Munish D visits film festivals across the world, picks up the choicest B-grade flicks, dubs them furiously into Hindi, Telegu, what have you. He's practically built a mini-empire with this business model
Munish Dutt is having a busy day. Aside from recently having released Love, Sex and Multiplex in theatres across India, he’s also having to step in to help a friend with serious Censor Board woes. “I’ve been in the industry for long enough, but this friend is just starting out. His screening is at Yari Road this evening and he’s nervous. I know a couple of Censor Board chaps. So I’m going to the screening too to give him moral support,” says the entrepreneur who’s become a name to reckon with thanks to his unique trade: buying sundar-sasta-tikaoo B-grade flicks from international markets and giving them a local flavour via dubbing.
“Circa 1987 steamy foreign releases meant near-X-rated flicks with obnoxious titles, stuff that kept the good crowd away. I've given the single-theatre trade a new respectability," says Manish Dutt from his office in New Link Road, a dubbing studio that now imports obscure films from Bangkok, Los Angeles, Prague — anything that Dutt thinks will please the single-theatre public that he caters to. To meet the needs of his audience, the man travels far and wide, to film markets in Milan, Berlin, Santa Monica, Bangkok and Hong Kong.
So if the poster of a rather random international flick with a Hindi title is something you have chanced upon of late, chances are that this is the man responsible for it. And Dutt wouldn't have it any other way. The beginnings were modest but it was the stupendous success of Chui Mui in 2007 that made him bigger in the world of small pictures. A Czech production, Chui Mui was bought for around 10 lakhs. He then put in another 15 lakhs for prints and publicity. The rest as they say is history. Chui Mui was a superhit. "Chui Mui boasted of 90% theatre occupancy on its opening weekend. In one week, I sold the film all over India, even in West Bengal, which until then was a dead territory," says he.
One would assume that given the nature of the business, Dutt would be tempted to cut corners. In fact, the opposite is what has made him the betaaj badshah of B cinema. "I only use top quality prints. The dodgy producers use just one or two prints and circulate these all over the place. I get fresh prints made out of negatives that I legally acquire. And why not? An average Bollywood film runs into three hours. These films are half the length; making prints is that much cheaper. I'm presently glossy funk and the crowd likes that," he quips.
The kink is always in the mother tongue: films are dubbed in many languages here. Dubbing after all was always Dutt's bread and butter before he developed a flair for importing the right foreign produce. A guided tour of his office reminds one of Brian De Palma's Blow Out — it's a good scream. A core team of 20 runs his firm, even though he’s now shifted to a smaller office in his premises. “That’s because I also have bought an office in Chembur, close to where I live.”
His operation includes six full-time dubbing directors, and on call are 300-400 freelance dubbing artists in the age range of 6-70 years. "I am in touch with all single theatres in this city: Capitol (now defunct), King's (in Kurla), all of them. Multiplexes are way too elitist for this genre and the C-grade film industry is too tacky. We provide the right balance. I like theatres with 30-rupee tickets and the odd samosa thrown in; it's democratic. Which is why I hate it when people call these films 'sleaze'. It only goes to show how little they must know. Just call me a very savvy businessman, okay? I'm here to make money just like anyone else," says Dutt with a brilliant smile.
On the way out, he points to a Carnage poster you see stuck to the door. That, he says, is a sign that he’s moving up the game. “It’s not solely B stuff anymore,” before lighting a cigarette. We like, we like.