Monday, December 11, 2006


English subtitles – I have to live with them, as I definitely can’t live without them. I may love Hindi movies, but I certainly don’t love them enough to watch them sans subtitles. It’s just too much work. After just a few minutes of dialogue, my brain starts to hurt and I just am not having fun – and as the main reason I watch Bollywood movies is to have fun, this is unacceptable. So I definitely need my subtitles.

You know, I imagine doing subtitles is not the easiest job in the world, so maybe it’s unfair to gripe about them, but really – certain things about them can be annoying.

1. Minimalism: Sometimes a character says like a million things but they only put one line of text up. Having seen a lot of Hindi films, I’ve picked up a bit of the vocabulary, and oftentimes I can hear a character say something (sometimes a significant ‘something’) which the ‘sub-titler’ just can’t be bothered to translate. Having said that, subtitles can never convey all (or even most of) the subtleties and context of the original language, so maybe I shouldn’t criticise.

2. English subtitles for English speech: Now this is a pet peeve of mine. English is English is English. I hate this practice, and it’s done everywhere, especially on news channels like CNN. Note to 'subtitlers' everywhere: stop making people lazy by subtitling just because someone is speaking English with an unfamiliar accent. People need to start listening… carefully. Different accents are a beautiful thing. We need to learn to live with them – it’s the 21st century, for goodness’ sake (and now I'll get off my soapbox). Usually when they do English subtitles for English speech, the text is totally different from what the speaker is saying anyway.

3. SPG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) errors: I just don’t like them, in any context.

4. Not subtitling the songs: They do subtitle them sometimes, but I wish they always would. The songs are a big part of my movie-viewing experience.

5. White subtitles on a white background (or black subtitles on a black background): I don’t know how many versions of the ‘Ek Rishtaa’ DVD there are, but anyone who’s watched the one I’ve got will be aware of the fact that right at the climax of the movie, the subtitles get lost in Amitabh’s white clothes. As in, it’s absolutely impossible to read them. I also don’t like teeny-weeny subtitles that you need a magnifying glass to read…

But for all their imperfections, and despite the fact that they will never be able to pass across the full meaning of what’s said in a movie (maybe I should just try to learn the language, huh?), I do love my subtitles. In fact, I’ve been spoilt by them – I simply won’t watch a Hindi movie that doesn’t have English subtitles – if it doesn’t, it’s going back to the shop. So they’re essential for me, and apart from that, they’re also often very entertaining, as in hilarious. Just about every Bollywood movie I’ve watched has had a couple of really funny subtitles to enhance my viewing pleasure… here are some from ‘Vijaypath’ (starring Ajay Devgan), which I watched recently and may review in my next post, maybe alongside ‘Indian’ (starring Sunny Deol).

Ha ha... you have to watch the film to 'get' this, but it's just hilarious. And it looks even more hilarious in black-and-white for some reason.

I love this because as a kid I was told not to 'dirty my clothes' so often. I just like the way the words put across that scold-y tone.

Why do these action heroes always make women do these gory things? The things women "have to" do for love in Bollywood movies...

Go on Ajay... show them your 'stupid face'. I like this because I can picture someone saying it.

I just love these lines... and I don't know why.

Really? Ha ha. 'Cos I'm so not.
He actually means 'try and get me out of here fast', well as we say, 'idea is need'. But the bit I love is 'I'm here near the lion' - it just sounds funny.


Maja said...

I am also entirely dependent on English subtitles, I do always try to pick up a few new words but I doubt I'll ever learn enough to be able to watch movies without subtitles ... Which is a shame, because of all the things you list. Luckily, all the movies I've seen so far had pretty good subtitles, although I was really disappointed by the ones in Umrao Jaan.
My biggest complaint is when they don't subtitle the songs, and immediately after that comes the minimalism (it reminds me of Lost in Translation when Bill Murray's character is shooting that whiskey commercial, the director talks for about 10 minute and then the interpreter translates it in a single sentence).
The strangest/funniest English subtitles for English dialogue I've seen so far were in Dil Apna Punjabi, a guy is surprised about something and he says "my goodness!" - and the subtitles 'translate' it into "Shit!" *lol*

But never mind the subtitles, can we talk about the hair in the second screencap? What's going on there? Yikes! o_O

Daddy's Girl said...

I know... the hair is crazy - that's why the guy in the fifth screencap was referring to when he said 'hair like a horse's tail'.

LOL on 'my goodness' being translated as 'shit'. Hilarious. On my 'Bluffmaster' DVD, when the guy refers to some Indian stars (Bipasha and someone else, I think), the subtitles put in Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or something like that, instead. I thought that was pretty funny.

Alan said...

I agree with your comments, although items 2 and 3 don't bother me too much. My biggest peave is when they place the subtitles on top of the picture on a 16:9 aspect ratio DVD, when there's a perfectly good black bar at the bottom.

Maja said...

Oh no no no! You do not refer to Abhishek in Bluffmaster as "the guy", you just don't! ;) But yeah, I know which bit you mean, he says that women fantasize about Shahrukh and men about Bipasha, and they changed it to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the subtitles. Which is pretty ridiculous (and not only because I prefer Shahrukh to Brad Pitt), cos if you're watching a Hindi movie, chances are you've heard of SRK and Bips before.

Daddy's Girl said...

@Alan: You know, I always thought there was a reason for that. I mean, its such a no-brainer that they should use the black bar that (technophobe that I am) I figured there must be some hi-tech reason for still putting the subtitles on the picture. You mean it's just a random choice? Now I'm peeved too.

@Maja: Exactly... that was unnecessary. I mean, even in the unlikely event that the viewer didn't know them already, they could easily find out. And.. sigh... another person who prefers SRK to Brad Pitt. Nothing wrong with Brad, just not quite as fun to watch. And oh... before I forget, please forgive me for slighting your BF.. I didn't mean to, I promise! LOL!

Aparna said...

If you ahd not blogged about it...I would never have known abt them subtitles.
Yeah...damn hilarious!!

And hopefully blogger will behave itself,a nd let me post this comment...

Daddy's Girl said...

Gosh I envy you Aparna, able to appreciate all the nuances of the dialogue.. I should probably try to learn hindi, since I watch mostly hindi movies these days...

Yay! Blogger seems to be behaving itself now, hope it lasts.

Unknown said...

Hi! Randomly found your blog searching for screencapping tips...although my search terms weren't about Indian films, ironically, I was trying to screencap funny subtitles in the Hindi film Taal! Hee. In one scene, they show Mumbai, and there's an in-movie title that says "Mumbai" (i.e., not a subtitle). A split second later, the subtitle shows up to helpfully tell us that "Mumbai" means "Mumbai." But I can't get my screencapping program to capture the subtitle as well as the picture. Grr.

Anyway, I just thought it was a funny coincidence.

Daddy's Girl said...

Hey faithx5, thanks for the comment - that IS is a very funny (and cool) coincidence. Glad to see that I'm not the only one who (a) enjoys Hindi film, and (b) finds the subtitles funny. 'Mumbai means Mumbai'... how illuminating! Hope you eventually found the screencapping tips you needed!