The spread of prosperity to the small towns of northern India has created a flourishing industry, primarily in Mumbai, of artists & entrepreneurs who take south Indian movies, dub them into Hindi and then release them in northern India. So, who is the entrepreneur who spotted this opportunity and built a successful business around it? “In 2007, Manish Shah, a Mumbai-born television soap producer, reached out to Sony with the idea of airing a Telugu film dubbed into Hindi. Though skeptical, the network agreed. Mass, starring Nagarjuna, became Meri Jung: One Man Army in Hindi, which was telecast on Sony MAX. It garnered TRPs of over 1, which was significant at the time.

Since then, Shah’s production house, Goldmines Telefilms, located in Malad, has been acquiring the rights to old South Indian films (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam), dubbing  them into Hindi, and selling them to broadcast networks or uploading them on its YouTube channels…”

Manish Shah has not only spotted the crossover opportunity but he has also figured out which south Indian films will do well in the north AND which dubbing artists to use: “Goldmines has maintained a steady supply of dubbed southern language blockbusters to satellite channels for over a decade. With the success of Pushpa: The Rise, Goldmines even made a foray into theatres. It bought the rights of the dubbed Hindi version of Allu Arjun’s mega-blockbuster for Rs 30 crore and roped in Shreyas Talpade. The film shattered box office records. Later, the streaming rights were sold to Amazon Prime Video.

A walk into Shah’s office provides a glimpse into his love for South Indian cinema. The reception area features a dozen TV screens playing Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, and Hindi films on mute. Goldmines now has its own channel where dubbed films are streamed non-stop. The office includes a corridor adorned with posters of famous South Indian films, labelled as ‘Manish Shah’s Sarrainodu’ or ‘Manish Shah’s Pushpa’. On the other end of the hall is a makeshift theatre room where the films are screened for Shah to evaluate and deliberate upon. He watches all South language films but prefers Telugu.

“Whether in Mumbai, Chennai, or on the flight, I ensure that I watch one film every day,” says Shah, who returned from the sultry hot Chennai to rainy Mumbai that morning.”

Whilst The Print article does not specify the size of the market opportunity, the sums of money changing hands and the number of people watching dubbed movies in north India points to a multi-billion dollar market. Leading dubbing artist Sanket Mhatre has been a beneficiary of the revolution catalysed by Manish Shah:

““Especially in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, Hindi dubs of South Indian films are being consumed like hotcakes. Goldmines cracked that code. They packaged a South Indian film as per the taste of North Indians — no songs, altered the cultural nuances, and edited the length,” says Mhatre….

With over 6,000 videos, his YouTube channel, Goldmines, boasts 87 million subscribers and more than 24 billion views, catering to a young, mobile-savvy audience in small towns. A new movie is uploaded every Saturday. In 2020, Shah launched a TV channel named Dhinchaak, later renamed Goldmines Movies. After Hindi, he is dubbing South films into Bengali and Bhojpuri, and streaming old Gujarati and Marathi films on YouTube….

“The target audience for dubbed films is not you or me, who can keep up with subtitles. It is the people in tier 2 and tier 3 cities,” says Toshi Sinha, acknowledging that the boom in Hindi-dubbed South films has been a decade-old phenomenon.

With platforms like Goldmines packaging films to suit the average audience’s taste, consumption of dubbed films picked momentum.”

Interestingly, whilst dubbed south Indian films are doing roaring business in the north, the reverse is not true – barring the odd Bollywood blockbuster like Pathaaan, there are no takers for dubbed Hindi movies in south India. Whilst it is not easy to figure out why the crossover film market is a one-way street, the writing is on the wall for Bollywood.

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