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Dubbed south films fizzle out in Hindi heartland

New Delhi: Dubbed southern language films bringing returns in the Hindi heartland have seen some slowdown over the past few weeks with three big films, Khiladi (Telugu), Bheemla Nayak (Telugu) and Valimai (Tamil) managing negligible buzz in north India.

Trade experts said southern films need aggressive promotions and marketing as bigger Hindi films see a resurgence beginning with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi. None of the southern films released over the past month could replicate the success of Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise- Part One that had hit screens before the third covid wave.

The Hindi version of Ajith-starrer Valimai, for instance, made 20 lakh on its opening day after a late release towards the evening on 24 February, and managed another 35 lakh the next day. In comparison, Pushpa had earned 3.33 crore with its dubbed version on its opening day in December. The latter had also grown with word-of-mouth and had clocked in 26.89 crore at the end of its first week versus 2 crore by Valimai.

“South films need good content backed by marketing muscle to make it in the north Indian market,” independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said. Unlike several southern stars, Allu Arjun has been keen on exploring the Hindi market for long and knows the pulse of the audience there, Pillai said. He has built on his popularity on satellite television with extensive media interactions and active presence on social media, he added.

The actor had recognised the potential for action films to do well among mass-market audiences in small towns in the Hindi-speaking belt and begun promotions months in advance.

In comparison, movies like Valimai and Bheemla Nayak have had rushed Hindi releases with their lead stars Ajith and Pawan Kalyan shy of aggressive promotions. Arjun has also found appeal among younger audiences in the Hindi market thanks to his dancing skills and slick stunts, a group that doesn’t really identify with 50 plus stars like Ajith who may enjoy cult following in their home states.

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said Pushpa had also benefited from perfect timing of release, pre-Christmas when there were fewer Hindi films competing for audiences’ attention and the only Bollywood title that released a week later, sports drama ’83 wasn’t an outright commercial offering.

In comparison, a robust Hindi film slate is now being rolled out, with the 100 crore plus collections of Alia Bhatt-starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi having bolstered the confidence of producers and theatre owners. While hardcore commercial films like Akshay Kumar’s Bachchan Pandey and Tiger Shroff’s Heropanti 2 are slated for the coming weeks, a number of Hindi titles will even clash with the dubbed versions of southern films. Shahid Kapoor’s sports drama Jersey, for example, will release on the same day as period drama K.G.F- Chapter 2, as will Ayushmann Khurrana’s Anek and Telugu star Mahesh Babu’s Sarkaru Vaari Paata.

“It doesn’t mean the Hindi theatrical market doesn’t exist for southern films anymore, but that films will work selectively and the market cannot be taken for granted,” Johar said.

Independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan agreed the transition to north India for southern films and actors cannot happen overnight and consistency is required in marketing and dishing out entertaining plots. “It’s about establishing a connection before release, not after it. Otherwise, people feel the makers are not serious about (the Hindi) release. But the south is here to stay with OTT platforms having made it a level-playing field with easy access,” Chauhan said.

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