Over the past few months, there have been many new channels launched bringing in international programming dubbed in Hindi. As a viewer, this is extremely laudable as it gives us a lot of choice. I for one relish watching movies from different countries beyond Hollywood.
Research shows that there is a huge audience for such programming, people sick of the standard saas-bahu and unreal dramatic reality shows. In a way, it is also a slap on Indian content producers for not generating enough variety and scope.
However, I have an issue with the quality of dubbing. In the mass factory production that demands speed and volume, there seems to be a common consensus on all channels to do away with what may slow down proceedings – quality.
I am referring purely to dubbed movies as that is what I generally try to watch. My observation has been that in the process of dubbing, the entire weight of the dialogs as spoken by the actors on screen is dissipated. The impression I get is one where people are generally reading out Hindi lines which have been written as literal translations interspersed with the mandatory “Ohh!”s and “Kya Kar rahe ho?”s etc.
I would like to understand how films get dubbed. Because, based on the output that I see on screen, I am not sure whether the dubbing production follows any method. According to this news report, there is a great supply of voice artistes and production houses are also reducing the rates. This seems to be impacting the quality of dubbing.
That may be the case, but in my limited understanding of the issue, there are three aspects to dubbing
1. Understanding the basic plot / script of the program / movie and there fore understanding the essence of each scene in terms of converstation
2. Writing dialogs in Hindi (not as a translation) but as part of the script, follows from point 1. There is a huge role for script writers here, especially those with adaptive capabilities. That should not be an issue in India with most of the film industry resorting to plagiarism.
3. Getting voice artistes to emote on the mic, rather than just read out the lines. As a model, one can look at the animation films – Indian and Hollywood, where the voice artistes are people with some acting / emoting ability. Of course, one need not pitch for stars. One example of a catchment area for voice artistes can be from theatre
Subtitles are useful in their own right. Of course, one needs to be able to read the subtitles fast. I probably won’t be able to do so if the subtitles were in Hindi. Though I can read Hindi, it’s not as if I read Hindi as much as I read English. So it takes more than the fraction of a second to read.
However, in my case particularly, I use the subtitles (English mostly) to confirm whether I understood the scene correctly. My focus is on the screen and the actors and the tone in which they are delivering the dialogs. This gives me a good idea of how the film is moving. I catch the subtitles, sometimes only a word or so, just to confirm.
Subtitles help retain certain key elements of the film – like Arnold Schwarzneggar’s one-liners delivered in his typical Austrian accent or Will Smith’s one liners delivered in his typical pitch.
Dubbing vs Subtitles
Of course, from a mass viewership point of view, dubbing scores higher than subtitles. And logically, it should be the model. However, the model should be “Hindi remake” rather than “Hindi translation”. It is more expensive, requires more talent but the effect will be more watchable and enjoyable television and movies.
At the end of the day, inspite of the research, if the stuff is distorted because of the Hindi dialogs, then the proposed viewership may anyway find other entertaining and enjoyable stuff to watch.