Big B to dub for 'Penguins'

Amitabh will lend his baritone to a Hindi version, writes Saibal Chatterjee.
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Published on Feb 27, 2006 12:54 AM IST
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None | BySaibal Chatterjee, New Delhi

In what must surely be one of the more unusual assignments of his long and eventful showbiz career, Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan will lend his distinctive baritone to a Hindi version of Luc Jacquet's all-conquering documentary 'March of the Penguins'.

Alliance Media, Sunil Doshi's Mumbai-based entertainment company, has acquired the Indian distribution rights of the 80-minute film. Doshi has produced offbeat and talked about films like The Terrorist, Navarasa and the recently released Mixed Doubles.

'March of the Penguins', a French production that was completed in 2005, is one of the most successful documentary films in the history of cinema. Made on a budget of $1 million, it has already grossed over $75 million in the US market.

"The release of 'March of the Penguins' is scheduled for April," said Doshi. The widely acclaimed film is being seen as the odds-on favourite to win the Oscar for the Best Documentary Feature this year.

The Academy Awards are due to be announced on March 5 and if this film does indeed pouch an Oscar, the promotional campaign for the film will receive a huge fillip in its run-up to the multiplexes in India.

The Indian release of the documentary will be a nationwide affair, with two other language versions - Tamil and Telugu - hitting theatres in the south on the same day as its opening in other parts of the country.

"Amitabh Bachchan is already on board," says Doshi. "I will be visiting Chennai and Hyderabad soon to figure out who will do the narration for the Tamil and Telugu versions of the film."

Two leading movie stars from the south are expected to be roped in for the Tamil and Telugu voiceovers.

The English-language version has veteran Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman as the narrator.

'March of the Penguins' has been hailed by critics around the world as much for its stunning visual quality as for its strong emotional impact. Its appeal appears to have gone well beyond the usual scope of a documentary about a natural phenomenon.

The film is about the Emperor Penguins of the Antarctic, which emerge from their ocean abodes and trudge across 70 miles of icy expanse to their breeding grounds. There, the female penguin lays an egg, which she then transfers to its mate for safekeeping.

The male penguin protects the egg for nine weeks while the female returns to the ocean for food. In the harsh, inhospitable terrain that the penguins belong to, the former first guards the egg and then the newborn penguin until the mother penguin makes her way back to take charge.

India has seen the mainstream multiplex release of an American documentary - Michael Moore's controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 - last year.

However, no French feature-length non-fiction film of the genre that 'March of the Penguins' belongs to has ever been screened in movie theatres in this part of the world.

But with the Big B throwing his enormous weight behind the film, the film is expected to acquire a profile far larger than that of any documentary ever released in India.

According to sources in the French embassy in New Delhi, 'March of the Penguins' will be accorded an out-of-the-ordinary, star-studded premiere in India, with the ambassador personally gracing the occasion.

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