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Why Bollywood stars prefer to steer clear of animation genre

Unlike Hollywood, where the biggest names lend their voice to animation films, Bollywood stars prefer to steer clear of the genre

The animation genre in Hollywood is big business. It is not just due to the quality of the films produced, but also due to the fact that the biggest Hollywood stars lend their voice for cartoon flicks. Sandra Bullock, one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, and Mad Men actor Jon Hamm did the voiceovers for Minions (2015). Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman appeared in this year’s release, Zootopia. Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy worked on Shrek (2001), Owen Wilson was a voice in Cars 2 (2014) and Angelina Jolie lent her voice for Kung Fu Panda (2008).

Imran Khan lent his voice for Rio 2 (2011). Pic/ Datta Kumbhar
Imran Khan lent his voice for Rio 2 (2011). Pic/ Datta Kumbhar

Realising the importance of getting leading stars for animation films, Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan have been roped in for the Hindi version of the upcoming animated film, The Jungle Book.

The Hindi version of the upcoming film, The Jungle Book, has (right) Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan doing voiceovers
The Hindi version of the upcoming film, The Jungle Book, has Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan doing voiceovers

Amrita Pandey, vice-president, Studios, Disney India, says, “The Jungle Book is special to India, and we want our audience to enjoy the all-new, live-action adaptation. We wanted nothing, but the best for the Hindi version of the film. We are so excited to have such veterans and A-list actors come together to voice and bring alive these beloved characters making it like a big Hindi film.”

Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra

Far behind
The Indian animation industry is far behind the West, point out industry experts and mention that more support from the Bollywood stars can make animation a bigger genre in India.

Irrfan Khan
Irrfan Khan

Stars like Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan worked on Roadside Romeo (2008), Akshay Kumar lent his voice for Jumbo (2008), Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha gave voice for the Hindi version of Rio 2 (2011) while Shah Rukh Khan lent his voice for the Hindi version of The Incredibles (2004), but industry experts believe that the support has not been helpful so far. Obviously for a reason.

Akshay Kumar dubbed for Jumbo (2008)
Akshay Kumar dubbed for Jumbo (2008)

Shailendra Singh from Percept Picture Company that produced films like Jumbo and Return Of Hanuman (2008), says, “Most of the time, Bollywood stars demand a huge amount from the filmmakers for voiceovers.

SRK for the Hindi version of The Incredibles (2004)
SRK for the Hindi version of The Incredibles (2004)

One needs to understand that in Hollywood, the economics of animation films is different from what it is in India. So paying a huge amount to stars becomes an uneconomical decision for filmmakers. Here, stars are all about fame and finance. They are not here to support the genre and become part of another creative field.”

Manoj Bajpayee
Manoj Bajpayee

Benefit from the growth
Manish Dutt, managing director of VR Films and Studios, that has dubbed Kung Fu Panda for Dreamworks, 12 Barbie Films and currently working on multiple Hollywood animated majors in several Indian languages, says, “If mainstream stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan voice main characters, they can change the face of the Indian animation industry. This (Bollywood stars dubbing for animated films) has been experimented earlier with Akshay Kumar voicing for a Thai animation film. It does draw the audiences in, but Indian stars charge too high a price which cannot be recovered. They have to be reasonable in pricing initially. Once the audience starts lapping up Indian animated flicks, the pricing can be reworked by the stars.”

Apart from suggesting the much-needed change in the way stars look at the money coming in from animated movies, Dutt also points out that currently, the genre is not popular enough as audiences prefer stars in mainstream film. He says, “Hindi film stars can draw audiences, but the Indian audience prefers to see the stars perform, rather than to hear their voices.”

Show quality work
But actors are not the only ones to be blamed. Manoj Bajpayee, who has given his voice for animated films like Ramayana: The Epic (2010) and Mahabharat (2013) believes that the quality of animation films in India, unlike West, should also improve to get Bollywood stars on board.

Bajpayee says, “In the West, from whatever I have observed, the actors give voiceovers only when it suits or goes with the character. This is important, but here, voiceovers are still not approached professionally. There has to be a system wherein the actor can record the voice and accordingly, you create a character. Since we are not doing it, the Indian animation films are not doing well. The quality of work has to improve so that actors can also show interest. In the West, they are doing it well for years. I will lend my voice to an animated film only if I see that there is professional approach towards the work.”

Stop limiting its reach
Apart from stars citing high prices to actors not willing to be part of mediocre work, the way animation films in India are projected and marketed also needs to be changed. Keitan Yadav, COO, Red Chillies VFX, says, “The VFX industry has grown manifold. Live action films including Ra.One (2011) and Krrish (2006) have done well. However, the animation industry needs to grow. It is still pitched as a genre meant for children. This is not the case in the West where animation is also a genre that serves the interest of all. It is not limited to any particular age group. India has skill as well as technology, but the way the animation industry is projected, needs to change to ensure growth.”

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