At a time when big-budget Bollywood films are searching for audiences and revenue, the dubbed Hollywood films are not only turning out to be money churners for foreign production houses but are also making overseas actors a household name at the grassroots.
"Hollywood movies offer great entertainment value and in order to enjoy them, they have to be made relevant to audiences across the country," Vivek Krishnani, head of distribution, Marketing and Syndication, Fox Star Studios India Pvt Ltd told PTI.
"English is not the entertainment language of audiences at large, therefore, dubbing helps increase comprehension and increases the entertainment quotient by making it relevant to audiences," he says.
The dubbed films give foreign production houses an opportunity to go wider and reach a larger section of the cinema going audiences by making the content available in a language they can easily understand.
"A lot of our films have outperformed big budget Hindi movies running simultaneously at the Box Office. "Avatar" has become the third highest grosser in the history of Hindi Cinema. The "A-Team" as well as "Knight and Day" have performed extremely well compared to Hindi films that have been released in the same period," says Krishnani.
"Avatar" saw its English and dubbed versions sharing the revenues at 50%. Around 35% of the revenue from the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz starrer "Knight and Day" in India came from dubbed version while the action movie "The A Team" raked in 45% of its revenue from dubbed versions.
"India is certainly a very important and fast growing market for Hollywood films. While India was the 13th highest grosser for 'Avatar' worldwide which is itself a huge achievement for us, it has figured in the Top 10 International markets in the world for The 'A-Team', 'Knight and Day' and 'Predators,' which is phenomenal," says Krishnani.
Last year, Sony's 2012 was probably the biggest example of a the biggest dubbing success for a Hollywood film.
"The film earned approximately 90 crore at the Indian Box Office of which approximately 70% came from the dubbed versions. This figure is even more notable considering the lower prices of tickets in the dubbed markets," says Kercy Daruwala, MD, Sony Pictures India.
Hindi, Tamil and Telugu are the main Indian languages used to dub a Hollywood movie, though experiments with Bhojpuri, Bengali and Malayalam also been done. Sony released "Spider-Man 3" in Bhojpuri and "Sixth Sense," "Signs" and
"Spider-Man" in Malayalam.
The average cost of dubbing a movie is estimated around 8 to 10 lakhs.
"It is a successful model because there are several factors that give Hollywood an edge over Bollywood. It has wider global audience from which to recover costs and earn profit, multiplexes, which are the mainstay of Hollywood films now use digital prints which cut costs and Hollywood action and special effects films have greater dubbing potential than Bollywood films," says Daruwala.
Vishal Kapur, COO, Fun Cinemas, says the dubbed film market is fast picking up in India with the metro cities witnessing a rise in their revenues.
"Earlier, small centres like Lucknow, Agra, Panipat had a good demand for dubbed Hollywood films but of late, metros also have sizeable audience for them," he says.
"Like in Delhi, south Delhi will have takers for English version but in east and west Delhi, Hindi version is more liked. Movies such as "Inception" and "A Team" had occupancy upto 50% in Hindi versions," he adds.
In a unique scenario in India, Hollywood faces stiff competition from dominant local film industries. Also, ticket prices are low and piracy is extremely high. Despite these shortcomings, India still figures in the top 15 global markets for Hollywood.
"Through dubbing we have already been expanding the market in the last couple of years. Plus smaller, more niche Hollywood films are finding their own audiences because of increasing number of multiplex screens and digitalisation," says Daruwala.
The Oscar-winning film, "Gandhi" was dubbed by Sony Pictures India for the first time in 1982 in six Indian languages.
Daruwala says dubbing a Hollywood movie is an old trend which has good commercial potential now and Sony has plans to bring in more Indian languages as the market expands in future.
Not all Hollywood films are dubbed in Indian languages. There is an increasing appetite for action and special effects oriented films and especially in 3D among audiences as a whole. This is a space that Bollywood has not yet been able to enter successfully.
"Other genres like comedy etc do not work as it is difficult to translate the nuances of humour into local language," says Krishnani.
It's not only dubbing but also subtitling the films by which Hollywood is making inroads in Indian market. Hits like "Inception," "A Team" had English subtitles.
"For starters, we have started subtitling our films as sometimes the accent and the pronunciation by the stars in Hollywood films is a bit difficult for the Indian audience to understand. This has helped us in getting in more audiences, who otherwise would skip Hollywood films, with a fear of not being able to understand the same," says Krishnani.
Going by India's rise as a big Hollywood market, there are plans to get Hollywood stars in India for their film's promotion in future.
"As India becomes a more and more important market, Hollywood stars will come here for promotion," says Daruwala
while Krishnani says Fox has been trying to get some big
Hollywood stars to India and hopefully something should work