How VR Films & Studios Handled Covid

By Pickle  July 12, 2021
Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd

Thankfully the localisation business had an upward swing due to a huge demand from streaming platforms as consumers relied on them for entertainment more during lockdown, says Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd

Do you miss being at the Cannes Film Festival and Market? For over a decade VR Films & Studios have been regular at Cannes…

Indeed, yes. Virtual Cannes Festival and Market are surely not the same as being physically present there and this is the second consecutive year we missed it because of the challenging situation caused by Covid, though on business front new film acquisitions have been productive and fruitful.

Congrats! VR Films & Studios has done phenomenally well in quarterly results, especially amidst Covid-19 pandemic…

Thank you, God has been kind. In spite of all the Covid induced difficulties and challenges, our FY 2020-21 has been more impressive than the previous year as we have posted more than 10 per cent top line. This quarter April 2021 – June 2021 as well we are hopeful of an impressive 15 per cent growth in the top line as compared to previous years

Has your localisation studio business got impacted by lockdown? How did you manage to change the workflow in your dubbing services?

Thankfully the localisation business had an upward swing due to a huge demand from streaming and TV platforms as consumers relied on them for entertainment more during lockdown. We pioneered our localising systems with “Remote Dubbing” and provided quality output with lots of R&D.

What are your learnings from the operation side of business from lockdown. Do we see this continue in normal times also? Do we go back to pre-Covid times?

We realised with passion and determination, ways and means can be obtained and challenges can be handled effectively. Due to lockdown we had to first equip our team with working infrastructure from home and then innovate the usual dubbing work differently with each talent delivering from their respective homes. It was tough but with lots of effort we had quality output and this turned out to be our USP. We also managed to cut costs without impacting salaries and ensured our team is financially secured as only then each one of us could put in our best effort. We had to survive and gladly we came out stronger.

Theatres were shut and TV platforms were not sublicensing so we made the best with streaming platforms like TVOD, SVOD and AVOD. We had three new releases in this period – Unhinged (Russell Crowe), Target Number One (Josh Hartnett), The Power (Rose Williams) – and are now getting ready with another major Hollywood release, Jolt (Kate Beckinsale).

Post Covid times will be different from pre Covid times as we will incorporate and utilise some of the innovative skills we developed during lockdown, so it will be a beneficial mix of both times for sure.

Manish Dutt and Krishi Dutt of VR Films & Studios Ltd
Have you been able to keep the quality in dubbing the same as that of being done in a studio?

To a major extent yes. We localised some of the best shows during Lockdown for leading streaming platforms, at times delivering more than 400 hours per month and the quality was very appreciated.

Do you see video streaming platforms dominate the film and content space in the coming times?

At the moment they are dominating and will continue to. Times ahead are uncertain but when the situation comes under control theatrical release will come back. Nothing beats the magical release in theatres, the charm to sit in a theatre with an audience and watch a film munching popcorn and samosas. With ad revenue again flowing in, TV platforms too shall make a revival and sub-license films from independents like us.

Have you added new streaming platforms for dubbed services in Indian languages?

We already were localising for the best of the streaming platforms and Covid increased the business many folds as there was a huge demand for localisation during lockdown. We also added some new clients and are in the process of having more on board. We are increasing our dubbing infrastructure as well. We had plans to increase the number of our dubbing studios in 2020 but Covid made us abort those plans then, which we have revived now and we will be adding 10 new dubbing studios in Mumbai which will include Dolby Atmos and Dolby 5.1 mix studios.

It’s interesting to know that you are now into dubbing for Urdu, Singhalese… What are the foreign languages that are in demand now?

Surprisingly there is a demand for Sinhalese, Nepalese and Urdu dubbing from various platforms. Perhaps they are expanding their reach into these territories in the Indian sub-continent with their local languages.

Any impact for your dubbing services for broadcasters — VR Films has been the voice for Cartoon Network, Discovery and other kids channels?

We have been working with the crème de la crème of broadcasters for years and they have remained with us since then. We have constant output for them which has kept increasing and we are in the process of adding new clients too. Hence our expansion plan has started to roll on because of the increasing demand and the Covid situation being managed. From 400 hours a month we are expanding our capacity to nearly 800 hours per month as platforms have realised that to get more subscribers and maximum reach, they would need more hours of content and localisation makes more monetary sense for them.

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