Article – The Crying Need for Subtitles

Being an ardent moviegoer and an individual who understands the language pretty well, one does not realize the true value of subtitles. But then, why do the majority of the lot run to SPI Cinemas Chennai on Thursday to watch Telugu, Hindi or English films? Yes, subtitles (or subs are they are colloquially called) are an important element to make you understand better, more than just comprehending the gist of the film.

With this write-up, I wish to throw some light on the importance of subs in regions outside Tamil Nadu and overseas centers, and also stress on the types of subs and the added reach that they take the film to. Now, put yourselves into the shoes of a viewer who wishes to watch Tamil films on the big screen but does not understand the language. There are a truckload of such people round the globe who want to watch Tamil films, as the changing age in Tamil Cinema does bring up the excitement thanks to the innovative storylines and rich visuals that Kollywood has now started to serve.

But problems begin right from the word go. On one side, there is the problem of the DCPs being dispatched without the subtitle files. On the other, there is the choice between the single sub and dual sub, which is ultimately in the hands of the producer. To add fuel to the fire, there exists cases where the subs are horribly synced, or are lost in translation. Let’s dive a little deeper into these issues.

Prints arriving without sub files – This usually happens when the producer is either unaware or unperturbed over the importance of subtitle files in overseas prints. The DCP arrives at the destination without the file, and has to be resent upon personal request. The end result, is the subtitle arriving late or in a worse case where they are hurriedly written with a lot of errors. In such instants, the subtitle is discarded without notice and the film goes onto be screened without the subtitle.

Single sub and dual sub – This is a sad case in world subtitling where all the effort put in by the subtitlist goes in vain and doesn’t find its place on the screen. In countries like UAE where Arabic subs are mandatory, the only way for the English subs to appear onscreen are if they come in a dual sub format where subtitles can be projected in two languages, one on top of the other. In case the file is sent in a single sub format, it is directly discarded in order to make place for the Arabic subs. While the dual sub format was employed in UAE for films like 7am Arivu and Lingaa, a majority of the films made it with the Arabic subs alone. It’s high time the producers realize the importance of dual subs which will definitely pull in a larger audience who would like to watch the film with its original vocals, rather than a dubbed version.

Lack of synchronization or bad writing – This is a case which is worse than the two mentioned above. In the above cases, someone who is interested can enquire with the theatre on the availability of subs and proceed to buy their ticket. But in this one, the viewer is presented with subtitles which are not perfectly synced to the dialogues onscreen, or are wrongly penned, thereby resulting in a forgettable movie experience.

Other smaller issues – There are a lot of other issues such as the theatres forgetting to screen the subs, incorrect coloring or unreadability. Though these are rare, the occurrence of such problems are nothing less than frustrating.

My fingers aren’t enough to count the number of friends, colleagues and common public who have enquired about the availability of subs for films in the UAE, and returned with a frown. While Hindi films have kept up their promise and continue to add dual subtitles to all their releases, Kollywood is yet to adopt the practice and still has to realize the importance of subtitles to be screened (not only sent) in the overseas shows.

With the rising worry for the unavailability of subs and the inconsistency to release the DVDs and the Blu-Rays just because they will be ripped and uploaded on the net the very next day, where does a non-Tamilian go to watch a film which interests him? The answer lies on the bottom of the screen. Fill that space up.

Follow @sidhuwrites

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