Ban on dubbing: KFI then and now- some questions unanswered

During 1950s and 1960s, most of the Kannada directors were dependent on Madras ( now Chennai)  studios to shoot their films, as Karnataka did not have proper studios. During this period, the allocated time for shooting scenes for Kannada movies was during night. This created a problem for Kannada Film directors.

The producers for Kannada flicks hailed from other states during 1950s. It became difficult to transport all the technicians to Madras. The directors and producers, thence, eased their way out by not shooting movies in Madras studios. They instead dubbed their way out of this problem. That is, they found out that it was cost effective for them to dub other language films into Kannada and release them, instead of shooting a film in Madras, as shooting a whole movie would cost them an arm and a leg.

Due to the dubbing culture, only a minuscule of original Kannada movies was released. As a result, the talents in the Kannada film industry started losing their jobs. Telugu, Tamil and Hindi dubbed movies started dominating the Kannada Film Industry. The filmmakers of Telugu and Tamil movies could now easily dub their movies into Kannada. By 1960s, only a handful of original Kannada flicks were released. This pushed the Kannada cinema into existential crisis.

At this juncture, Dr. Rajkumar,(matinee idol of Kannada film)  G.V. Iyer, Balakrishna and Narasimha Raju, the stalwarts of Kannada film industry joined hands together to stop the dubbing culture. They considered it as their onus to revitalise the Kannada Film Industry. They formed a co-operative and produced a movie called Ranadheera Kanteerava. The film was themed around the Wodeyar King named Ranadheera Kanteerava. He was the first independent ruler of the Mysore Kingdom. The film had to go through lot of difficulties before its release.

In order to counter the unabated dominance of dubbed films, many writers and activists like A.N.Krishna Rao, (a well known novelist popularly known as M.A.Ramamurthy(kannada activistt) and Vatal Nagaraj( well known Kannada activist and politician)  aligned themselves with the veteran actors and started a primacy movement against dubbing of other language films. Thus, the ban on dubbed contents from other languages was imposed.

The ban was not only imposed on big screen but was extended to silver screen as well. The ban thus without any legal sanctity was passed. Now it has become a social custom and a gentlemen’s agreement that no one dares questioning it.

After a pragmatic analysis on the history on dubbing, here are some questions to ponder about –

  • Is the blanket ban on dubbing necessary in the contemporary world?
  • Even when the Supreme Court and International Institutions favour dubbing content, is it necessary for people to accept the ban, that doesn’t have any legal sanctity ?
  • The film industry over the years has expanded and has the capability to produce more than 50 movies a year,will it be a loss to film industry if they ban dubbed content? Or will it be profit to them?
  • Is it wrong for a person to avail his/her favorite content in his mother tongue?
  • Will allowing dubbing increase the utility of the Kannada language and increase its proficiency?
  • Exercising ones choice on entertainment in his/her own language is necessary, but when there is ban on dubbed content, will it curb his/her right ?

– N.M Varchaswini

Pursuing her masters on Public Policies, an aspiring civil servant, who has interests on sketching music and Photography

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