Mani Ratnam-Ram Charan to team up? The Telugu-Tamil bilingual film is in vogue
The latest buzz in tinseltown down south is that ace director Mani Ratnam will be working with Telugu star Ram Charan on a Telugu-Tamil bilingual. While the news has not been officially confirmed, it’s no longer surprising to see Tamil or Telugu stars in films releasing in both languages.
Baahubali’s stupendous success has broken the language barrier even further with more Tamil and Telugu films being made as bilinguals. While Tollywood stars like Mahesh Babu, Prabhas and Rana Daggubati, are now working in Tamil-Telugu bilinguals, Kollywood stars like Kamal Haasan have been releasing bilinguals for a while now.
A decade ago, movies that were successful in Tamil or Telugu were simply dubbed into the other language. However, an evolving audience which now actively seeks good cinema, has ensured that language is no longer a constraint. With a larger market being created in India and globally, it also makes financial sense for a producer to make a film in Tamil and Telugu simultaneously.
Explains G Dhananjayan, producer-distributor and founder of BOFTA Film Institute, Chennai, “A star wants to exploit the audience familiarity and his popularity in other regions. It also mitigates the risk for a producer. If there are 65 scenes to be shot for a film, about once third need to be re-shot in the other language. The cost is not as high as making a full feature film. So when the producer makes a bilingual, he’s looking at recovering costs and de-risking. So it makes sense for a producer to make it in Tamil and Telugu and release it in both markets.”
However, successful producer P Madan of Escape Artists’ Motion Pictures has a slightly different take on which films need to be made as Tamil-Telugu bilinguals. “Making a bilingual is fine but one must realise that costs increase by at least 50 percent. The hero asks for a higher salary as it’s technically two films and the rest of the crew and daily wage staff need to be 150% as well. If a producer is making a bilingual with the same hero, then I don’t think it makes sense,” explains Madan referring to the audience familiarity of the hero.
Take the case of Tamil film Maanagaram releasing on 10 March. Starring Sundeep Kishan, Regina Cassandra and Sri, the movie was reportedly made on a budget of Rs 3 crore. While this movie has been made primarily in Tamil, Sundeep Kishan is a Telugu actor and both he and Regina have a strong Telugu base. The Telugu version of the film (dubbed) has been reportedly sold for Rs 2 crore and the sale of the Tamil version would have easily ensured the investment recovery say trade sources.
And this strategy is followed by top stars as well. With Tamil star Suriya being familiar to the Telugu audience today, his films to be released in Telugu as well. So his movies including his recent hit, Singam 3, are being dubbed and released in Telugu.
But increasingly stars and producers are no longer happy with the ‘dubbed formula’. If a Telugu film is dubbed in Tamil, the Tamil audience primarily views it as a Telugu film and vice-versa. However, if it is made as a bilingual, they are more open to embracing it.
Producer Madan says that it’s also upto producers and directors on how they present these bilinguals to the audience which will determine their success. “Take director Gautham Vasuden Menon. He makes the same film but just changes the hero as per the audience. While the Tamil film Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada had Simbu (STR) as the hero, the Telugu version Sahasame Swasaga Sagipo had Naga Chaitanya in the lead. The rest of the cast and crew remained the same. This is a better way of making a bilingual,” he explains.
The growth of a film industry rests on the reach of cinema and considering Tamil and Telugu are two of the biggest markets after Hindi, there is a need to look at integrating these markets. Growing cost factors force producers to strategically look at de-risking and cutting down financial losses.
But ultimately what matters when making a Tamil-Telugu bilingual is content. When making Tamil-Telugu bilinguals, the producer needs to keep in mind audience sensibilities and what content will click. Not all movies lend themselves to being into a bilingual - so while an action thriller or horror movie may work, other genres might not. “At the end of the day, the audience – be it Tamil or Telugu - just wants to see good content. Even if you don’t release the films simultaneously, if the content is good, the movies will strike gold at the box office,” signs off Madan.
Agrees Dhananjayan stating, “How well the audience takes to a film is based on how entertaining and different it is, and whether it connects with a large section of people.”