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Breaking the regional divide in television with dubbed content

Sam Balsara, Sudha Natrajan, Pradeep Hejmadi, Tushar Shah and Deepak Dhar share their views on dubbed shows and what they imply for channels, advertisers and viewers

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | May 28, 2015


Television content is forever evolving to keep up with changing tastes of viewers and hence we see different genres taking precedence from time to time. Dubbed content is not a new phenomenon on television – English and Hindi movies have been dubbed in various Indian languages and there are numerous South Indian movies dubbed in Hindi that are relished by the viewers.

Then there have been reality shows like ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, ‘Bigg Boss’, ‘Jhalak DikhLa Jaa’, ‘Fear Factor’, ‘Dance India Dance’, and ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’, among others, that have travelled to various parts of the country in their regional dubbed avatars.

A recent trend that is gradually emerging is that of regional language fiction shows dubbed/ recreated in Hindi. Zee TV recently introduced two of its most successful Marathi shows aired on Zee Marathi – ‘Julun Yeti Reshim Gaathi’ and ‘Eka Lagnachi Teesri Goshta’ – in their Hindi avatars as ‘Mohe Piya Milenge’ and ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’, respectively.

Hindi mythological shows ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Devon ke Dev Mahadev’ were also taken to the regional channels in a dubbed format.

Are we witnessing the emergence of a new trend where popular regional shows are no longer confined by language barriers and will now reach out to a much wider audience base? What does it imply for the channels? What is the advertiser response to dubbed/ recreated shows like? seeks to find some answers from a few industry stalwarts.

Pradeep Hejmadi Pradeep Hejmadi

Pradeep Hejmadi, Business Head, Zee TV, commented, “It does work well. As we believe in delivering to the ever changing needs and demands of our viewers and in our constant endeavour to enrich our content offering and bring more and more great stories and characters to our viewers, we thought of getting widely accepted shows from the regional heartland.”

He explained, “In our case what made us take this step was the feedback from our audience. We realised that there is great need and demand from our viewers. It’s archaic to think that only Hindi can come up with earth-shattering ideas. When we were generally looking at ideas, we realised that in Zee Marathi there were some really good stories, and when we tested a few of the stories in other markets, they were quite nice. So, we evaluated whether we should completely recreate or dub. When we dubbed the shows, they were well-received and people loved it that way. The two Marathi shows are a mere beginning – viewers can look forward to some vibrant regional content from different parts of the country dubbed in Hindi.”

Tushar Shah Tushar Shah

According to Tushar Shah, Senior Vice-President - Corporate and Business, Sony Aath, “Both original and dubbed content have their respective appeal and fill the needs of viewers. Dubbed content appeals to those who prefer to see national content in their very own language.” When asked about the ratio of original versus dubbed/recreated shows that Sony Aath has, Shah replied that the channel offered a healthy combination of films, dubbed shows and original animation content.

Deepak Dhar Deepak Dhar

Deepak Dhar, CEO, Endemol India, too felt that this concept worked really well. He pointed out, “Our show, ‘Bigg Boss’, has been witnessing good traction in various languages like Kannada, Bangla and we are now taking it to Telugu and a few other markets down South. There is a lot of traction and the show has been garnering good response. It is quite factual that viewers in the regional markets have a fatigue with similar kind of shows, besides watching your favourite show in your language builds a better connect. We took ‘Fear Factor,’ that was completely dubbed in the Southern markets, and aired it on Sun TV, which worked really well by garnering ratings of 9 and 10 and at the same time we took ‘Bigg Boss’, which was recreated in Kannada and Bangla and it garnered ratings of 7 and 8. So, as long the content is good, it will woo the audiences.”

Sam Balsara Sam Balsara

On what works for dubbed/ recreated content, Sam Balsara, Chairman & Managing Director, Madison Group, remarked, “In one word – original. The original can draw story inspiration from other serials in other languages.”

Sudha Natrajan Sudha Natrajan

Giving a media expert’s view, Sudha Natrajan, Co-founder, The Media Consultants, observed, “The diversity of our country has necessitated customised content specific to different geographies, but increased urbanisation and Bollywoodisation has facilitated the success of certain dubbed/ recreated content. I feel every piece of creative needs to be evaluated to understand its adaptability and there is no one size fits all solution.”

Though there have been only a couple of reality shows like ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ and ‘Dance India Dance’ that have their regional formats on Zee Marathi as ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Marathi’ and ‘Dance Maharashtra Dance’, respectively, none of the daily Hindi soaps have forayed into regional channels yet. When asked whether they were thinking something along those lines, Hejmadi said, “It is too early to comment, but we are working on those lines.”

Advertiser response

Sony Aath’s Shah added here that they had received favourable response from the advertisers so far. “Not only do we showcase films, dubbed shows and animation content, we have also delighted our advertisers and viewers alike with events like the FIFA World Cup 2014 and the recently concluded Pepsi IPL 2015, which also had commentary in Bengali language. Thus, our channel is a combination of original and dubbed content combined with special sporting events like IPL and FIFA. This combination makes our channel unique and very appealing, both to viewers and advertisers,” he added.

Hejmadi remarked that more than the advertisers it was the audience’s response that played a vital role. “For us, it is important to engage and entertain our viewers, and if the story is good, advertisers automatically come on board. The advertisers have been positive with all our shows, which mark the fact that it is more about content and the story plot than the language feeds,” he noted.

Natrajan opined that advertisers were only interested in ROI and what the ratings were.

Commenting on which property sold better – original or dubbed/ recreated, Hejmadi pointed out that every property had its own charm. “It all depends on the kind of content that the channel is producing,” he added.

On the advertisers’ front, Dhar opined that when a show went to different languages or markets, production value and star cast varied and so the price point. He noted, “It is not the same and one cannot compare one market with another, hence the advertiser’s money depends on the way the show is being created.”

Though the stalwarts feel that it is the nature of content that matters for the viewers, the fact remains that dubbed/ recreated content continues to witness growth – be it from Hindi to regional languages or vice versa. But how much of that is dictated by viewers’ demands or the channels’ bid to rake in more money remains a debatable issue.

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