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Dubbed films now turn straight films

This weekend is witnessing the release of six Tamil films but one of them is actually a dubbed film that has been passed off — and certified — as a straight Tamil film. The film Rasagulla is actually a Kannada movie (Nirdoshi) that has been dubbed into Tamil but censored in Karnataka as a straight Tamil film! Meanwhile, next week will see the release of the Anushka-Bhoomika-starrer Thulli Ezhunthathu Kadhal, a dubbed version of the 2010 Telugu film Thakita Thakita, which has managed to get certified as a straight Tamil film by going for partial re-shoots.

Says film chronicler Film News Anandan, “In the early days, scenes used to be shot twice and actors who did not know the language will mouth the Tamil dialogues which will later be dubbed by a dubbing artist. However, over the years, producers started to go for shortcuts by re-shooting some scenes with Tamil actors (this happened mostly with comedy tracks) and retaining the other shots as such and claiming their film as bilinguals. When they say that their film is a straight film when applying to the censor board, the board has no option but to certify it as a Tamil film.”

To be censored as a straight Tamil film, a producer has to get clearance certificates from either of the three trade bodies (producers’ council, film chamber or producers’ guild), the lab in which the negative was developed, and the outdoor shooting units used for the shoot. However, industry insiders say that most producers manage to use their influence and get the clearance certificates from these places even if their film is a dubbed one.

So, what makes producers to resort to such tactics? If a film is certified as a dubbed one, it means lesser number of screens, a lesser amount for satellite rights and compulsory entertainment tax. The fact that there aren’t any rules restricting such practices has only emboldened producers to take this route.

Such a practice is seen often mostly in the Tamil and Telugu film industries because of the cultural similarity between the two states.

V Packirisamy, the regional censor board head, too feels the trade bodies should take the responsibility of ensuring that such misdemeanors don’t occur. “However, they say that they are obliged to provide the clearance certificate solely based on the producer’s claim as they don’t see the film,” he quips.

He says that it is increasingly becoming difficult to identify dubbed films as filmmakers are now able to change the name boards and other region-specific properties in the frame using visual effects. “We are not against dubbed films but only against those that claim to be straight films while being otherwise. But why should the taxpayer bear the brunt for the producer’s misinformation?” he asks.

While the censor board can’t take punitive action, Packirisamy says he has been taking a strict stance personally. “Recently, we had certified Vinayaka as a straight Tamil film but then received a complaint saying that it was a Telugu film which the makers had passed off as a Tamil film by adding a comedy track featuring Santhanam. When the producer approached us later to get the film certified as ‘U’ for the home video (the theatrical release was rated U/A), we flatly refused and even sent a legal notice though we never got a reply from them,” he reveals. Anandan says that such misinformation is actually a crime and producers can even be arrested if the public lodge a complaint with the police.

Dubbed films – Lesser number of screens, lesser satellite rights, entertainment tax

Straight films – Clearance certificates issued by producers’ council, film chamber or producers’ guild

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