Kollywood produces over 100 movies every year. In 2008 it produced 117 movies. In 2009 it produced 130 movies. In 2010 it has touched 40 movies in the first 4 months. They are all movies written and produced in Tamil. But a good number movies that were dubbed from other languages were also released an addition to those originals.
Dubbing movies in Tamil from other languages started as early as when Tamil films started talking and the play back system was introduced. If the known film dubbed in Tamil was first talkie in Tamil was 'Harishchandra,' released in 1944. It was successfully dubbed from a 1943 Kannada film 'Satya Harishchandra'. This first major watershed moment was initiated by AV Meiyappa Chettiar of AVM Production.
After that dubbed movies became a genre and grew along with direct productions. Now dubbing movies is a separate industry by itself. It may be surprising to not that in the early years of the new millennium dibbed films out numbered direct Tamil films. In Tamil dubbed movies always remained fantasies and action thriller genre.
If the first dubbed movie was from Kannada later all the languages had its share in Tamil market. In the 60s a lot of mega Hindi movies were dubbed in Tamil. The Hindi classics 'Mughal-e-Azam' (1960) was dubbed as 'Akbar' in Tamil mainly for the melodious songs. The Tamil version of "Mohabbat Ki Jhooti Kahani Pe Roye" from 'Mughal-e-Azam' sung by P. Suseela as "Kanavu Kanda Kadhal Kathai Kanneer Aache" in 'Akbar' is a smash hit even today. Many Dilip Kumar movies like 'Aan' as 'Avan', 'Uran Khatol'a as 'Vana Ratham', 'Naya Daur' (1957) as 'Paataliyin Sabatham' were a few Hindi films dubbed in Tamil those days mostly for the songs. The same 'Mughal-e-Azam' was dubbed in Tamil again in 2009 as 'Anarkali' after it was digitally colored. But sadly we haven't heard of the new version. Interestingly even the Dilip Kumar starrers 'Aan' and 'Naya Daur' were coloured later but there are no takers in Tamil.
But as pop culture grew the other south Indian languages took the major pie in the dubbing market. Here too Telugu films were the majority. If the 60s were for songs in the 70s adventure films like Cowboy Kullan, Bullet Rani, Revolver Rita, Judo Sundari, Jackpot Jango, Lady Fighter Rekha, Nepalathil CID 999, Thudikkum Thupaaki, Toofan Mail, Chaattai Rani, Thupaaki Rangan and fantasy films like Mayakkum Mohini, Naga Sakthi, Jagan Mohini, Bootham Enathu Nanban, Maya Mothiram were the preferred genres.
Films like Revolver Rita, Bambai Mail and Jagan Mohini are ever popular names in Tamil cinema phrasing even today.
However it was only from the eighties onwards dubbing films in Tamil became an industry by itself. There were a lot of Tamil films going to Telugu and even more coming into Tamil. The popularity of stars like Krishna, Chiranjeevi, Mohan Babu, Banu Chander, Suman and likes in Tamil Nadu is only because of the rampant dubbed movies seen.
Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga, Soolakarupan, Simlavil CID, Thupariyum Singam are some easily remembered films o the day. All most all the films dubbed from Tamil had one or more heroines who are equally popular with Tamil audience also. Sridevi, Radha, Bhanu Priya, Suhasini, Madhavi, Radhika ruled through the dubbing films also.
If 80s dubbed world was ruled by Chiru generation the 90s were ruled the second generation actors like Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, Balakrishna likes. But the pattern is the same. Heroines who are equally popular in Tamil were roped in to make things easier. Meena, Roja, Soundarya, Nagma added that extra zing.
But in spite of swamping the Tamil audience with mostly irrelevant films one cannot deny that there are movies dubbed from other languages which scored better at the box office and more became a classic to have a place among the originals.
And there are quite a few dubbed films worth saying 'ithuthanda padam'...
Click here to read - Originally Dubbed in Tamil - II
Click here to read - Originally Dubbed in Tamil - III