Dubbing in demand as Hollywood takes hold in India

Mona Shetty breaks into fits of laughter when she talks about playing Barbie in the Hindi-language version of the Hollywood animation "Toy Story 3".

"I've never played with a Barbie doll in my life but I got to be Barbie," she said with a smile. "I loved it. I got to say, 'I love you Ken'."

Voice artistes like Shetty are in high demand as Hollywood films become more popular with Indian audiences, driven in part by the growth in multiplex cinemas in big cities and tie-ups between US and Indian studios.

Evidence of India's appetite for US blockbusters is everywhere at the dubbing studios that Shetty runs with her mother, Leela Ghosh, in the northern suburbs of India's entertainment capital, Mumbai.

In a soundproof room with computers, editing software and a giant flat-screen television, an actor is preparing his lines for the Hindi-language version of "Shrek Forever After".

Outside, promotional posters for Hollywood films line the walls and a whiteboard in Ghosh's office charts the progress of work on dubbed cinema releases, DVDs, television series and adverts.

"There's enormous possibilities for dubbing," 60-year-old Ghosh, who set up the business in the early 1990s, told AFP. "Once upon a time this industry wasn't very organised but now it is."

With about three billion cinema tickets sold in India every year, compared with 1.5 billion in the United States, dubbing both foreign and domestic films in India is potentially lucrative.

A total of 242 Hindi-language or Bollywood films were released last year with even more made in south India in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada.

The Indian industry as a whole had revenues of 89.3 billion rupees (2.0 billion dollars) in 2009, according to a recent report on the film industry by auditors KPMG.

In comparison, only 60 foreign films were released in India in the same period, making nearly 3.8 billion rupees.

English - the language of India's former colonial masters, the British, which is still the lingua franca of politics, administration and the judiciary - is effectively a minority language among India's masses.

Although there are estimates that about a third or 350 million Indians can hold a conversation in English - the highest in the world - only about five percent or 55 million people speak the language fluently.

Only releasing English-language films therefore limits their reach, said Ghosh.

"Obviously it all boils down to the numbers," added Shetty. "If you have one billion people and you can't reach them then that's a shame."

Dubbing, rather than subtitles, is the preferred option in India, as literacy - currently at about 61 percent of people aged 15 and over - cannot be taken for granted.

Producing a dubbed movie can take as little as one month - a tight turnaround compared with the years it often takes to make the original film.

Costs - anything from 500,000 rupees to 1.5 million rupees - depend on the marketing, number of characters, the language and whether songs also have to be translated, said Shetty.

Foreign films are tailored to suit more conservative Indian sensibilities, particularly in terms of sex and religion, while sometimes the language itself throws up problems.

Shetty described the translation of director James Cameron's "Avatar" as a "nightmare" as the characters speak Na'vi, which was created by a US linguist and inspired by the language of indigenous New Zealanders.

The Indian version worked, though, becoming one of the most popular movies last year.

Ghosh said the appeal of dubbed films comes from Indian audiences being more comfortable with dialogue in their own language.

"It's very satisfying to see a film like 'Godzilla', 'Anaconda', 'Spiderman' or 'James Bond' doing excellent business in Hindi also. That means people are hungry for good stars and good techniques," she said.

Shetty has made a living from the business, lending her voice to some of Hollywood's most bankable stars, including Angelina Jolie in "Tomb Raider" and Drew Barrymore in "Charlie's Angels" - but without the intense media scrutiny.

"You just learn to listen to a voice and train yourself to replicate it in your own language. You have to match their pitch, their tone and voice quality as far as possible without sounding unnatural," the 36-year-old said.

Some voice artistes, who can earn anything from 20,000-50,000 rupees a role, see it as a stepping stone to a more high-profile on-screen career.

"Many people come to Mumbai as aspiring actors. This is what feeds them until they make it," said Shetty. "Some people do it as a part-time job. But they soon realise it's a full-time job."

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas