Shruti Haasan: ‘Hindi Audience Has Always Been Interested In Telugu, Tamil Or Kannada films’

Actor Shruti Haasan says the arrival of streaming platforms in the country has made South Indian films more saleable to the Hindi-speaking audience, which was earlier served mostly dubbed versions of the popular content from the region. The actor said the pan-India theatrical market was mostly reserved for stars like Rajinikanth and her father, Kamal Haasan, with everything else never given an appropriate positioning.

According to Shruti Haasan, the geographical and language barrier was first broken in a big way with S S Rajamouli’s two-part blockbuster “Baahubali”, which was followed by digital platforms that offered the audience a chance to watch films in the original language.

“Earlier, they would take all the Telugu and Tamil films, dub them and put them on a particular channel. People would watch it and say, ‘We love this South actor’. For some reason, there was some apprehension to just put it in a box and market it. It was almost like these films were being sold on the discount shelf.

“People like my dad and Rajini sir, with their films like ‘Dasavathaaram’ or ‘Robot’, were kept in a separate box, that ‘Oh they are legends’. But I saw a clear shift happening with ‘Baahubali’ and then with OTT. When streaming services came in and people were allowed to choose for themselves with subtitles, they preferred to watch those movies in their original language,” the actor told PTI.

She said the renewed interest of the audience in films from the South was purely because they “dictated” it.

The 36-year-old actor recalled how she was once shooting in Madhya Pradesh when a fan complimented her after watching her dubbed Telugu film.

“So the Hindi audience has always been interested in Telugu, Tamil or Kannada films. They have always enjoyed it. This is not some grand round table of the elite filmmakers who sat together and said ‘Let’s do this’. This is the audience’s demand that has permuted the market. Now, it’s like you can go to the store and select what you want,” she added.

Rajamouli’s “Baahubali”, released between 2015-2017, is often hailed as the franchise that served as a bridge between the North and South for pan-India cultural exchange.

Hindi film stars Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn will now be seen in Rajamouli’s “RRR”, whereas Telugu star Vijay Deverakonda will make his Bollywood debut with Karan Johar-backed “Liger”.

Shruti Haasan believes cultural exchange of artistes was inevitable and said she was a witness to it in her own family, with mother Sarika and father Kamal Haasan.

“I don’t understand how it has taken so long. I grew up in a home where my mother was a Hindi film actor, who had moved to be with my father and was working in the technical side of things — as a costume designer on many of my father’s films — speaking to her crew in Tamil. On the other hand, my dad would one day shoot for a Kannada film and then a Telugu film.

“When I was quite young, we had an event for ‘Hindustani’ and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan came down. I asked my dad how come Mr Bachchan is here and he told me, ‘It is because we all watch each other’s movies’. I have grown up in this (cultural exchange). I grew up between Mumbai and Chennai, went to a new place, learnt a new language (Telugu) to be a part of that industry. That is the beauty of our country,” she added.

The actor will next be seen on the big screen in Prabhas-starrer “Salaar”. The actioner, shot simultaneously in Kannada and Telugu languages and to be dubbed in Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam, has been helmed by Prashanth Neel of “KGF” fame.

Shruti Haasan will also be seen in the upcoming Prime Video series, “Bestseller”.

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