Avatar: The Way of Water, Kannada dubbed version
There is a huge market for the original English version of Avatar: The Way of Water in Bengaluru, said a senior executive at Disney India

Avatar 2: What explains meagre number of shows for Kannada version?

Pro- and anti-dubbing activists in Karnataka have engaged in a 6-decade war; so, the state doesn’t have the thriving dubbed-films market that its southern peers do

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It has never happened in the history of world cinema that the audience had to wait patiently for 13 years to watch the sequel of a film. Filmmaker James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is all set to hit the screens worldwide on December 16 in more than 160 languages. 

Last month, netizens were up in arms with 20th Century Studios, the movie’s production house, because it had failed to release a Kannada dubbed version of the trailer after releasing Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi dubbed versions. After the sensational success of Kannada film Kantara nationwide, netizens are clamouring to watch the Kannada dubbed version of Avatar 2.

Also read: Why Kannada social media is baying for a ban on Rashmika Mandanna films

Pro-Kannada activists and Kannadigas on social media vigorously demanded a trailer in Kannada. #Avatar2inKannada started trending. Soon, the production house actually took notice and released a Kannada trailer and even tweeted in the language.

Producer Jon Landau said: “Namaste India! I see you. Your diversity continues to amaze me. I am so excited for you to experience #AvatrTheWayofWater in six languages – English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. Let’s celebrate the return to Pandora on Dec 16. Please enjoy the Kannada trailer.”

Kannadigas were thrilled that they had won the battle against the filmmakers for ‘neglecting’ their language, and hailed the production house. 

But, another issue appears to have just cropped up. As on December 10, just a week ahead of the release of the Hollywood biggie, the 3D Kannada version of Avatar 2 appears to be releasing just in one theatre and has just one show in Bengaluru, as per BookMyShow.

Also read: ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ review: Heartfelt ode to a Marvel hero

While the Hindi 3D version is releasing in four theatres with seven shows, the Tamil version will be available in two theatres with six shows and the Telugu version in six theatres with 10 shows.

Kannada film industry blamed 

The Federal spoke to Arun Javagal, the state organising secretary of Kannada Grahakara Koota (KGK), a consumer forum, which had fought tooth and nail in favour of dubbing in Karnataka. Javagal blamed sections of the Karnataka film industry for the pathetic condition of Kannada dubbed films in the state.

“Distributors and exhibitors deliberately avoid playing the Kannada dubbed versions. They paint a picture that these films do not not work in the state. They don’t even release Kannada films in certain regions of Hyderabad and Mumbai where there is a decent Kannada population,” he said.

On Tamil, Telugu and Hindi dubbed versions of Avatar 2 releasing in more theatres in Bengaluru, Javagal said: “The distributors play this game. They want people to watch films in their respective languages and hence avoid dubbing and releasing non-Kannada films here. Meanwhile, they release the dubbed versions of English films in Tamil, Hindi and Telugu so that it doesn’t burn their pockets. They play such games to prevent the Kannada audience from being exposed to other language content.”

A six-decade-old problem

The battle between pro-dubbing and anti-dubbing activists in Karnataka is almost six decades old, with both sides claiming they are fighting for the rights of Kannadigas.

Also read: 2022: The year the tide turned in favour of Kannada film industry

Kannada Okkoota, which had the support of a lot of organisations, including the Kannada film and TV serial actors and technicians, opposed dubbing fearing the loss of business to the native film industry. After a blanket ban on dubbed films in Karnataka, however, the opposing group KGK filed a case against the dubbing ban with the Competition Commission of India (CCI), New Delhi, in 2012. 

After a detailed enquiry, the CCI gave its verdict in favour of KGK and imposed a total penalty of ₹20 lakh on three organisations for indulging in anti-competitive practices.

High demand for Avatar 2 

Per reports, several distributors in Karnataka and Andhra were willing to pay exorbitant amounts even to the tune of ₹150-200 crore to release Avatar 2, a mega-budget, much-anticipated Hollywood film.

The Federal has learnt that Disney India is releasing the film on its own across India, but for small pockets in Punjab and surrounding areas. Replying to a question on the reason for the fewer shows for the Kannada version of the film in theatres, Uday Arya, senior executive at Disney India in Bengaluru, told The Federal that the company will add a few more screens and shows closer to the date of release.

“We are negotiating with single screens and multiplexes. By Friday (December 16), the Kannada dubbed version will have at least 50 screens,” he said. However, he added that if there is no demand for the Kannada dubbed version, it will end up reducing the number of screens within a day or two.

Also read: Not just ‘Kantara’, Odia film ‘Daman’ is making waves nationwide. Meet the directors

Asked why the film was being shown in other dubbed languages in Bengaluru, he candidly replied: “There is a demand for the dubbed versions in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu languages first and then Kannada in Bengaluru.” Bengaluru also has a huge market for the original English version, he added.

According to Arya, Avatar 2 is releasing in nearly 170 screens in Karnataka and the company hopes to have 700 shows every single day in the state alone.

The demand for the original English version is high in all the five states of South India no doubt. However, as per BookMyShow, the demand for the dubbed versions in Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam in their respective states is far more than in Karnataka. While Kannada pride may be high on social media, this feeling is not carried forward and converted into hard numbers in theatres, it seems.

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