There have been a few dubbed movies which looked and sounded just like direct Tamil film and even fared better at the box office. Some succeeded as they had stars and other created stars out of the success.
Edida Nageshwara Rao produced a Telugu film in 1983 which had Bharathanatyam as its soul. It was directed by K. Vishwanath and had Kamal Haasan and Jayaprada in the lead. The Telugu version was a success and when dubbed in Tamil dubbed version it was a bigger success. 'Sagara Sangamam' in Telugu and 'Salangai Oli' in Tamil is one of the best films in Tamil.
In 1989 a new kid who with his technical expertise and story-telling skills took the Telugu industry by storm with his very first film as a director. The film was a trend setter in dealing student politics and campus violence. It starred Nagarjuna, Amala, Raghuvaran and others. Music was by Illayaraja. The movie shot up the career of all to galactic levels. The movie was 'Shiva' in Telugu and 'Udhyam' in Tamil.
Ramoji Rao produced 'Mayuri' in 1985 based on dancer Sudha Chandran's real life story. It was about a dancer who loses one of her legs in an accident. Bet she is determined more than ever and fights back in life and reach her goal with an artificial limb. The film is one of the most successful films in Tamil.
'Geethanjali' is a 1989 Telugu film directed by Mani Ratnam. Many distributors back out to release the film because the lead pair dies at the end. But the confident producer released the film all by himself and met with both commercial success and critical acclaim. It was later dubbed in film as 'Idhayathai Thirudathey'. It became a bigger success than in Telugu and the rest is history.
A M Ratnam is a prestigious producer today. He in 1990 produced a female super cop film inspired by life Kiran Bedi who was a role model to many when she was the commissioner in New Delhi. 'Kartavyam' was the film and Vijayashanti played the cop. The tough lady broke all previous records. When dubbed in Tamil as 'Vijayanthi IPS' the film was not only a super hit but demanded a new respect for dubbed films.
'Ankusam' was a Dr. Rajashekar film released in 1989. The story revolves around a tough, moralistic cop who takes on politicians as no cop did before. The new daring cop impressed audiences tremendously and the film went on to become a super hit. When dubbed in Tamil as 'Ithuthanda Police' it's super success opened the gates for many more idealistic cop stories in Tamil. But it also pushed people to give their politician Vs cop films weird and outlandish titles like 'Evana Iruntha Enakkenna', 'Aenda Neeya Arasangam', 'Nee Mandhriya Irundha Enakkena', 'Udambu Eppadi Irruku' etc. Thankfully the strange acts ended soon.
The 'Salangai Oli' team again managed to surprise us with the dubbed version of 'Swathimuthyam' in 1985. There is a simpleton in a village who comes across a widow with a child. Unable to bear her pitiful situations he ties a 'thali' without realizing the significance and consequences. Surprised at first the widow then understands his love and makes a man out of him. With excellent performances from Kamal Haasan and Radhika and music from Illayaraja 'Sippikul Muthu' is a hit and respected film. The only hitch was S P Balasubramaniam dubbing for Kamal Haasan. Even that wasn't bad to hamper the prospects.
Though these are few they have managed to get a few pages in Tamil film history. One interesting thing to note here is that barring a few Kamal films none of the other super star films dubbed into Tamil could succeed ever. Not even Sivaji Ganesan and Rajinikanth films. Almost all the films of Rajini in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada were dubbed in Tamil at various times and they all disappeared from theaters as soon as they landed.
There were also incidents where films were dubbed purely on unethical commercial motives. The best example for this is the recent release of a Rajinikanth starrer 'Arasan'. 'The Don'. 'Arasan' was the dubbed version the Hindi multi starrer film 'Khoon Ka Karz' which was released in 1991. When dubbed in Tamil the film was butchered to focus on Rajini's portion that lasts just for an hour. The most unreasonable part here was that the Tamil version did not even have original stills for publicity. The film drowned with out trace.
All India block buster Hindi film 'Maine Pyar Kiya' was dubbed in Tamil as 'Kadhal Oru Kavithai'. The Tamil version could not create even a point one percent impact on Tamil audience. Mani Ratnam's 'Uyire' failed to make it least as much as the original 'Dil Se'.
With all the hits and misses the business was big and happening with regular entries from Telugu and Malayalam. That last one to create a box office success in the dubbed market was 'Arunthathee'. The Anushka starrer was a surprise packet in 2009 with box office collection more than many original Tamil films which had a star value.
But the recent years have transformed the dubbed film world for both better and worse. It's worse because of a stream of sleazy films from all over India gaining a hold and better because Hollywood films focusing on Tamil more than ever.
So did Shakila and Angelina Jolie co-exist in Tamil Nadu? How come a terrific actress like Tabu is promotes as a sleaze star? Why in a Jakie Chan film did the street thugs from 'Hong Kong' speak in Chennai Tamil? Do you know 'Spider-Man 3' collected Rs 66 crores and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Rs 24 crores only out of the dubbed version?
The dynamics of dubbing has changed of late.
Click here to read - Originally Dubbed in Tamil - I
Click here to read - Originally Dubbed in Tamil - III