Dubbed and doomed?

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
12/8/2004 12:00:00 AM
Dubbed films that were once meant to broaden the movie market are now actually hampering their growth at the box office.

Films released in India that had a huge potential in their original language ended up as tongue twisters in an alien language. This has happened too often to be coincidental.

Films like "Spider-Man" (dubbed from English to Hindi), King Of Bollywood (from English to Hindi), "Chokher Bali" (Bengali to Hindi) and "Bride & Prejudice" (English to Hindi) have shocked pundits with their rejection in a dubbed avatar.

It looks like the end of the road for dubbed films. Hollywood films with special effects and horror content were known to be traditionally ideal for dubbing in Hindi, specially for the so-called cow belt in northern India.

But the traditional cow-belt no longer exists! The semi-rural Indian youth with his oiled hair and thick accented Hindi is gradually growing into an extinct stereotype. Today even the average moviegoer in the "interiors" wants to see Gurinder Chadha's take on Bollywood in English.

Interestingly, Piyush Jha whose second film "King Of Bollywood" died a quiet death at the box office was not at all in favour of dubbing the spoof on Bollywood mores.

"Dubbing a spoof turns it into a homage," he says. But were the producers IDreams listening?

Gurinder Chadha too wasn't sure if she wanted "Bride & Prejudice" to turn into "Balle Balle ... Amritsar To LA". The title trivialised the film. The dubbed Hindi tongue took care of the rest.

Rituparno Ghosh and his leading lady Aishwarya Rai were totally against their Bengali film "Chokher Bali" being dubbed in Hindi. According to the film's producers, Venkatesh Films in Kolkata, the copyright holders for the DVD and satellite versions (Venus Films) were in a hurry to dub and release the Hindi version to beat the pirates. In their haste they even got the leading lady's voice dubbed by someone though Aishwarya was most willing to do the needful.

Needless to say the Hindi version of "Chokher Bali" was a disgrace at the box office.

The awareness that dubbed films don't work is growing. Canny urban distributors like Shyam Shroff of Mumbai's Shringar Films would rather not release a film in the 'interiors' in a supposedly accessible language than to try and push it into areas where there's no audience.

Hence Shringar Films released Pamela Rooks' hauntingly classical "Dance Like A Man" at select theatres of Mumbai.