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'Subtitling not same as translating words into English'

Haricharan Pudipeddi
29 November 2012

Chennai, Nov 29 (IANS) She does a wonder job in an industry which aims to entertain people the world over. Rekhs has subtitled 123 films across four languages − Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Marathi −− in the last two years and says subtitling is more than just translating words into English.

"The lack of awareness about subtitling is one of the biggest challenges. The other is convincing people that subtitling is not the same as translating words into English," Rekhs told IANS.

"You can't translate words and call it subtitling because it may be correct, but when flashed on screen it might affect the readability of the audience," she added.

Proficient in Tamil, English and Hindi, Rekhs says there are many factors that must be considered for subtitling a movie in the right way.

"Subtitling has a pattern in which the lines have to be placed on the screen. I've consulted an ophthalmologist and according to him, the first line of the subtitles should be shorter in length than the second line, forming a pyramid pattern and thus ensuring readability without irking the eyes. Even an extra full stop or capital alphabet in between the lines will irk the viewer," she said.

Rekhs admits subtitling helps to take a movie beyond its immediate audience, to the global world, but more than that, she hopes subtitles popularise regional cinema within India itself.

"I don't want subtitles to be used by films only with the intention to be sent to film festivals and national awards selection committee. I want all regional films to have subtitles so that they cater to different language communities within India before going global. There are so many north Indians in Chennai who don't watch Tamil films because they can't understand the language," she said.

It is an unusual career option. But Rekhs says she neither took any formal training for it nor did she ever aspire to make it her life's biggest passion.

"I learnt subtitling on a trial−and−error basis and not by subscribing to any course. It was more or less an experiment in the case of my first film 'Thoovanam'. But following the response of my second project 'Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya', I was passionate about what I was doing," she said.

It hasn't been a smooth ride for Rekhs, who holds a degree in Fine Arts. Even after her second project, she candidly admits that she went knocking on every door.

"Between my second project and third, which was 'Enthiran', I must have approached at least 50 producers. None showed any interest and considered the whole concept alien and worthless. But, 'Enthiran' opened the floodgates to many more projects", she added.

However, subtitling is a time consuming process, feels Rekhs, who hardly gets ample time to work serenely on a single project.

"It is very unlikely that I get time to work peacefully. I usually take about one week to complete a film and most films come to me two or three days prior to the release and since I work on multiple projects simultaneously, it becomes difficult to manage. Thankfully, I have a team of five to rely on," added Rekhs, who also relies upon her team for Telugu and Malayalam films.

Having pursued her masters in history, is subtitling a lucrative career option?

"I charge about Rs.50,000 per film and sadly I'm always sucked into the game of bargaining. Sometimes, I don't even get paid for my work. But that doesn't affect me as much as (it affects to see how) big production companies hesitate to pay a pittance of the film's budget as my work fee," she said.

Rekhs says very few in the industry have been of support to her and she hopes sooner or later, people will realise the importance of subtitles.

"People like Vijay (Tamil actor) have been very appreciative of my work, while directors such as Lakshmy Ramakrishnan and Vineet Srinivasan have given me the privilege of having my name on the film's title card. I wish more actors come forward and support my initiative," she added.

(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at haricharanpudipeddi@gmail.com)

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