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How languaging delivered big for Disney India’s ‘The Jungle Book’

MUMBAI: ‘The Jungle Book’ has become the highest-grossing Hollywood movie in India, quickly crossing the Rs 1-billion milestone and comfortably passing ‘Furious 7’. A big reason for this was the focus on local languages.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, Disney India VP of studios Amrita Pandey noted that in just two weeks ‘The Jungle Book’ has not only become the top Hollywood grosser ever in India but also the highest-grossing movie of the year across Hindi and English. It is still running to packed houses and the numbers are only going to grow and create new all-time highs!

In terms of the box-office split between the various languages, the dubbed language contribution for a Hollywood film is in the range of 30–40%. “In the case of ‘The Jungle Book’, however, it has been around 56% and is growing with each passing day,” Pandey explained.

Importance of famous actors in dubbing

Shedding light on the language voice casting and the choices made, Pandey said that the company made a wish list of actors who were wanted for each of the lead characters.

“We were fortunate that all of our wish-list actors came through! These were five A-list actors to bring to life Kipling’s immortal characters for the Hindi version. Priyanka Chopra was the seductive Kaa, Irrfan Khan was the friendly Baloo, Om Puri was panther Bagheera, Shefali Shah was wolf Raksha and Nana Patekar reprised the ferocious Sher Khan. Back in the ’90s, Patekar had lent his voice for the animated series on Doordarshan. For Tamil and Telugu versions too, we had great voice artists.”

A lot of thought went into the treatment of ‘The Jungle Book’. “After we watched the original English-language movie, we knew we had a very special movie and one with a strong potential resonance in India. We wanted to build on the legacy of this timeless story and take it to the next level. Our belief in our collective team gut and conviction about movies is only stronger now. We wanted to aim high and we wanted ‘The Jungle Book’ to be the biggest Hollywood movie. We can say this now! Though some of us were a bit apprehensive about doing a reversion of the iconic song, the song with Vishalji and Gulzaarsaab was a major highlight of the campaign. I am happy we followed through,” Pandey said at length.

the-jungle-book-2016

Marketing plays a big role for each film and the process changes depending on the appeal of the film. “Every time we have a Hollywood film that deserves to be mounted as big as a Hindi film blockbuster, we go all out with the appropriate marketing strategy. With ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Avengers’ and ‘Ironman’ series, we have witnessed huge and record-breaking collections. We definitely want to set benchmarks and create unique engagement for our audience; however, strategy for each film differs. In a few weeks we are releasing ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and you will see different strategy for the same,” she stated.

Ambitious marketing

Many Indians have grown up on the adventure stories of Kipling’s great book, so the nostalgia element and India connect became the USP of the film for the local audience.

The company focused on a few important objectives in the marketing campaign:

1. That the film travelled across languages
2. That it was a two-time watch, in Hindi and in English
3. That the audience of the movie was diverse cutting across age groups.

What made the difference ultimately was treating ‘The Jungle Book’ not as just another Hollywood movie but by treating it as a big-ticket mainstream Hindi movie that would work for anyone and everyone.

“While ‘The Jungle Book’ had an intrinsic India connection that we fully amped up, the love for the film from critics and audiences alike is proof that our innovative efforts to take the legacy of the adventure tale to the next level worked. We believed it had the potential to appeal to a wide audience and the promotional campaign was designed keeping exactly that in mind. We worked with our Hindi dialogue writer Mayur Puri to make each character’s dialogues relevant by adding local nuances and cultural references.

“We roped in some of the country’s most celebrated actors such as Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan, Om Puri, Shefali Shah and Nana Patekar to lend their voices to Kipling’s immortal characters. That was followed by the reprisal of the 23-year-old song ‘Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai’ by Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzaarsaab and, finally, the visit of Neel Sethi (Mowgli in the movie) to India—something that was very important for us as a studio. The dubbed versions have contributed a staggering 56%, growing with each passing day, to the box office of the movie in India,” Pandey said.

The future

Pandey noted that the slate of Hollywood releases continues to be exciting. ‘The Jungle Book’ craze is yet to settle and Disney India has already begun campaigning for Marvel’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’. The previous Avengers films, ‘The Avengers’ (2012) and ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (2015) did spectacular business at the box office. Given the anticipation and general excitement among audiences, the company has planned unique strategies for this one too. Youth icon Varun Dhawan  will lend his voice to Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in the Hindi version of Marvel’s epic summer blockbuster. After ‘Civil War’, we have Disney Pixar’s ‘Finding Dory’ in June and many more exciting movies through the year,” she concluded.

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