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Tolly raises red flag against Bolly biggie in Bengali

At a time when Tollywood-Bollywood crossover ventures are gaining ground, the grand plans of a Bolly biggie’s simultaneous release dubbed in Bengali have come up against a “No Entry” sign put by Team Tolly.

Metro decodes the trouble brewing in the ‘woods’.

The film in question?

Gunday, the Yash Raj Films (YRF) movie starring Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor that was shot extensively in Calcutta and different parts of Bengal.

The plan in question?

That the Ali Abbas Zafar film be released in both Hindi and Bengali on Valentine’s Day, making it the first big-budget Hindi film (Rs 35 crore) in recent times to aim for such a simultaneous release.

When was this planned?

The announcement that the film from Bollywood’s biggest studio would be dubbed and released in Bengali was made in November 2013. The decision, said the production house, had been made in the pre-production stage itself since the film has been extensively shot in Calcutta and Raniganj.

Has YRF acted upon this plan?

Bengali posters of the film set in the turbulent Calcutta of the 1970s and ’80s have been released. Bappi Lahiri has crooned a Bengali version of the popular Tune maari entriyaan number (shot extensively in Dakshineswar with the three stars). A Bangla YouTube channel has also been launched.

Why is Team Tollywood upset?

Late on Tuesday, members of the Tollygunge film fraternity — Jeet, Dev, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, June, Payel Sarkar, Haranath Chakraborty, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Srijit Mukherji, Raj Chakraborty, Mahendra Soni, Shrikant Mohta, Ashok Dhanuka, Nispal Singh, Sudeshna Roy and several technicians — got together for two hours at the Bharat Lakshmi Studio to protest the “disaster” that the release of such Hindi films dubbed in Bengali would spell for Tollywood.

“The meeting was called to express our solidarity against the release of Bengali-dubbed films. The regional market has to be protected. Making a bilingual film is acceptable but dubbing a Hindi film dilutes the market for regional Bengali films. Everyone is disturbed and looking for a solution,” explained Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury.

What if Gunday sparks a trend?

That is what Tollywood fears. “Tomorrow, it could be a bigger blow. We are trying to join hands and prevent this so that all of us in our own way can request exhibitors. Legally there is nothing we can do,” said Jeet, who is part of the committee formed with Sudeshna Roy as its convener and around 25 members, including representatives from each guild, to close ranks against such Bengali-dubbed films.

“We will also be approaching chief minister Mamata Banerjee since she has always been very supportive of our industry,” added Jeet.

A letter to the CM was drafted on Wednesday and will be handed over to her on Thursday by a few members of the committee. “We will give her the letter seeking her help,” confirmed Shrikant Mohta of Shree Venkatesh Films. “The industry as a whole is opposing the dubbed release. All of us, technicians and artistes, are on the same page and we have decided to go into non-cooperation mode with any exhibitor or distributor who deviates from the decision.”

What Gunday releasing a Bengali version could mean to Tollywood in the long run was put bluntly by producer Nispal Singh, far better known as Rane. “We’ve worked hard to pull up the industry and if this becomes a trend we will find it hard to compete. What if the films of Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan also start getting dubbed? What will happen to small films and small producers? Our market is still very small and trying to grow. The first to get hit will be the artistes, technicians and small producers because the number of Bengali films will definitely go down.”

Is everyone on the same page?

Some Tollywood exhibitors in the districts, on condition of anonymity, rued the missed opportunity of big Bolly storming the Bengali market. “The Bengali film industry is not being able to give us products that last more than 18 weeks compared to Hindi films that fetch for 52 weeks. Just for the sake of a few local producers how can all the exhibitors shut down? When English films started getting dubbed in Hindi many years ago, everyone had the same fears but it doesn’t happen in the kind of numbers to sabotage a market. At the same time a few exhibitors in the districts can be saved if this catches on,” they said.

Has news of the Tolly protest reached Team Gunday?

Actor-producer Arindam Sil, whose company Nothing Beyond Cinema has line-produced Gunday, said that he had conveyed the grievances of the local industry to Yash Raj Films. “A similar situation arose many years ago when the Hindi film Luv Kush (1997) was to be dubbed and released in Bengali. Releasing Gunday in Bengali could spark off a trend,” said Sil.

Will Team Gunday blink?

Looks unlikely, till now. “Our intention to release Gunday in Bengali does not stem from any financial considerations. If we were doing this for monetary gain, we would have chosen our other tent-pole films like Dhoom: 3 or Ek Tha Tiger and dubbed those as well. Gunday is a story that resonates with the time and ethos of an era, which Bengal went through and is a story that will touch several emotional chords.... We certainly plan to release this in Bengal and we do hope that the people will appreciate the film and understand our motive for doing so,” said Rafiq Gangjee, vice president (marketing and communications), Yash Raj Films.

The aim is for Gunday in Bengali to reach “pockets where the Hindi version does not reach and essentially support the Hindi version”.

What if it ends up choking the local industry, as Tollywood fears? “The release of the Bengali version will only help to grow the local market and not stifle it in any way. YRF has always been at the forefront of respecting talent and giving everyone their due. This effort will certainly help that further in the long run,” said Gangjee.

YRF’s distribution office in Calcutta is currently trying to address this issue locally but “if they advise that someone from here needs to come there, we will be happy to do so”, added Gangjee.

Should Gunday be dubbed and released in Bengali? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com