Television

Dubbing to ride on 'Firangi' content

West is best," said Edward Said. It seems Indian broadcasters have taken a cue from Said and are ready to experiment heavily with international content in 2008.

Sahara One Media and Entertainment Ltd, for instance, is taking the bold step of launching an entertainment channel that will fill entirely with dubbed international content. Its logic: "40 per cent of the TV viewing population continuously watch dubbed content".

Firangi is set to launch on 25 February, importing content from across the world -Germany, France, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Israel.

Firangi is not alone in this experimentation. UTV has also put a high dose of dubbed content on its youth-centric Hindi entertainment channel Bindass.

Says Bindass GM acqusition Manasi Sapre, "Dubbed entertainment has emerged as a strong alternative to live action productions in the past few years. It allows audience to sample international content of great quality in language they understand and enjoy."

Sapre has research to back this up. A recent research "Understanding the Psyche of Hindi Serial Viewers," done by Starcom India and Hansa Research, reveals that 2/5th of viewers of Star Plus and Zee TV find Hindi soaps repetitive and boring.

What‘s more, 64 per cent of TV viewing audience prefer dubbed content as it provides a diverse palette of soaps and dramas.



A whopping 69 per cent think that dubbed shows are very entertaining, while 70 per cent think that it is an opportunity to watch more actors. And 72 per cent watch it because it teaches a lot about the cultures of other countries.

Though Indians still lap up localised content, some observers believe that a viewership is surfacing for pure global content dubbed in Hindi.

Another reason for the mushrooming of international dubbed content in the TV space is its easy and low-cost model as compared to full-fledged production of shows.

Sugar Mediaz director Darrpan Mehta, who himself is a voiceover and dubbing artist, says, "It is a wonderful low-cost model. For example, acquiring a show from various parts of the world and putting it up as a dubbed content is very cheap vis-?-vis producing the entire show. Production of a show costs lakhs, but a 30-minute dubbed content will cost around Rs 50,000."

Sample this: UTV‘s Bindass has four original shows - Hassley India, Shakira, Sun Yaar Chill Maar and Third Degree, while it has around six international contents which include The Benny Hill Show, Japanese Pro Wrestling Show, Gotcha, Motorrad Cops, Whacked Out Sports and Challenges of Fire.

Even flanking Hindi GECs Zee Next and Sab TV have a portion, however small, of international dubbed content.

Zee Next has two dubbed shows Fresh Prince of Bel-air and Different Strokes while Sab TV has a slot called International Chaska that features its internationally acquired shows dubbed in Hindi. The channel is currently showing America‘s Funniest Home Videos and will be airing Desperate Housewives, Extreme Makeover, Lost and Alias in Hindi.

With new channel launches and more such channels in the wings, there is a huge dearth and a consequent need of good content which can work in India. With the floodgates opening for the dubbing industry, there is a rush for these post-production houses, dubbing artists and script-writers.

Market:

Though the dubbing industry is still at its nascent stage, it is a growing market.

Says Sapre, "For television, the dubbing content market is pecked at Rs 150 to 200 million. But it is growing, considering the tremendous potential of this form of entertainment."

Over the last 5 years, the dubbed content market has grown 10 to 15 per cent per annum, and is expected to grow further. Entertainment (TV and film) has reached new territories and all this has been due to dubbing. For example, without being dubbed in Bhojpuri, Spiderman would have never reached that part of India."

Outside of the US, India is one of the largest markets Disney has invested in for local production. In addition, Disney Channel and Jetix have over 6,000 episodes of dubbed content (three languages included). Disney Channel India has close to 25 per cent local content on-air today.

Disney-ABC International Television works closely with Indian broadcasters to provide dubbed content in local languages that appeal to local audiences.

Firangi has inked deals with major content providers like Mexico-based Tellewise, Germany-based Seven One and France-based Marathon. Other providers include Dou Media and Telemundo, which is a US company that will offer content in Spanish. In addition, the channel has tied up with Brazil-based Globosat for Pages of Life and America.

For the dubbing and the post-production work, the channel has roped in Mumbai-based Clastem Productions.

UTV‘s dubbing department has long-term exclusive associations with channels like Hungama, National Geographic Channel, History Channel, Bindass, Bindass Movies, Nick and Disney. It does more than 1,000 hours of dubbing every year.

Content

A general perception percolating through the popular psyche is that dubbed content is nothing but "Angrezi Hindi" or "Anglicized Hindi." Viewers identify dubbed content only with the tele-brands that sell peculiar products in a peculiar language.

Says Mehta, "We are on the way to becoming a mega industry. It is a dichotomy actually; it is a booming period for volumes, but there is no focus yet on quality. If I see from an entrepreneur‘s point of view, it is a big business opportunity for a huge market coming up."

Agrees Sapre: "Dubbed content is no longer looked down upon. It is important not to just translate but to localise fully, using the nuances of the local language and get the soul of the content correct. Not only viewers but also international licencors are extremely happy with the treatment we have accorded to their classic shows and blockbusters on Bindass."

Adds Mehta: "Earlier, there used to be a verbatim translation, which really took its toll on the quality of the content. But now it is transcreated so as to do justice to the ethos of the language, culture and sensibility."

Cost-cutting from TV production houses is a big obstacle. Says Mehta, "Since the production houses which do dubbing always go for cost cutting, they do not place high value on a premium artist. As a whole, they compromise on the voice quality.

A lead dubbing artist in a full-length film can earn anywhere between Rs 30-35,000 to Rs 3,00,000, depending on the amount of work he gets to do. For animated series on kids‘ channels, a character gets around Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per episode.

"Even for a theatrical release, the dubbing production houses use a premium voice but for the home video and satellite screening, a low-cost dubbing artist is used to cut costs.

All the films are re-dubbed for TV release and the home video release."

Does dubbed content work only for thrill and action genre shows?

Says Clapstem Productions promoter Girish Malik, who is also a creative consultant of Firangi: "Not really. It used to be. Actually nobody has tried drama. Shows of countries which have the same sensibility like ours have not been dubbed in India. Firangi will bring diverse stories from different countries like Israel, Latin America, Germany and Argentina to India."

He believes Firangi‘s model will succeed. "It is Indian mentality to be curious to know what is happening outside one‘s house. This very interest will drive viewers to see Firangi‘s dubbed content. On the subconscious level, it is a voyeuristic pleasure that many Indians have."

But what about the "sex and nudity" scenes immensely found in international content?

Defends Firangi business head Rajeev Chakrabarti: "We are completely aware of the sensibility and ethos of India. We at Firangi do not just translate and lip-sync for the characters. With the exception of shooting, we do the entire post-production work, which involves scrutinising sex and nudity."

Licencing

Dubbing artists in India believe that though dubbed content is cheap in India, the scene will change once broadcasters give them licencing rights.

"If an artist lends his voice for any show in India, the broadcaster can use the voice for infinite number of times. But it is not so in countries abroad. Even India Copy Right Act 1952 guarantees copy right to any individual voice artist. Voice artists do not get any royalty in India unlike other countries," says Mehta.

It is only in the advertising industry that voice artists get royalty each time the voice is used. Dubbing artists are paid a flat fee and get no access to royalty.

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