another dubbed movie," Sampat said.
Cinemas in the north have now started to give special preference to south content.
"Some new screens of other cinemas have started playing south content post 'Baahubali'. At Cinepolis, 80 percent locations in north/west were playing south regional with subtitles since last two years.
"We have seen occupancy going higher from 40-50 percent for regional south Indian films at north centres in limited shows," added Sampat.
This is only going to increase with the release of upcoming southern biggies such as Tamil superstar Vijay-starrer "Puli" on October 1 and Anushka Shetty's Telugu period-drama "Rudhramadevi" on October 9.
"Puli" also features Bollywood diva Sridevi, and according to director Chimbu Deven, her presence is surely going to draw crowds.
"Much before 'Baahubali' released, we had decided to release 'Puli' in Hindi as it features Sridevi, who is a national star. When 'English Vinglish' released, its makers dubbed and released the film in Telugu and Tamil because Sridevi is popular down south as much as she is in rest of the country," Deven told IANS.
While he admits the success of "Baahubali" has given southern filmmakers some hope, he reiterates that the success of any film boils down to good content.
"The reason 'Baahubali' worked everywhere is because of its content. Agreed, it has opened doors for southern films to place themselves with or near Bollywood biggies, but one shouldn't forget the fact that it's only with strong content will a film succeed at the ticket window," Deven said.
"Rudhramadevi" director Gunasekar has a similar thought.
"It would be suicidal to cash in on the success of 'Baahubali'. The fate of any film relies on good content. Everything else, like aggressive marketing and promotions, is just an added bonus. 'Baahubali' is the perfect example of how to package a film with all the right ingredients," Gunasekar said.
"Baahubali" success has also caught the attention of north Indian and international producers who are now willing to produce and distribute southern movies worldwide.
"There are three films lined up and announced, and we can see 100 percent growth in number of films to be dubbed in Hindi in 2016. This year, it can be five films and next year expect 10 films to be dubbed and released," said Sampat.
After Karan Johar bagged the Hindi distribution rights of both the parts in "Baahubali" franchise, Reliance Entertainment and Abhishek Pictures have snapped the Hindi rights of "Rudhramadevi".
It's only a good start to a healthy exchange of film content in a multi-cultural country!