With major film production houses trying to reach out to new audiences, dubbing studios are witnessing phenomenal growth in India. Manish Dutt, MD, VR Films, talks about how he is helping bridge the language gap aided by technology and what future may hold for the industry
Manish Dutt runs India’s biggest dubbing factory, managing over 900 artistes who lend their voices in several languages to keep his pipeline engaged. Even after clocking 50,000 hours of dubbing and witnessing 80 percent year-on-year growth, Manish’s VR Films is hungry for more.
“India is emerging as a hub to dub for Hollywood and European language films,” says Manish, Managing Director, VR Films. “We are positioning ourselves to be a one-stop shop for all dubbing and sub-titling requirements. Our dubbing factory is making Hollywood in India.” “We have done a number of Chinese fi lms to English, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu. Also, when we dub Chinese films into English (neutral English) it is accepted globally,” says Manish.
Recently, a major studio asked VR Films to dub their library catalogue in Marathi and Bengali besides Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Soon, you will see Hollywood dishing out dubbed films in West Bengal and Maharashtra to engage with new audience.
The cloud has opened up new business opportunities. “If anyone wants to send their films for dubbing, then all they need to do is to provide an online link and tell us to localise content. We have the capability to do dubbing in 50 languages. We can deliver the product in 10 days and the end product can be retrieved from the cloud.”
The regionalization of TV channels further improved bottomlines of dubbing studios. VR Films dubs all Discovery Channels English feed to Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. “We do around 1600 hours of TV dubbing every year.”
Interesting local dialects and nuances play a major part in work process and that is the reason for their footprint in state capitals. “We don’t dub Bengali in Mumbai. We dub it in Kolkata. Similarly, we do Tamil dubbing in Chennai. The authenticity, nuances and local idioms will be felt when you dub locally,” notes Manish.
He spent four years (1992 to 1996) working with UTV and started his own venture doing fi lms for Channel V. Manish is aided by his brother Krishi Dutt. They belong to a family of cinematographers who worked in Mumbai in sixties and seventies.
Set up in 2000, unlike other studios VR Films doesn’t let out their studios for rentals. Its 36 studios are spread across Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. They have done over 500 dubbings for Hollywood films.
Twentieth Century Fox’s ‘Beyond Enemy Lines’ was their first Hollywood project. “It was a major challenge and our dubbing was cleared in first take. We did Steven Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report’ and there is no stopping since then,” says Manish, who is well-known in the film market circuit (at Cannes, Berlin and Hong Kong).
The closing down of single screen has had a major dent in import of fi lms, especially ‘C’ grade films, which once formed a major chunk of business for VR Films. “The market is getting tougher for small Hollywood films because regional language films are doing well. There is no space for small Hollywood films in India. The product has to be big to get screened in theatres today,” says Manish.
The entry of players like Netflix and Amazon has, however, brought excitement to VR Films. “The change is happening right now. The digital is going to explore and throw new work on us,” says a confident Manish.
In 2000, a chance meeting with CEO of Warner Brothers opened up big biz opportunities for Manish who dubbed an entire animation catalogue for the company. That was followed up with Cartoon Network and later Pogo.
He feels that Indian film producers are satisfied and very averse to risk. “The world is talking of $1 billion revenue from a film and we are still talking of Rs 200 or Rs 300 crore. I am waiting for a day when a Shah Rukh Khan film will get released on a Friday in 20,000 cinema halls in 40 languages. It can happen. That should be our vision,” says a confident Manish.
“We will see a global impact when we release our films in dozen languages outside India. We are talking 4,000 prints. The world is talking 20,000 prints today. Our mindset has to change,” says Manish.
Any takers for Manish’s wish?