Hollywood brings great TRPs for Tamil channels

Guess what’s pulling eyeballs and bringing in the bucks on telly these days ? No, it’s not the reality shows or Tamil movies. It is, in fact, the dubbed Hollywood films that are bringing in great TRPs. Surprised, right ?

The phenomenon of dubbed films has always existed in Kollywood. Films from Telugu were regularly dubbed into Tamil and movies like Jaganmohini, Vyjayanthi IPS and Idhu Dhaandaa Police enjoyed a glorious run in theatres across Tamil Nadu.

However, it was The Mummy, released in 1999, that kick-started the trend of dubbed Hollywood films raking in the moolah at the box office, says Mohan Kumar, who owns a dubbing studio which provides content for Vijay TV.

In fact, it was Vijay TV that started this trend of showing dubbed Hollywood films on TV. What was it that prompted the channel to go in this direction ?

K Sriram, general manager, Vijay TV, said, “We had this three-hour slot for which we needed alternative content. We opted for dubbed flicks as we had a few titles with us and movies are movies, whether dubbed or otherwise. The first film to be shown was Titanic in 2003.”

Sriram also reveals that it is action flicks and movies involving animals, like Babe, that are usually dubbed as they appeal to kids, who form a major part of the audience.

Although other channels like Sun TV, Kalaignar TV and Raj TV have started cashing in on this trend only recently, the response they’ve been receiving is tremendous. That Sun TV , which has the rights of many popular Tamil films (reportedly over 3,000 titles), has created two prime-time slots (11.30 am and 7.30 pm) for these dubbed films from last Sunday should prove the lucrative nature of these films.

Today, a Hollywood flick is sold to the regional TV channels non-exclusively for a sum ranging anywhere between Rs 1 and Rs 3 lakh. Films of action stars like Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and films with special-effects like Underworld, The Mummy and X-Men are hot in the trade. 

The dubbing costs for a film vary between Rs 1 and Rs 1.5 lakh. Most channels outsource the dubbing to private dubbing studios. So, how do these studios go about the process ?

Says Mohan Kumar, “First, we go through the dialogues of the film and translate them. Then, we select the dubbing artistes whose voices we think will suit the characters and dub the film.We preview the film and once we’re satisfied, we do the mixing and hand over the film to the studio.”

The Tamil dialogues are perhaps the biggest attraction for many viewers, especially teenagers. “Watching Jackie Chan talk in Chennai slang or Arnold mouthing Rajinikanth’s punch dialogues certainly provides a different experience,” says Praveen Kumar, a college student.

However, Mohan Kumar feels that going overboard with such gimmicks will alienate viewers from the movie. “Viewers should for get that they’re watching a dubbed film. They should only feel that they’re watching an English film,” he says. 

His principle, he says, is to retain the essence of the English dialogue and ensure that the concept doesn’t change during translation.

Now, even mythological serials are being dubbed in order to reach a wider audience. Sun TV’s Ramayanam, a dubbed version of the Hindi original, and Raj TV’s Jai Sri Krishna have been garnering impressive TRPs.

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