It all started when veteran film producer SS Vasan showed Tamil film industry a new gen marketing technique by releasing blockbuster Chandralekha (1948) in two languages.
Probably, it should be the first Tamil movie to be made in another language simultaneously. Though, the Hindi version of Chandralekha released a couple of months after the Tamil version, it had created a buzz among the producers by showing a 700 per cent profit and inspired them to make multilingual films.
However, bilinguals these days face mixed results. They have no connect with local audience, say movie buffs.
In recent times, a lot of bilingual and trilingual films are being made, but not with much success. The most recent examples are Solo and Spyder. Though both the movies had a big star in the lead, they failed to convince audience, especially in Tamilnadu, despite their success in the other language. In the case of Spyder , the movie has a lot of Murugadoss elements including a good screenplay, a conjourous villain and refreshing visuals.
In spite of all this, the movie had loose ends when it came to dubbing, action and stunt sequences. “The dubbing had good lip sync. However, Mahesh Babu’s Tamil was not so good and had a lot of Telugu accent and sounded too alien”, says Gilbert, an industry watcher.
He also commented on the unbelievable stunts. “Running towards a rushing roller coaster and boarding it for a stunt was a overdose’, he chuckled, and added that it may convince Telugu audience who have been watching a lot of action movies, but in Tamilnadu, people have already started hating exaggerated action.
Solo, starring Dulquer Salman, was a bilingual with a Tamil and a Malayalam version released on the same day. The movie was fine and content was convincing. But, there was a lag in other aspects. The first comment that came up from many movie buffs was the lack of nativity.
“Solo, in most of its long conversations, sounded like an ad film. The tone of every character on screen was so artificial that one does not feel like watching the movie,” said Kamal, a movie buff who had watched Solo in both languages.
On the Malayalam version, Kamal said, “Yes, the Malayalam version was so relatable. And the geography of the plot too suited well with the visuals.”The same Mollywood star had a Tamil-Malayalam bilingual a couple of years back, which was a hit in both languages. It was Vaayai Moodi Pesavum (2014) by Balaji Mohan.
Other than its contemporary narration, the prime reason for the success of this movie was because it did not possess the nativity of both Malayalam and Tamil cultures. Vaayai Moodi Pesavum ’s plot was set in a fictional hill-station a n d so the filmmaker had the freedom of building the geography and culture on his own grounds.
WHAT EXPERTS SAY
The main reason, highlighted for this partial failure, is that the audience could not connect with the plot easily. Considering this, when one looks back, almost all such successful multilingual movies would be made on similar grounds of fiction, mythology, history or fantasy supported by eye-catching visuals, but it never would be something related to nativity.
“The best example was Baahubali. Had Baahubali not been made with such fictional elements and state-of-the-art visuals, it would have found the going tough at the box office,”says Lokesh from Madras Film Screening Club.
FILMMAKERS TRY HARD
Lokesh said the loss of nativity can be felt in a lot of Mani Ratnam movies who, too, is considered a master of multilingual movies. “Until a decade back, when the legendary director was making a lot of independent and single language movies, all his movies were successful. But, once he started making movies like Raavan/ Raavanan , he struggled due to cultural differences. Same was the case with AR Murugadoss, who had to release the Telugu version of 7aam Arivu by showing Bodhi Dharma as a Telugu king.”
SUCCESSFUL MULTILINGUAL VENTURES OF THE RETRO
Apart from the fictional, mythical and fantasy aspects, there is one other aspect that ensures success for any movie, according to aspiring filmmakers is those based on true story or events, said an assistant director. Some of the best examples are Hey Ram (2000), Vanayudham/ Attahaasa (2013) and The Ghazi Attack (2017), he added.
NEED OF THE HOUR
Since Indian subcontinent has a multi-cultural society, writing a content convincing people from two or more regions has been a hurdle for filmmakers for a long time. It is up to the writers and filmmakers to revisit their strategies to make an interesting movie for people from various cultural and language backgrounds.