Actor Shruti Haasan says the arrival of streaming platforms in the country has made South Indian films more marketable to Hindi-speaking audiences, who were previously served mostly dubbed versions of popular content from the region.
The actor said the pan-India theatrical market was mostly reserved for stars like Rajinikanth and his father, Kamal Haasan, with everything else never given proper positioning.
According to Shruti Haasanthe geographical and language barrier was first overcome in a big way with SS Rajamouli’s two-part blockbuster Baahubali, which was followed by digital platforms which offered the public the possibility of watching films in the language of origin.
“Previously they would take all the Telugu and Tamil films, dub them and put them on a particular channel. People would look at him and say, “We love this southern actor.” For some reason there was some trepidation in just putting it in a box and marketing it. It was almost as if these films were sold at a discount.
“People like my father and Mr. Rajini, with their films like Dasavathaaram or Robot, were kept in a separate box, which ‘Oh, they are legends’. But I saw a clear change happening with Baahubali and then with OTT. When streaming services came along and people were allowed to choose the subtitles themselves, they preferred to watch these movies in their original language,” the actor told PTI.
She said the surge in public interest in Southern films was only because he “dictated” it.
The 36-year-old actress recalled filming in Madhya Pradesh once when a fan complimented her after watching her film dubbed Telugu.
“So Hindi audiences have always been interested in Telugu, Tamil or Kannada movies. They always liked it. It’s not a big round table of elite filmmakers who sat down together and said, “Let’s do it.” It was public demand that switched the market. Now it’s like you can go to the store and select whatever you want,” she added.
Rajamouli’s Baahubali, released between 2015 and 2017, is often hailed as the franchise that served as a bridge between North and South for pan-Indian cultural exchange.
Hindi film stars Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn will now be seen in Rajamouli’s RRR, while Telugu star Vijay Deverakonda will make his Bollywood debut with Karan Johar backed Liger.
Shruti Haasan believes the cultural exchange of artists was inevitable and said she witnessed it in her own family, with her mother Sarika and father Kamal Haasan.
“I don’t understand how it took so long. I grew up in a house where my mother was a Hindi film actress, who had moved to be with my father and worked on the technical side of things – as a costume designer on many of my father’s films – talking to his crew in Tamil. On the other hand, my father was shooting one day for a film in Kannada and then a film in Telugu.
“When I was quite young, we had an event for ‘Hindustani’ and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan came. I asked my dad why Mr. Bachchan was here and he said, ‘It’s because we all watch other people’s movies’. I grew up in this (cultural exchange). I grew up between Mumbai and Chennai, moved to a new place, learned a new language (Telugu) to be part of this industry. This is the beauty of our country,” she added.
The actor will next be seen on the big screen in Prabhas-starrer Salaar. The actor, shot simultaneously in Kannada and Telugu languages and dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam, was directed by Prashanth Neel of KGF fame.
Shruti Haasan will also be seen in the upcoming Prime Video series, Bestseller.