Spider-Man: Homecoming, which releases in India this week, has Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff dubbing for lead star Tom Holland in the Hindi version.
The second reboot of the franchise that will also be released in Tamil and Telugu, besides its English original, is not the only recent Hollywood outing to get a Bollywood name on board to lend a Hindi voice to the protagonist.
Last month, Arshad Warsi dubbed for protagonist Jack Sparrow in the Hindi version of the fantasy film Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge.
And Varun Dhawan dubbed for Marvel’s superhero movie Captain America: Civil War last year. Disney’s blockbuster fantasy adventure The Jungle Book had a host of renowned names as dubbing artistes including Nana Patekar, Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan.
A trend that began as early as 2004, with Shah Rukh Khan lending his voice to the animation action-adventure The Incredibles, has picked up pace only now with popular Bollywood stars taking on a job that professional dubbing artistes have performed for long.
A lot of it, industry experts say, has to do with the inroads Hollywood has made into India over the years and the fact that the country is seen as a significant market now for the American movie industry.
According to the Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2017 prepared by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and KPMG, in 2016, gross collections of Hollywood movies grew around 10% over 2015 in India. The box office collection of the top 10 Hollywood movies in India grew from Rs650 crore in 2015 to Rs710 crore in 2016, according to the report. “The fact is that India is becoming a bigger market for a lot of the Hollywood production houses. The two genres of films that typically do well from Hollywood are action films and children’s movies,” said Anand Chakravarthy, managing partner at Maxus India, a GroupM India firm.
While companies like Disney and Pixar have for long been dubbing their films into local Indian languages and have found success, they still face hurdles, he said.
“One of the challenges for Hollywood films in India is the amount they can spend in terms of marketing. India is a very large country in terms of size and distribution so even if you dub your film into three languages, say Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, you still have to market the film in those areas, and although you have returns in India, you do not have a very large marketing budget,” Chakravarthy said.
A big-ticket Bollywood film, for instance, one with a budget of Rs80-100 crore, may spend nearly one-third of that on marketing. For a Hollywood film, the marketing budget will not be more than Rs4-5 crore, Chakravarthy said. In such a scenario, getting a Bollywood celebrity is a great way to promote the film.
“If you sign up a celebrity, you get a lot of PR—both free as well as paid for,” Chakravarthy said. The most common form of this would be articles in mainstream as well as regional newspapers, benefiting the production house.
To be sure,a star’s presence helps in other ways. For one, if the actor is a fan of the franchise and familiar with the character’s mannerisms, it helps his ability to modulate his voice. Plus, his fan base helps in tapping the market.
“When we partner with a talent like that (a Bollywood star), it helps us widen the reach of the film and makes us accessible to the fans of the actor and to people in B- and C-cities because they are a face there,” said Vivek Krishnani, MD, Sony Pictures Entertainment India that is releasing Spider-Man: Homecoming.