Vishwaroopam 2 box office failure proves not every film lends itself well to the bilingual format

Raja Sekar

Aug,16 2018 09:14:00 IST

Undoubtedly, Kamal Haasan is the most versatile actor of our times. He is also multi-faceted as his expertise as a filmmaker, producer, lyric writer and singer has been proven over the years in many films. In the early '90s and late '80s, Kamal did not opt for bilinguals. Either his film would be dubbed in other languages or he would remake his proven films. For some strange reasons, he started making bilinguals but if you carefully looked at his career, all those films were not celebrated by the targeted audiences during the release.

As we all know, Kamal debuted in Hindi cinema with Ek Duuje Ke Liye, remake of his hit Telugu film Maro Charitra. Both the Hindi and Telugu versions were massive hits in the respective languages but they were not simultaneously made by K Balchander, Haasan's mentor.

Sridevi and Kamal Haasan in a still from Sadma. Image from Twitter/@GabbbarSingh

Sridevi and Kamal Haasan in a still from Sadma. Image from Twitter/@GabbbarSingh

Though Kamal’s Sadma was a commercial failure, the film gained a cult status for the incredible performance of Sridevi and Haasan in the film. To everyone’s surprise, Appu Raja, the Hindi dubbed version of Kamal’s Aboorva Sagotharagal, became a blockbuster in Bollywood. Not only Appu Raja, Kamal Haasan’s Hindustani(1996), the Hindi dubbed version of Indian, also tasted similar success.

Despited hitting the bull’s eye with the dubbed versions, Haasan walked the extra mile for the Hindi audiences. The actor remade his super hit film Avvai Shanmughi as Chachi 420 in Hindi. Besides playing the lead role in the film, Haasan also directed Chachi 420 which was declared as a hit by the trade.

The success of films like  Ek Duuje Ke Liye, Appu Raja, Hindustani, and Chachi 420 actually encouraged Haasan to make bilinguals and widen his market across India in one film. Though the Hindi market is a bonus, the bilingual films of Kamal actually affected the South market of the talented actor.

Haasan’s first Tamil-Hindi bilingual film was Hey Ram (2000). Though the script’s backdrop demanded Hindi and Tamil-speaking actors, when it was released, Tamil audiences were confused with the North Indian accent of the Hindi actors and vice versa. Though in a recent interview, Kamal claimed that Hey Ram was a table profit for him, the film was not a hit at the box office. Kamal’s idea of roping in Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukerji, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and many other Hindi actors helped him with the opening but at the end of the day, the bilingual attempt failed at the box office despite earning positive reviews from critics.

The reason is that while making bilinguals, especially Tamil and Hindi, the dialogue delivery of actors would be often compromised and it affects the overall movie watching experience for a layman. While critics overlook the accent issues, a common man wants nativity factor in films, which cannot be achieved in bilinguals.

After Hey Ram’s failure, Kamal delivered a safe comedy entertainer Thenali with KS Ravikumar. But the actor once again chose the bilingual route with Aalavandhan/Abhay, which went on to become a box office failure.

Without a doubt, Hey Ram and Aalavandhan/Abhay are some of the finest films in Indian cinema. Even Quentin Tarantino credited the animation sequence in the Kamal-starrer as an inspiration for the famous violence sequence in Kill Bill. But the bilingual attempt did not satisfy the target audiences.

Kamal Haasana and Rahul Bose in a still from Vishwaroopam 2/Image from Twitter.

Kamal Haasana and Rahul Bose in a still from Vishwaroopam 2/Image from Twitter.

There is a considerable taste difference between North and South audiences. Let us take Chachi 420 and Avvai Shanmughi as examples. Had Kamal simultaneously made these films, the result would have been different. The way the lady Kamal was presented in both the versions were different. The casting was not compromised because it is not a bilingual and he chose native actors. The language constraints and dialogue delivery issues were not there either. So basically, these are the reasons behind the success of Chachi 420 and Avvai Shanmughi at the box office apart from the solid story and screenplay.

Post the box office debacle of Abhay/Aalavandhan, Kamal once again traveled in the comedy entertainer route with films like Pammal K Sambandham and Panchathanthiram. Both the films were box office hits. Kamal later donned the director’s hat again with Virumandi but this time, he did not make it as a bilingual because the story would not suit the North Indian audiences.

When Kamal thinks of a story set in North India, he always tried to make it as a bilingual but when the actor finds an interesting theme set in Tamil, he never opts for a Hindi version, which has actually helped him at the Kollywood box office. For example, Virumandi was not a commercial failure and also earned positive reviews. It is considered to be one of the best directorial films in Kamal's illustrious career.

However, the bilingual bug bit Kamal Haasan again in Mumbai Xpress, which was a commercial failure in both Tamil and Hindi. Mumbai Xpress actually competed with Kamal’s rival Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi and Vijay’s (who was an upcoming star at that time) Sachein in 2005. In the final theatrical run, both Chandramukhi and Sachien performed better than the Kamal-starrer.

Despite repeated failures in his bilingual attempts, Kamal once again shot his Vishwaroopam series in Tamil and Hindi. The first part tasted a moderate success in Tamil but the Hindi version did not make any profits, whereas the second part is heading towards a box office disaster in Tamil and Hindi. Kamal’s Sabaash Naidu was also announced as a trilingual in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi, but the project is currently on cold storage.

Not only Haasan, master craftsman Mani Ratnam also tried to bridge Tamil and Hindi languages in Raavan/Raavanan. The Hindi version was a disaster and Tamil audiences felt that the director missed bringing nativity factor. Ratnam set the backdrop of the Raavanan story in South Tamil Nadu but it is impossible to convince Tamil people with a temple which has all the features of North architecture and costumes. AR Murugadoss, who is known for delivering massive hits, failed miserably in Spyder as he tried to satisfy both the Tamil and Telugu audiences.

To conclude, bilingual is a risky business and only a very few filmmakers like SS Rajamouli tasted success with his films like Baahubali and Eega as the concepts he handled were universal.

Updated Date: Aug 16, 2018 09:16 AM