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Evolution of Dubbed Films in Andhra Pradesh

The invasion of dubbed films from Tamil Nadu, Hollywood and China is an age old story in Andhra Pradesh. The market size for such films has grown by heaps and pounds in the last few years. Hemanth Kumar traces the history behind this exponential rise of dubbed films in the state.

There's a popular adage that a star is born every Friday. Destiny changes every week and new stars emerge out of nowhere. Telugu Film industry has no dearth of stars and movies to keep the audience hooked for an entire year. In the last few years, there were more Telugu film releases than Tamil or even Hindi. Not surprisingly, Telugu film industry contributes more than 40% of the entire revenue generated in South India. But what's surprising is the huge fan following for Tamil heroes like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Suriya and Vikram in Andhra Pradesh. The list doesn't stop there. Jackie Chan, Jet Li, James Cameron and few other Hollywood action figures like James Bond, Spiderman, Superman, Iron man are quite popular too. The credit for this phenomenon goes to a careful penetration of dubbed films into every nook and corner of the state over the past couple of decades. They are produced elsewhere but carefully repackaged and customized for our entertainment. The systematic rise of the number of dubbed films every year in Andhra Pradesh has been quite exponential. The huge success of some of the recent dubbed films like 2012, Avatar, Yugaaniki Okkadu reiterates that they are here to stay.

The obsession with films has always been quite high in Andhra Pradesh. With more than 2000 cinema halls spread across every corner of the state, the state has the highest number of cinema halls in the country. Andhra Pradesh also ranks high among the top entertainment revenue generating states in the country. Films aside, Andhra Pradesh has been a unique blend of cultures for more than 2000 years. Dynasties like Kalinga, Kakatiya, Mughal, Nizam, Hoyasala, Vijayanagara and to an extent Cholas have left their mark in various parts of the state. When the state of Hyderabad was merged with a part of the Madras Presidency in 1956, the northern part of Andhra Pradesh had a Hindi, Marathi and Urdu influence, while the Southern part had a Tamil influence. The coastal districts were ruled by the British in the preindependence era and when all these areas merged to form one state, it was rich in cultural diversity. Even the Telugu film industry was based in Madras till the late 80s before it moved to Hyderabad. The strong cultural bond between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu has been instrumental in several film makers and actors from both the states collaborating to make films. K Balachander directed Telugu films, while K Vishwanath worked with Kamal Haasan which resulted in cult classics like Saagara Sangamam and Swathi Muthyam. Subsequently, most of Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth's films continued to be dubbed in Telugu. Mani Rathnam's earlier films like Mouna Raagam, Nayakudu and Geethanjali made him a huge brand in AP and Shankar followed suit with films like Bharatheeyudu, Gentleman, Jeans and Oke Okkadu. The Tamil film industry had spread its wings and of late almost every other big budget Tamil film is either dubbed or remade in Telugu. It's not just Tamil cinema, the Hollywood giants like Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and several other studios have been dubbing their films in Telugu. Dubbing a film in the local vernacular gave the English films the much needed access to the smaller towns and cities. The Telugu version of films like 2012 and Avatar grossed as much as the English version, if not more. An interesting thing to note is how the success of one dubbed film can open the floodgates for more such films. In 2009, Roland Emmerich's epic film 2012 dubbed as Yugantham, was among the top grossing films of the year. It broke the record set by James Cameron's Titanic more than 12 years ago and ran for more than 50 days with houseful collections. Lakshmi Ganapathi Films, which had distributed the film across AP, employed a unique strategy to promote the film. Analogies were drawn to the predictions foretold by the legendary Brahmamgaru, a highly revered spiritual guru in AP. The marketing strategy worked and how! People flocked to the cinema halls to see how the world we knew would come to an end. The film raked in a share of around Rs 10 crores which is a new record for dubbed films in Andhra Pradesh. A month later James Cameron's magnum opus Avatar was released in Telugu, Hindi and English across the state. Geetha Film Distributors spent close to Rs 45 lakhs on promotion and publicity of the film. Media Channels went berserk before the release of the film and some even went to the extent of claiming that Avatar was inspired from Ramayana. This pre-release hype ensured huge openings for the film it went on to rake in a share of close to Rs 8.5 crores in its full run. The IMAX English version of Avatar in Prasad's Multiplex, Hyderabad recently completed its 200 days run with more than 300,000 viewers!