I do not wish to get into the argument of the qualitative aspects of Telugu v/s Tamil films. I think both the industries have produced some fine films in the recent years. I would say, creatively Telugu is going through a slump right now. Most of the recent hits are more pot boilers & masala films. That said, there are a lot of movies made in AP, that are worthy of a TN audience. And I know many average movie goers (atleast in Chennai) who watch Telugu movies on DVDs with subtitles. All of them have seen Happy Days, Magadheera, Bommarillu and Arya on DVDs.

I wish to address the myth many people in AP have that Tamil audience is not welcoming of ‘outsiders’. This is untrue. Two of the biggest stars of Tamil Cinema are ‘outsiders’. Former CM MGR was a Malayalee born in Sri Lanka, Superstar Rajinikanth is a Maharashtrian born in Karnataka. Yes, it is a little harder to win the audiences in Tamil Nadu. But, various other factors have acted against Telugu movies, which I stated below. This should convince our trade people that dubbing films are not a ‘threat’ to our local boxoffice per se. Instead of trying to ban them, we should contain them – or even better try to take our movies to TN. Though harder, instead of trying to restrict the growth of non-Telugu films, I feel its better we try to expand our market beyond our state. We might not be able to compete with Hollywood, or probably Bollywood in budgets & reach, but Tamil cinema is a ‘competitor’ who we’re equipped enough to match.

1) Remake rights sold instead of dubbing : Over the years, most of Telugu super hits like Bommarillu, Varsham, Arya, Thammudu, Amma Nanna O Tamil Ammayi, Kick, Ready, Pokiri, Okkadu have only been remade in Tamil, where as the biggest of Tamil hits got dubbed into Telugu – Anniyan as Aparichitudu, Sivaji, Endhiran as Robot, Dasavatharam, Boys, Singam as Yamudu, Ghajini, Paiyya as Awara and others.

It was either the case that our Producers dint bother venturing out of the state. Since we never cultivated a ‘dubbing market’, the remake rights of a Telugu films would fetch better money and lesser effort instead of dubbing it. If not the Producers, our stars atleast should have taken the initiative to have their films dubbed & released in TN. But, I don’t know the reasons why – but most dint bother. They were busy focussing on expanding their markets in AP itself.

A lot of Tamil actors have literally made their careers out of Telugu remakes. A huge lost opportunity for Telugu stars, as the movie got remade and not dubbed.

2) Shortage of theatres – biggest factor : The single largest problem faced even by Tamil films in Tamil Nadu is a huge shortage of theatres. Despite having a population of over 6 crores and a movie-crazed population, the state has only about 925 theatres of which only 700 are active theatre which screen first-release films. Even big-budget Tamil films need to fight out every Friday to get the best screens. Forget Telugu dubs, most small-budget Tamil films itself aren’t able to secure screens for their release.

With no Telugu star having a built-in market in Tamil, big Producers & distributors who have the might to secure screens dont usually show interest in dubbing a film. Arundathi was released by Ramanarayan, a leading distributor and gave the film a superb campaign and theatres, which resulted in the movie grossing over Rs 10 crores from TN. There have been rare instances in the past when Nagarjuna’s Geetanjali, Shiva, Vijayashanti’s Vyjayanthi IPS & Ammoru despite being dubbed films, achieved mainstream success in Tamil Nadu.

Andhra Pradesh on the other hand has 1600 screens, of which nearly 1400 are active first release theatres. A big tamil movie usually releases in in 250-300 theatres, a number which mid-budget Telugu films achieve. A big film releases in 20 screens in Chennai, where a big film releases in 50-60 theatres in Hyderabad. With so many theatres, there is a dire need for ‘content’. Unlike TN where there is an excess supply over demand, there is a supply shortage in AP. We have huge 800-1000 seater theatres, which are starved of good films. This makes it easier for a dubbed film, be it Hollywood, Hindi or Tamil to secure good screens for itself.

And considering the dismal success rate of our industry in the last 3-4 years, exhibitors are more than happy to screen a good film which can fill seats regardless of Hollywood, Hindi or Tamil dubbed.

3) High publicity cost : The cost incurred to publicize a big-budget Telugu film is about Rs 75 lakh and can be stretched to about a crore, if the film is a superhit and has a long run in the boxoffice. Where as a Tamil requires Rs 2 crore and upto Rs 2.5 to do an elaborate marketing campaign in TN. Even small budget Tamil films have to shell out such big monies to publicize their film.

One of the reasons for such high costs is – in Telugu, Producer’s Council restricts the number of ads a Producer can put on TV & print. In return it also subsidizes the cost of trailer. It costs Rs 3000 (on the higher side) for a 30 second TV spot in a Telugu channel for a Telugu film, where as the rates for TVCs in Tamil channels go upto Rs 20,000 for a 10 second spot, making it very expensive for Producers to buy TV spots. Unlike in Telugu, Producers do spend a lot on magazines, radio and outdoor since each of those mediums have a huge reach.

Putting it in perspective, a dubbed Tamil film just needs to spend Rs 40-50 lakh to a do a good marketing campaign in AP, where a Telugu dubbed film has to shed nearly Rs 1.5 crore to do the same in TN. This is another barrier to entry. As it is Telugu films are yet to have a market in Tamil & having to spend such huge amounts only on publicity further deters Producers from trying to release Telugu films in TN.

4) Negative perception of ‘dubbed films’ : Another minor but important factor is the negative perception towards Telugu dubbed films amongst the mass movie going audiences. Since, most good Telugu films are remade – the audience dont get a taste of our Telugu fare. They watch the remakes & the credit for the film goes to the director and actor who remade. Fair enough.

The average and below-average Telugu films, which are not remade usually get bought by small time distributors, who do a bad dubbing job & release it in 20-30 B-grade screens across the state. So, over the years for the mass audience in TN, Telugu films are associated with B-grade fare. Hence, when the audience see those shoddy posters with non-familiar faces, they presume its low-quality fare.

Luckily this is changing slowly as some of the films that got dubbed, performed very well on satellite fetching good TRPs. Athadu (dubbed as Nanda) is one such example. This perception can only be corrected with time.

5) 15 years of in-roads : Tamil films being dubbed in Telugu is nearly a 25 year old practice, and this trend picked over the last 15 years. A lot of Kamal Haasan, Shankar & Rajinikanth’s films have been dubbed and released in AP along the years, familiarizing the audience with the star. These 2 stars & Shankar do enjoy strong brand equity amongst the Telugu audience. These were followed up by Suriya, Vikram and Karthi who took interest in creating a market for themselves in AP.

No Telugu star was willing to act in the Ghajini remake when we had the rights, hence we dubbed the film & released it in AP. The film went onto be a superhit and created the market for Suriya, which he later capitalized upon. Likewise, Vikram built a market here after it opened up with Aparichitudu (Anniyan) and Karthi with Yuganiki Okkadu (Aayirathil Oruvan). These stars have done films, that are worthy being dubbed & took interest in creating a market for themselves in Telugu. This is also the reason why despite being big stars in TN – Vijay, Ajith & Silambarasan do not have a market in Andhra Pradesh. They never built it. Bottomline, Tamil cinema has a 15 year head start trying to take its movies beyond its home state. And Telugu cinema seriously is yet to start.

Damage Reversal : On the other hand, Telugu films & actors only had sporadic success in Tamil Nadu, were not able to build a market in TN. Its only now that a lot of stars are realizing the huge opportunity that awaits them if they venture beyond their comfort zone & try to create a market for themselves in TN. I know for a fact, many of today’s young stars are looking at how take their movies to the Tamil audience.

The size of the domestic boxoffice of Telugu and Tamil films are the same. With twice as many theatres as TN & bigger population – Andhra Pradesh is slightly a bigger market from what the trade say, though there was never a formal study conducted to prove this. Still, an A-list Telugu star’s market is limited to Rs 35-40 crore, because they’re restricted to only AP & Karnataka, where are the market of Tamil stars expand upto Rs 50 crores as they have this huge market in AP, add Kerala & Karnataka to that. Pay back time, isn’t it?

Entertainment Tax myth : Recently a leading newspaper & some websites reported that Telugu films pay a 50% entertainment tax. Its untrue, they pay anywhere between 15-20% almost as much what Telugu films pay in AP.

Overseas market : Tamil cinema enjoys a bigger overseas market as the Tamil diaspora is huge, especially the long settled ethnic Tamils in Malaysia & Singapore, Sri Lankan Tamils in Canada & Europe. Tamil and Telugu movies have similar sized markets in Gulf, US and Australia. But overseas is still a small territory in the whole scenario & is not a game changer.

Advantage Karnataka : With the exception of Rajinikanth’s films – the market for Telugu films in Karnataka is much bigger than that for Tamil films. An A-list Telugu actor’s film collects 150% of that an A-list Tamil actor’s film in the Sandalwood state. This is of the historical, linguistic & cultural similarity both the states have. So the edge Tamil films have because of a larger overseas market gets nullified in Karnataka.

Kerala rising : Tamil films are released directly & not dubbed in Kerala. Despite the language barrier, most Tamil stars enjoy a large following and market. But Telugu films have started catching up off late. I don’t wish to brag, but Allu Arjun is the biggest cross over success in Kerala. His films enjoy a good market in Kerala & is expanding. Films of other stars too have started doing well. Dheera (Magadheera dubbed) was a superb success in the state, despite the late release. With time, I feel Telugu films can close the gap when it comes to the Kerala market.

Tamil actors do have some factors acting in their favour, which makes it easier for them to break into Telugu. Rather than cribbing over it, its better we accept the fact and work on strategies to tap into the Tamil Nadu instead. Our younger actors are definitely a talented lot – as talented as their counterparts in Tamil. With a little persistence, some strategizing and some luck, I am sure we can take our movies to the Tamil audience & expand the market for a Telugu film.





  1. This piece is Fantastic and a Neutral unbiased research . My Wishes to you .

  2. I am tamilan,
    but a great research
    True points
    Proud to be KOllywood fan

  3. nice research and true fact.but its too late to move forward, when the audience are the king makers.when tn govt has 50% tax , the same must be followed in AP. It is pathetic to watch even a flopped tamil movie dubbed in TELUGU.also nearly 50% of the movies telecasted in TV channels are dubbed movies. Dubbed movies are released in a great scale like a big hero movie.


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