Start of subtitling
I started my sub-titling career with Thoovanam which
is directed by my husband Haricharan along with Newton
in 2007. Madhu Ambat was the DoP. As the film had
to be sent to Indian panorama, we had to subtitle
the same. Madhu sir was such a source of strength
and he guided me through this. Around 2009, my interest
increased further as I realized that subtitling was
not taken up anywhere in Kollywood and nobody was
doing it as a profession.
What honed by skills in subtitling is my spiritual
fervor. I listen to Shri Velukkudi Krishnan’s
spiritual discourse in a television channel and translate
his speech on Bhagavath Gita and Bhagavatham into
English and post it in facebook. I have to do this
in just 15 minutes. This, I think, has unconsciously
honed my skills in subtitling. And more so, I am keen
to take Tamil films to a worldwide audience.
I had approached Gautham for subtitling his film
and he was surprised and asked me ‘Oh you do
this also?’ because he has known me as a costume
designer. (I have also done the costume design in
Thoovanam). That’s how I got the opportunity
to subtitle VTV and it was a lovely experience. Editor
Santosh sat with me and it took us 10 days to complete
Subtitling is not as easy as people think. It
takes around 10 days of 10 hours each. Then
I sit with people to ensure that the sentences
are broken correctly and placed right. Subtitling
is coordination between the eye and the brain.
One should also know some aspects of film making
to do subtitling. I just love every nano second
Subtitling is coordination
between the eye and the brain
Endhiran took a long time
day, I got a call from Sun Pictures asking me
to contact co-director Jayaraman to do the subtitling
for Endhiran. Needless to say, I was on cloud
nine. Endhiran took a long time from August
4th to September 9th. In between I subtitled
Arjun, Mammooty starrer Vande Matharam.
I can never ever forget the Endhiran experience.
The ambience in Shankar’s office is very
nice. The assistant directors treated me very
well. Each one of them cooperated well and went
out of their way to help me with words. Special
mention should be made of Thyagu and Sridhar.
We worked day and night, most often from 9 PM
to 3 AM. Since they did not want to rush me
through, they gave me the audio version first
which I took around 8 days to complete and went
on to work for Vande Matharam. Later I came
back and started working on the visuals in Endhiran.
I realized that looking at the visuals and translating,
and hearing and translating are two different
things altogether. I made a few changes and
gave it a good shape. To go through the entire
movie, it took around 10 days and posting it
took another week.
I can never ever forget the
Translating lyrics is very tough because the essence
of the language should be preserved, the words, meaning
and the rhythm. In Kilimanjaro number, the sensuality
is important and one cannot write something and give
it a ‘prose’ touch. The sensuality should
be retained without giving it an improper feel.
For e.g. for a verse like ‘100 gramdaan idai,
unakku ini yaaru naandann udai’ and when Rajni
says this, it has to sound sexy and glamorous because
it is aimed at Aishwarya and I translated it as ‘your
waist weighs a delicate 100 grams, I am the apparel
that adorns you’. I chose apparel over its other
synonymous counterparts because ‘apparel and
adorns’ give a lyrical twist to the line.
There was this word ‘ginni kozhi’ and
after an extensive research (that included a talk
to an ornithologist also), I understood that it is
a guinea fowl.
Same way, we had a debate on the word ‘saavu
graaki’ because there are many words in Tamil
with a humorous connotation which if not translated
correctly, will lose its essence. I thought ‘dead
client’ was the right word. We finally zeroed
in on Dead Meat for saavu graaki.
Ash says, ‘sukku milagu thatti ennai soup vechu
kudiyaa’ and I came up with ‘garnish me
with pepper and spice and taste your favorite soup’.
I felt taste was better than drink in this context.
Hence it was all thought provoking and time consuming.
‘Singa pallu’ is another phrase and after
exploring, I hit upon the word eye tooth which is
the equivalent of singa pallu.
It is important that I need to come up with the right
word on the spot and should have a list of words in
I owe my vocabulary skills to my mom Viji Srinivasan
who was the woman of the year in 2004. During my entire
childhood, whenever I had problems with English, mom
always insisted me on using the dictionary to correct
my mistakes. Although I was not too happy then, I
realize its value now. The ability to bring out various
options as and when the director asks is something
I feel good about and give the credit to my mom.
Verse on Aishwarya
The line ‘ice-ukku ice vekkade’ is on
Ash. Although, at home, we know Ash goes by her pet
name ice, the global audience may not be aware of
this. So we made it ‘don’t try to sell
snow to the ice maiden’.
A line that I am fond of is - ‘naan oora vaitha
kani, enai mella aara vaithu kadi’, I thought
oora vaithu and aara vaithu could be specially preserved
and reserved and I used (p)reserved. Hence I wrote
I am a fruit specially (p)reserved for you, savor
me leisurely. I thought this bears my special touch.
There are many such words Santhanam uses at Robot
Rajni like metal madaya, aluminia gunda etc. I wanted
to bring in such words without repetition. I came
up with dunder head, block head, tin head, metal moron
which I am sure would bring about the laugher intended
despite being swear words. Generally we don’t
use such words because we don’t yell at machines.
the whole, I loved subtitling Endhiran although
it took up a lot of my time. I learnt something
new in every frame or scene that I saw. I feel
director Shankar knows the pulse of the audience
very well. There were many occasions where I
would simply be watching the film and not doing
my work. It was an unique experience and I thank
director Shankar for giving me this opportunity.
Shankar knows the pulse of the
One of my long time supporters and somebody who has
backed me in all my endeavors in the celluloid world
beside my immediate family is Sivakumar annan (Suriya
and Karthi’s dad). He considers me as his sister.
When I told him about my interests in costume designing,
subtitling and directing a movie (on my mom), he jocularly
told - ‘are you doing an abhimaan in your own
house?’ and of course he wished me.
I have a very supportive family- my husband, my three
daughters and my dad.
I have a host of friends who support me in every
celluloid venture of mine. Actors Jayaprakash, Kishore,
Anupama Kumar (Kishore’s reel wife in Vamsam),
Sampath, DoP Rajavelu (Yenippady Mayakkinai and Aadupuli),
directors Nesan (Muruga) and Jeyam Raja, choreographer
Balaji are all such good friends of mine who encourage
me and refer me whenever there is a need of subtitling.
When I want the phone numbers of any director, I immediately
turn to my friends who help me out with.
Subtitling has not been given the
due recognition or importance
that it deserves
dearest dream is to take Tamil cinema to every
nook and corner of the world. We have so much
talent in our industry and are capable of many
more things. When we are watching Italian, Iranian
and French movies, why can’t the world
watch our Tamil movies? I feel subtitling has
not been given the due recognition or importance
that it deserves. I hope the scenario changes
because Bollywood has woken up and most of their
films are subtitled whether they go to a panorama
or not. Subtitling is basically to reach a wider
came to know that Magizhchi directed by Gauthaman
has been selected for Dubai International Film
Festival and I approached him. When I spoke
to him, I realized that he is a staunch Tamil
and would not speak a word in English. As his
film was going to an international film festival,
subtitling was needed. I shared with him my
dream of Tamil films reaching a world wide audience
through subtitling; he appreciated my interest
and told me that I am indeed a true Tamilian.
He went through sentence by sentence, frame
by frame of my work. Magizhchi is a village
based subject and he was very keen that native
Tamil phrases should be brought out in their
right spirit and flavor. We had exhaustive discussion
on this and he came to understand my objective
and lauded my work.
I am indeed a true Tamilian
Director Prabhu Solomon’s Myna and Anand Chakravarthy’s
Nil Gavani, Selladhey. These film makers have realized
that it is just not the film festivals or the Indian
panorama but they want the subtitles in FMS prints
also. FMS prints have an advantage as the work is
done on a negative and it is going to reach the non-Tamil
global audience which is what we should target at.
Karu Pazhaniappan wants me to do the translation for
Mandira Punnagai for the FMS prints. Other projects
are director Kuzhandai Velan’s Aanmai Thavarel,
Veera Pandian’s Avargalum Ivargalum and Cheenu
Ramaswamy’s Then Merku Paruva Kaatru. I am happy
to note that directors who are working on a shoe string
budget are keen to subtitle their films.
I think the trend is picking up, thanks to Endhiran.
But I would personally attribute it to Gautham Menon
and DoP Manoj Paramahamsa who has put my name as Rekhs
which has really kindled the interest.
the gap’ with Madhu Ambat
I have started a business concept called ‘bridge
the gap’ with Madhu Ambat to basically bridge
the gap between the directors, distributors and the
investors. We feel that we should make quality films
in a low budget that should reach worldwide audience.
I heard around 122 stories and zeroed in on 3. Madhuji
is working on to get the investors on board. I will
also be directing a film on my mom.
in U tube
My friend told me the other day that she found Endhiran
songs translated in English were doing the rounds
in U tube. When I checked, I was shocked to realize
it was not mine. I am not sure if someone else is
Vote of thanks
Madhu Ambat’s wife Lata, my close friend Lakshmi,
Dr Ramakrishnan of Apollo Hospitals and the list is
endless. My special thanks to my husband Haricharan.
Request to producers
Cost should not be a barrier to subtitling. When
you do in a negative, it is much more than what you
do for a positive or a DVD. Negative gives access
to many more prints so that you can use for FMS prints
also. I request the producers not to minimize the
cost on subtitling because your rewards are going
to be phenomenal.