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'Subtitling is an enhancing tool'

Rekhs, who subtitles Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films in English and French, explains why subtitling is an art and has to be taken seriously by Indian filmmakers.

Published: 29th October 2012 11:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2012 11:51 AM   |  A+A-

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In the last two years, she has subtitled 100 films. With 'Mattrraan', starring Suriya, Rekhs (who insists that no one addresses her with her full name Rekha Haricharan) touches the three-digit milestone. However Rekhs maintains the field is in its fledgling state and that not many filmmakers understand why they must subtitle their works.

“Subtitling is an art and today, no film director can say that he doesn’t care for a global audience. As compared to scripts of Bollywood flicks, which are in English, South Indian movies have scripts in the local language. We need to understand that giving subtitles doesn’t mean translating the dialogues verbatim. Both the beauty of the language and the meaning shouldn’t be lost in the process,” she says.

While she says that god couldn’t have been kinder to her as she hit the 100th mark way too quickly, it also means that she has barely slept for more than four hours every day, for the last two years!

The daughter of a committed social worker Viji Srinivasan, Rekhs started out as a costume designer. She entered films though her husband Haricharan who directed the State award winning Thoovanam that had none other than Madhu Ambat as cinematographer. “It was Madhu who asked me to subtitle the film and that’s how my career as a subtitle artiste got kick-started,” she says.

It was 'Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya' (VTV) that added impetus to her work and she went on to work on the subtitles of a series of movies in 2010. 'Muppozhudhum Un Karpanaigal' was the first Tamil film she subtitled in French, with her own French team.

Rekhs has trained a few people to work on subtitling for languages that she doesn’t follow too well. “My daughter Sraiyanti also helps me in my work nowadays. It is amazing how she comes up with these unusual but appropriate words,” she says.

Glad that she works with directors who understand the need for subtitles, Rekhs says, “Subtitling is an enhancing tool; in no way can they help to make up for a bad script.”

“Many directors I have worked with so far like Shankar, Gautham Menon, Seenu Ramaswamy and KV Anand have been very helpful. They first provide the audio, wait for me to take my time and then begin subtitling. But then there are filmmakers who think even subtitles can be a rushed affair,”  she states.

Her list of supporters does not end with filmmakers alone. “My husband Haricharan, editors Anthony, Srikanth and Praveen, Dev Khalidasan and Deepak Annamalai, and the boys who run Magnum Studioz are a huge support. Also, Sathish Kumar, who writes Tamil news movies and reviews and has more than three lakh hits every week! They are amongst all other FB and twitter friends, the wind beneath my wings,” she smiles.

Rekhs, however, is overwhelmed by the response that she gets from the audience across the world.  “Many people watch Tamil films among other South Indian films across the world. There is a considerable in-flight audience who watch Indian movies as well. Take for example, Rohini an ardent Vijay fan from France who got in touch with me through one of the social networking sites and told me that she ensures that her colleagues and boss watch Tamil films,” she says.

Where does Rekhs see subtitling going in the Indian film industry, 10 years from now? “There is  awareness, I must say,” she responds. Then adds, “Some filmmakers are still averse to English subtitles for their work. It is such a small percentage of their entire production cost, but they haggle for getting subtitles done at a lesser cost.”



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