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I am immensely happy today…more than my usual quota I mean!

For reasons one too many!

This year began on the most auspicious note…with a minUuutest contribution from ‘yours truly’ to translate Sri Vishnu sahasranamam.

I was blessed with this unique opportunity to translate Sri Velukkudi Krishnan Swami’s handbook containing the brief meaning of each of the 1000 Holy names of Lord Vishnu, which is treasured in more than 100,000 homes all over the world!

This was given along with the thematic calendar illustrating the purport of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, with 12 beautifully illustrated pages, by Shri Vijaya Govinda Das who took to a paint brush at the early age of 5, when we were all still struggling with a pencil!

I truly think this was my 4 leafed clover or much much more! A sign from God to start pursuing my dream, I guess.

First came the thrill that in all our 58 years of national awards, we, as in ‘Sollywood’ (South Indian cinema) have never bagged so many awards ever! And a soft glow in my heart ’cos I had an ant’s part to play in subtitling almost all of them!

Malayalam film ‘Adaminte Makan Abu’ won the best film in India. And that was my first Malayalam film that I subtitled!

I remember as I watched this film for the first time, words that tumbled out of my awe struck mouth, “Madhu anna, this film is going to take you places!” Little did I realize that I had donned the mantle of a crystal ball gazer!

Renowned cinematographer / director Madhu Ambat’s wife Latha is a friend I bonded with late in life. But it dispels all bond-theories that the thick-as-glue friendship is one you make in childhood or school! With due respects to that category, this is a friendship that was so unusually instantaneous, mutual and definitely God-willed! Thanks to Thoovanaam directed by the duo, my husband Haricharan and Newton, we are blessed with a duo friendship I can cherish till the end of time: ‘the Ambats’!

When Latha heard about my sub-titling spree, she immediately expressed a desire to be a part of it in Malayalam and was willing to go the whole hog to learn the ropes from me. I was at that time some ‘15 films young’!! Life indeed comes a full 360 degree circle! It was Madhu anna who started me on Thoovaanam subtitling and now Latha and I have together subtitled a dozen or more Malayalam films this year plus a few Kannada as well!

Second followed this ‘top of the world’ news that Adaminte Makan Abu is the film representing India for the Oscars’ foreign film category, which was the fore runner of our Malayalam track record.

Why I specifically chose this topic is not self praise but to create awareness to the reel and real world!

Subtitling though I am glad our own dear Sollywood has opened its eyes atllaaaaaast, is still given zilch priority or time! More often than not it is considered a hindrance or worse, an (un)necessary evil!

I remember how shocked I was when Gnanavel of Studio Green called me the night before release of Karthi’s Siruththai and said, “akka I am sending you the script of the film, translate it and send it to me by tomorrow night”

I was zapped! We spend a whole year (or more) making a film and we give less than 24 hours to subtitle/ translate it?! I am sure even chitti of robot fame couldn’t have pulled off this feat!

If a film is scheduled to release on the 23rd, the previous Friday, that is 16th, the subtitled print should be ready! For the simple reason that it needs to be sent overseas for censor and translating into Arabic, Malay, French whatever the language needed and it cannot be done in the blink of an eye! Which means subtitling starts a fortnight prior to that deadline.

But here we are correcting or making last minute changes a few days before release!!!

Most often the difficulty I face is that I am not given the finished film, with the background score intact and so I find there are many dialogs subtitled and posted where the music has submerged them and it seems worse than idiotic!

Makes a mockery of the art or science of subtitling for sure!!

I must say, NFDC, Real Image, Pixion, Prasad Studios, A.P International, individuals who author dvds on a professional basis for festivals like Satyajit and Madhu and all the editors (especially my friend Anthony whose edit studio has become my 2nd home) and their ever so enthusiastic assistants, the Asst directors that I have worked with this year have been more than accommodative…considering how exhausting is my hawk-eyed perfectionism, late hours, sleep deprivation and working against a deadline 24 / 7 / 365! The extra step I take is thanks to all my dear FB friends whose words of encouragement lead me on…each day inches closer to my distant goal!

I do wish to emphasize that subtitling is just a tool; it enhances the film only to the extent of enlightening a person to whom that particular language is ‘Greek and Latin’! Visual medium like music is not language barred! But when subtitled and subtitled well, with enough time for readability, grammatically verbs and nouns in place and with no typo errors or blatant spelling mistakes, it’s the black olives and sun-dried tomato perched on a slice of mouth watering pizza, a tea spoonful of mustard seeds and curry leaves garnished into coconut chutney, the cashews and raisins added to a payasam…subtitling as such may not be a piece of cake but sure is the icing and the cherry on the cake!:) A pièce de résistance

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