The term ‘pan India film’ is quite the rage across the country these days and four leading producers convened at the recently concluded Dakshin South India Media and Entertainment Summit in Chennai to break down the concept.
Organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), southern region, the theme of the conference this year was Beyond Borders and the pan India discussion fell neatly into that remit.
In recent decades, India has been a patchwork of local cinema markets, defined partly by geography and language group, and with only limited overlap or transfer between them, except for the Bollywood (Hindi-language) segment which enjoys wider releases. Change may now be afoot.
Pan India film is a term usually used for films made in one of the four south Indian languages – Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam – which is dubbed into Hindi and other languages and released across India and in diaspora markets. Mani Ratnam’s Tamil-language films “Roja” (1992) and “Bombay” (1995) were hits all over India in their Hindi-language dubbed versions. Recent examples include S.S. Rajamouli’s Telugu and Tamil language “Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015) and “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (2017) and Telugu-language “RRR”; Prashant Neel’s Kannada-language “K.G.F: Chapter 1” (2018) and “K.G.F: Chapter 2” (2022); and Rishab Shetty’s “Kantara” (2022).
The producers on the panel all have pan India films in the works. Chaluve Gowda, from “Kantara” and K.G.F. franchise producer Hombale Films has Neel’s “Salaar,” starring “Baahubali” lead Prabhas in the works; T.G. Thyagarajan’s Sathya Jyothi Films has Arun Matheswaran’s “Captain Miller,” starring Dhanush; K.E. Gnanavel Raja’s Studio Green has Siva’s “Kanguva,” starring Suriya and Pa. Ranjith’s “Thangalaan,” starring Vikram; and S.S. Lalit Kumar’s Seven Screen Studios Lokesh Kanagaraj’s “Leo,” starring Vijay.
Thyagarajan said that most of the south Indian stars are now well known across India and if a film has a big budget, is well made and the content is good, it has the scope to be a pan India film. The subject of “Captain Miller,” an 1980s-set action film, called for a big budget and that’s when Thyagarajan decided to make it a pan India film. Besides Dhanush, the film also stars Shiva Rajkumar from the Kannada-language film industry and Sundeep Kishan who works across the Tamil and Telugu-language film industries.
However, populating a film with stars from other film industries is not a formula, said Kumar. Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who also had a key role in “K.G.F: Chapter 2,” was cast in “Leo” because he suited the character, Kumar said, adding that the decision to make the film a pan Indian one was based on director Kanagaraj’s “Vikram” emerging as a major hit and the producer’s desire to take the film to the next level, beyond Tamil Nadu.
Raja said that the stories of the films he’s producing were chosen on the basis of their span. As pan India films are usually by nature big budget, dubbing them in different languages can help in recovering costs, Raja said.
“Throughout India the audience has an idea of what flavor south Indian films are,” said Raja. “If we try and make a film with a Hindi flavor we’ll end up failing. If we make a regional film that satisfies our audiences, 100% it will bring in northern audiences.”
Gowda too stressed on the importance of being local. “Kantara” deals with rituals in a small part of Karnataka and the theme resonated across India and has also attracted interest in dubbing it in European languages. “We have to take our culture to the world, not copy from Hollywood,” Gowda said. “We want to showcase our culture and that is what we are doing.”
“There is no formula to make a pan India film – definitely we have to trust ourselves before planning the film in a big way with a big budget, a good story and an A-lister,” Gowda added. “We can plan it, and with good marketing and distribution network you can take the movie to a pan India level.”