‘RRR’s various dubs are a reflection of the global vision that is packed within it.
Months after its theatrical release, SS Rajamouli's RRR continues to gather applause and evoke interest as global audiences and critics have welcomed the film with open arms and hearts. With wins at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, the film further edges closer to a potential Oscar win. The continued hype towards the Jr NTR and Ram Charan film has also resulted in greater interest from audiences towards the film. With the growing interest in the film, another phenomenon that can be noticed is the growing number of dubs of the Telugu-language epic action-drama film. While recent consumption trends have clearly established that films do not require a dub to be enjoyed in their best form, RRR shows that it still believes in catering to audiences in the language they understand the best. But only on digging further, one will discover that the dubs of RRR are purely a consequence of what has worked long for films such as RRR before the prevalence of pan-Indian films as we know them today.
RRR has been dubbed in multiple languages with the list just growing as its popularity continues to peak. In times when the native language in which the film is shot is no longer a barrier to stopping global audiences from enjoying a film, it would seem odd for RRR to be dubbed in multiple languages. But the phenomenon of dubbing is not new to the culture of Indian films, especially films from the southern part of the country. Often films from the Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil regional film industries are dubbed into other regional languages for audiences who are comfortable watching films in their own native tongue. Jr NTR and Ram Charan dubbed the film in four languages, namely — Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Hindi. This tendency to release a film in various dubbed versions is rooted in the inherent tendency of the country's film-enthuiast audience to watch films in a language they are familiar with.
Some of the biggest Hollywood releases are often released alongside their dubbed versions in the country. RRR's various dubs fall in line with this trend within Indian cinema. In fact, before films started being shot for a pan-Indian audience, regional actors such as Jr NTR and Ram Charan became pan-India faces through their dubbed versions as very rarely did non-Telugu speakers would watch a Telugu film in the original language. Rather they would watch the dubbed version in their own tongue. Owing to this inherent quality of Indian films, it was obvious that when RRR became a global success, the film would be dubbed into international languages, other than English, as well to tap into the global audience. The goal is to deliver the story to the audience in the language they best understand — a motto that has worked successfully within the Indian context.
For a country with more than 700 languages, India is the obvious contender to have a deep relationship with its languages, and it's natural for movie-going audiences to share the same bond as well. For the longest time, the Indian film industry was identified with the Hindi-language focused Bollywood industry revolving around the city of Mumbai, which has given the country some of its biggest actors, including Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. To accommodate the wide variety of languages spoken within the country, Hindi films would often be dubbed into major regional languages. But despite this, regional cinema has thrived in India for a long with some actors such as Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth even becoming pan-India faces. However, the recent trends have changed and Hindi films in particular have failed to attract audiences to theaters. Among the top five highest-grossing Indian films of 2022, Brahmastra is the only Hindi-language film that makes the cut. The other films on the list are all Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada-language films that are now marketed under the banner of a pan-India film.
More than anyone else, SS Rajamouli is responsible for the emergence of the pan-India category, which essentially refers to regional language films that are created to cater to a wider audience base. Rajamouli's 2015 epic-drama film Bahubali became the first of many to come when it became a record-breaking box office success. In fact, the Hindi-dubbed version of the film became the highest-grossing dubbed film of all time. Recent blockbusters such as KGF, Pushpa: The Rise, Kaantara, and RRR are all films whose dubbed versions have found remarkable love from film-going audiences.
The dubbing industry in India has thrived as films, which are originally made in regional languages, are dubbed and delivered to a wider base, most of which are Hindi-speaking. The impact of the dubbing industry is such that certain voice actors have become hugely popular for voicing some of the biggest actors in their respective industries. Jr. NTR dubbing in his own voice for the Hindi version of RRR is a deviation from the common trend. Otherwise, RRR is obviously not the first film to be dubbed in his three-decade long film career. But it is the first film for which he has dubbed in his own voice for the Hindi version.
The winning philosophy for films from the industry in which RRR was conjured has been its focus on removing language barriers to access the biggest pool of audience possible. It is how SS Rajamouli's journey to becoming India's biggest filmmaker began because within India at least, most audiences would go to the theater to watch a film only if it is in a familiar language. While non-English language films have found greater love on streaming services by Indians, it is not quite the case when it comes to theater-going audiences. The Indian tendency to dub films finds a direct solution to this problem. And for all the good reasons, the raving success some recent films have garnered would not have been possible if not for the audience pool they have managed to tap into. Had it not been for the box-office-wise success of Bahubali and Bahubali 2, which owe a lot to their various dubs, it may not have been possible for SS Rajamouli to come up with another ambitious project in the form of RRR.
RRR's various dubs in Indian and international languages are in accordance with the proven tricks that films in India have adopted for a long. With many streaming services vying for a piece of RRR, the various dubs also help extend the shelf-life of the movie as more people keep discovering this Indian film that's nothing short of a spectacle regardless of the language one's watching it in. While an obvious choice keeping the history of Indian films, RRR's various dubs also provide the opportunity to attract audiences who may not be as familiar with the original language the film is made in. Also, the availability of the film in multiple languages is a nod to its success and relevancy as a global film that has taken the world by storm. RRR's various dubs are a reflection of the global vision that is packed within it, making it exceptionally unique yet remarkably appealing across diverse geographies.
Shreejit is a freelance features writer at Collider. He is also the Editor at House Of Binge. Shreejit has written for various film and TV websites including Film Companion. If any one genre takes the cake for him, it is none other than good ol’ fashioned horror.