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All eyes on Vijay’s Master as Hindi versions of southern films see strong traction in theatres

While the lack of content through the Covid pandemic has led to filmmakers and producers to look at dubbed Hindi versions of Southern films, exhibitors, too, think this could be a strategy for the long term.

December 28, 2020 / 03:23 PM IST

From Salman Khan’s Radhe to Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi, many big Bollywood ventures are expected to release next year. Yet, all eyes are on Vijay’s Master, which is likely to release in the second week of January.

So, why is a film from down South the cynosure of all eyes despite many Bollywood films being scheduled for release next year?

First, the makers of the film have confirmed the theatrical release of the film and also announced that the movie has received a U/A certificate (unrestricted with caution, which means parental guidance is required for viewers under the age of 12) from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

While no official dates have been announced, the film most likely will release for the Pongal holiday (January 14).

Unlike the makers of Master, Bollywood producers have still not shared any updates on the release of Sooryavanshi, Radhe, and Ranveer Singh’s 83.

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Another major reason for Master becoming a big release is that the film has been dubbed in Hindi.

Grand Master, a company owned by producer Vikas Sahni, has got the pan-India distribution rights (except South India) of Master for the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi versions. Along with Master, film trade analysts say that Sahni has plans to distribute more dubbed versions of South Indian films.

Gaining ground in the North

Sahni’s focus seems to be a step in the right direction as the market for dubbed Hindi versions of south films is strong and the proof of this is their box office collections.

One strong example is the business of the Hindi version of the Baahubali franchise.

While Baahubali: The Beginning minted around Rs 119 crore from its Hindi dubbed version, the sequel, Baahubali: The Conclusion garnered as much as Rs 500 crore from the Hindi version alone.

Baahubali is not a one-off. The 2018 release 2.0 starring Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar had earned over Rs 180 crore from its Hindi version.

This is why exhibitors in the Hindi-speaking markets are eagerly waiting for the release of Vijay’s Master (Hindi version) as they struggle with a dearth of content, especially big ventures.

Along with Vijay’s Master, Ajith’s Valimai and Yash’s KGF Chapter 2 are other southern flicks slated for release next year.

In fact, many single-screen exhibitors as well as small cinema owners resorted to the strategy of releasing dubbed Hindi versions of old films from down South in the last few months when there was barely any new content released in theatres.

Popular on TV

Exhibitors are confident that films from the South dubbed in Hindi will bring audiences back in large numbers. What probably makes the exhibitors confident is the huge audience for such films on television.

According to a 2018-19 report by the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC), Hindi movie channels saw 11 percent viewership from Hindi versions of southern films.

Along with the strong TV viewership, analysts say that content from the South gets more traction due to its mass appeal unlike Bollywood, which has mostly been targeting metros as its potential markets.

An EY 2020 report pointed out that one major reason for the big-screen decline in India is the lack of content that suits all types of movie-goers. “The number of screens in India continues to fall as content is being created to cater to the top 100 million consumers only. Hence, mass Hindi content audiences are not being served," the report said.

Exhibitors are placing big bets on the success of KGF 2 after the success of its prequel. A sleeper hit (initially unsuccessful), the Hindi version of KGF, released in 2018, had earned Rs 44 crore and became the fourth-highest grossing Hindi dubbed film.

Exhibitors point out that actors from down South like Yash and Vijay are popular in the Hindi-speaking markets thanks to TV and this is why dubbed versions of films from South will find strong traction in theatres.

Maryam Farooqui
first published: Dec 28, 2020 03:23 pm