June 17, 2008

O Caption! My Caption!

Are you an obsessive reader, gentle Reader? Let us presume that you are. Don't you think your life would be much simpler if you weren't?

One is a compulsive reader. Always been so. If only this compulsion had been channeled wisely towards the classics, towards the Epics, towards the formidable Western Canon, one might have become a Learned Person. But right from the stripling stage one chose instead to target juice cartons and cereal boxes and FMCG-type items in general, consequently acquiring a profound (and purely theoretical) knowledge of Maggi preparation, a sibling-like familiarity with the child on the Parle-G packet, and considerable insight into the composition of Kissan's Mixed Fruit Jam.

What of it, you ask. These matters are trivial, but what one would essentially like to convey is that one has this habit. One has managed to get by, just about, and made it this far. But an unexpected matter has recently arisen, from a fairly innocuous quarter.

As the retentive reader would recollect, one often repairs to the local cinema hall to view the latest Bollywood offering. These being Phoren Lands, the films are annotated with subtitles for the benefit of those who do not speak Bollytongue. And there lies what has been referred to as the Rub. Because reading these captions, one finds, is severely detrimental to the film-viewing experience. Particularly for us connoisseurs, who should not be distracted for even a moment from cogitating over camera angles and dialogue delivery and suchlike.

So ignore the subtitles, one hears the gentle reader point out. But, as one has been trying to explain, one cannot. The written word has maintained an eerie grip, a Vaderean force-choke, on the One ever since one's Maggi days. One must, absolutely must read each subtitle. One must, absolutely must ruminate over perceived mistranslations and come up with superior alternatives, and one must, absolutely must explain one's entire line of reasoning to any unfortunate soul/s who might have accompanied the One to the silver-screen experience.

But let us not dwell on how these infernal subtitles have affected the already-deficient Social Life. Nor shall we focus on how they have reduced entire three-hour K. Johar candyfloss parades to exercises in interlingual jugglery. For matters of far greater consequence are in what is called the Offing. Yes. These subtitles might, in fact, precipitate the End of Bollywood As We Know It! *

To adequately grasp the mechanism by which these devious annotations operate, we must first acquaint ourselves with certain key concepts:

1) There are in most films a few Jokes. Let us illustrate by means of an example Joke:

Arrey bhai, kya body hai! Bachpan se hai ya baad mein banayi?
(Subtitle: "Hey brother, what a body! Have you had it since childhood or did you develop it later?")
- Partner, 2007

2) There are in this world two types of mortal. The Fast Reader Lexicus alacritus, alumnus of Rapidex English Comprehension and pride of his CAT coaching class, naturally looks somewhat askance at the Slow Reader Lexicus sluggiferus. Even L. sluggiferus, however, can generally finish reading the subtitle before the dialogue is actually delivered.

And now, let us examine in some detail what happens during a Joke Scene. Also, let us continue in Pointwise Form because we have taken rather a fancy to it:

1. (t-3 sec) Appearance of joke subtitle. Immediately, the population of the cinema hall is conceptually divided into the two aforementioned species of mortal.
2. (t-2 sec) L. alacritus finishes reading subtitle and commences laughter.
3. (t-1 sec) L. sluggiferus commences laughter, either by virtue of having read and comprehended subtitle, or because L. alacritus is laughing.
4. (t) Punchwords are delivered, but drowned out in general roar of laughter.

It is hence clear that audible punchwords are no longer a requirement for NRI cinema. The astute reader can doubtless extrapolate that with content of an emotional nature, a nearly identical sequence of events shall ensue, with laughter replaced by convulsive weeping of roughly the same auditory magnitude. Eventually, we may choose to eliminate the audio entirely and come to rely exclusively on subtitles.

And thus shall subtitles take over the world. One shall protest, of course, but ultimately one must, absolutely must give in and meekly read them.

* That is to say, The End of (Bollywood As We Know It). Not (The End of Bollywood) As We Know It, because we do not know the End of Bollywood yet.


Ace said...

Actually this phenomenon has also been a source of distraction from Ekta Kapoor's carefully planned dizzying camera angles as the subtitles happen before the camera zooms pans the room and the drums beat for each of the very many Joint Family members' faces.

As an aside it has had the unforeseen advantage of being able to watch television on the Mute with more agreeable music playing in the background.

It has also led to a decline in a native Hindi speaker's native Hindi. Although K serials can hardly be said to use Hindi let alone native Hindi.

p.s. We substitute mindless drama for weekdays in this part of the Foren. It lets us flip channels when frustration, as it is bound to, arises which we cannot in a theatre.

Anonymous said...

Start watching films in languages you don't understand at all. Preferably with Subtitles.

One in a Billion said...

Ace: One is largely unacquainted with Ms. K's productions, but from your description they appear to be sources of insight and enrichment. One shall tune in to these broadcasts and provide periodic analysis and updates.

Anon: A suggestion that holds great promise. Finally, one has Things To Do.

DSK said...

It's been a while, but welcome back!

I empathize with you. I end up having to watch the movie twice - once to read the subtitles, and then knowing the story, watching the scenes/acting.

However, as in the latest Kamal Hassan movie, I was thankful for the subtitles when the Japanese woman spoke in Tamil.

tangled said...

"Eventually, we may choose to eliminate the audio entirely and come to rely exclusively on subtitles."

It's called going retro, man!
Though I totally get you on the subtitles - it's worse when it's an English movie!

One in a Billion said...

DSK: Thank you. This new movie sounds interesting also, even from a purely linguistic viewpoint.

T: Ah, retro. Thanks for enlightenment, one does rely on you for these things :)

A said...

(Thanking stars I haven't been subjected to subtitles)

Have you tried watching MacKenna's Gold or The Guns of Navarone dubbed in Hindi? Sigh. Heaven help me.

One in a Billion said...

A: No, one seems to have missed out on a lot of things in life. But Star Wars would also be a fine candidate for dubbing, what with Akash-chaalak and his prakash-talwar (we refer to the Jedi Knight and his preferred weapon, not to the Greater Noida table-tennis team).

NN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NN said...

hehehe, love the End of Art reference.

This is exactly why i have trouble with phoren movie viewing, i'm so busy reading subtitles i miss most of the movie!

i was watching Munna Bhai with english subtitles with my American frend. What only she understood.

A world of subtitles might just be less noisy, i don mind, if your pap don mind. :D

Padma said...

Oh the bane that is compulsive reading! There really ought to be a support group to get over things like this!

One in a Billion said...

NN One is informed by Reliable Sources that the next Munnabhai instalment shall be set in America, of all places. Do let your friend know :)

Padma: Yes. The scene must include serious counsellor types who shall ask things like "So, when did you first start reading?" and anxious parents observing that they should have been more careful about who one hung out with.

tangled said...

I realize that I am dying to write a post that says "oh, t." but can't.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

When did you get this good?
More, please.

About the SP-sir pome - lovely, but brevity is the soul and all that.


One in a Billion said...

T: Yes .. you've stopped, we observe. All good things ..

JAP: Thanks, practice does seem to help :)

The pome was overlong, yes. Need to keep it tighter henceforth, and not get carried away.

LAK said...

Hilarious! What price the subtitles of the songs? Lak's Theorem: Just like puns, Bollywood lyrics are also untranslate-able!Esp. into English!

LAK said...

As for "the end of (Bollywood as we know it)as opposed to (the end of Bollywood) as we know it"---good punctuation, and also, it reminds me of the Associative Property in Maths!Or rather, the BODMAS rule.

One in a Billion said...

LAK: Ah, BODMAS. One presumed that was something like the square of one's weight divided by one's height, until memory and Wikipedia prevailed.

Anonymous said...

Time for the third quarter edition. :)


One in a Billion said...

N: Wish/command etc.

Anonymous said...

[*Oy, it works!*]
Pehle kyon nahin bataya? ;-)


Karissa said...

One is a rather obnoxiously enthusiastic Bollywood fan, oneself.

I thoroughly enjoyed your Telemarketer post, and was distraught to discover that bots made up the majority of the comments. After reading this post and being similarly astounded at the quality and skill in your writing, I was delighted to find it was more adequately appreciated in the comment section - if comment sections count for anything in life.

I do hope you're still writing, somewhere. It'd be a shame to have such talent go to naught. Cheers.

One in a Billion said...

Karissa: Thank you. I do need to clean up the bot-comments, and I'm not writing as much as I'd like to, but thanks to you I feel like starting all over again now. I hope you visit again :)