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An interesting thought has emerged yet again… distribution of regional language films in India with subtitles.

It has been talked about often but no one seems to be doing much about it. Even an epic film like Pazhassi Raja is dubbed into multiple languages but not released with subtitles. Personally I find dubbed language films rather unsettling and would rather read subtitles. That way the performances are real and we are closer to the filmmaker’s original version. Dubbed films may be a way to reach out to audiences who may be unable to read. But in the context of multiplex viewer demographics, how much of a factor is that?

Fact is that quite a few films get subtitled (for the Panorama/ film festivals etc.), yet their release prints have no subtitles on them. There is an interest in non-Hindi cinema at the moment, especially among the multiplex crowd. But these filmlovers opt to see a French/Hungarian/Polish film over a homegrown classic. Why?


In a city like Mumbai, regional films are screened in multiplexes and this pulls in the regional audience. But it stops there. High time we step over this line. For all this talk of regional films being marginalized why don’t the regional filmmakers/producers/distributers look at this tiny element that can make such a difference?

It is embarrassing when some 16 year old Brazilian raves about a quirky Bengali film he has seen but I  (the non-Bengali Indian) haven’t even heard of it!

Today Kerala Cafe is releasing outside Kerala – in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Bangalore, Michigan, Texas and God alone knows where else. Without subtitles.

Shashi Tharoor has tweeted about Kerala Cafe – “It’s a revelation to Indians weaned on Bollywood to realize that India has film-makers of such quality.KCafe deserves 2b seen outside Kerala.”  It is a real pity that though KC will be seen outside Kerala, it will not be experienced outside the community of Keralites. 🙁

Comments: 25

  • Praveen November 20, 200911:31 pm

    Well said Anjali.
    If I remember right, Mani Ratnam did it with Kannathil Muthamittal and Rajeev Menon released his Kandukondain Kandukondain with English subtitles across Indian metros.

  • Umesh November 22, 200912:05 pm

    > Today Kerala Cafe is releasing outside Kerala – in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Bangalore, Michigan, Texas and God alone knows where else. Without subtitles.

    The fact that you don’t even know where all its getting released says that you are not involved in the process. I can relate to your problem coz the same happens even in my area of work. May be Maniratnam and Rajiv Menon started producing and distributing their own movies just to have a say on this process; Not just to make money. They wanted to decide where and how their movies will be exhibited and who will see them. May be you too will have to get to their level to have a similar stance in your movie’s fate after the “director’s job”. Or may be you can start working towards a change now itself. May be it will never happen but you shouldn’t feel that you never tried.

    Btw I got to know about the movie releasing here just now after reading your blog. Not even one ad in the newspapers. Will go for the evening show today.

  • raja menon November 22, 200912:53 pm

    Hi Anjali,

    the cost of subtitling is huge; as expensive as an additional print which is why distributors are scared of experimenting with it. Also I had no idea until I read this that KC is releasing in Bombay today. Promotion, another expensive component tilts the balance. All the same I do agree we need to find a way and to change the misconception that Indian cinema is Hindi cinema. All the best for KC.

      • Umesh November 26, 20091:05 pm

        Are you saying then all the prints, even the ones showing in the native cinemas, will have subtitles? Is that a good idea? Normally when i watch malayalam movies i have found the (dvd) subtitles inviting unnecessary attention which spoils the experience.

      • Dr. Deepak November 5, 20147:30 pm

        With digital projection becoming the standard i think u dont have to burn in subs anymore.subs can be easily added as an xml file into the final dcp package used for projection so that it gets overlayed over the video.. There is even an opensource software for this, ‘opendcp’.

        • Dr. Deepak November 5, 20147:34 pm

          … But then.. This discussion was took place 4 years back, so i guess you probably know about this now..

  • Renjith November 23, 20094:18 pm

    Most of the tyms dubbing wudnt do justice to the original dialogues (the essence will be lost) and it may even look comical..few days back I watched a movie called B-13,ULTIMATUM(originally french) in english..the dubbing was not upto the mark(lip synch issues) and it made the film less enjoyable than it shudve been..I have watched the first part (B-13)in French with subtitles and I never felt I was watching a foreign language film (thanks to the subtitles) and the issue of mismatch in lip synch wasnt there..so I was able to enjoy the film fully…

    Many people say that when u start reading subtitles u will concentrate less in the movie and give more attention to subs..this may be true in the beginning..but after watching few films with subs we will have no issue in reading subs as well as enjoying the movie simultaneously…have watched many chinese films with subs and enjoyed a lot (RED CLIFF 1 & 2,CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON,CURSE OF GOLDEN FLOWER,FEARLESS etc)….So I think subbing a movie is more economical and beneficial…

  • Renjith November 23, 20094:24 pm

    Also one more thing…I think many of the films getting released here (Middle East) comes with an ARABIC subtitle (malayalam,english,hindi movies)..if its practical for ME audience then I think it will be practical in Indian scenario also…

  • Umesh November 23, 200911:15 pm

    Watched KC. Superb experience. “Happy Journey” got an instant applause from the public; really enjoyed it. I have some points though, can i post it here or do you wanna drop a mail?

  • Mahesh November 24, 20097:03 pm

    Hello Anjali, Impressed with your work .. No actually really impressed with your work. Forceful enough to change perspectives, especially of a self-rated conservative like mine. Hope to see more or your creations ..

    A small idea on the issue you posed. Instead of having theatre prints with subtitles, why not the DVD version having a subtitle option. A colleague of mine here @ IIM Bangalore desperately wanted to watch Kerala cafe after my trailer and I asked to wait till the DVD release:) But seriously, won’t you think that would be more prudent from an economic perspective as well.

  • Dhanush November 30, 200910:18 am

    Yesterday, for the first time I felt the need of subtitling a Malayalam movie. I watched Kerala Cafe yesterday and one of my friends wife who is from another state didn’t come to watch since it will be difficult for her to understand(even though she talks a bit) and for my friend to translate on time while watching the movie. Movies like Kerala Cafe is for the entire world, not just Malayalees. Most of the stories can happen in any language, any where. I wanted her to see it so that she appreciate the fact that such movies are been made in Malayalam.
    With subtitles there in place it would have been a different thing.

    Hats off to Happy Journey. Jagathi and Nithya are real

  • Eldho January 2, 201011:13 am

    Good suggestion..

  • Satheesh January 2, 20102:17 pm

    I totally agree with Anjali on the sibtitles. It will definitely increase the market of our good movies. I have a few non-malayalee friends who like to watch the good malayalam movies-even more than watching hindi films. A subtitled DVD is the only choice for them now. Atleast the prints released out of kerala should be subtitled.
    Its not right that the market of a malayalam movie is very small. Dont forget that there are considerable percentage of the malayalees in all major city polulation around the world. %They definitely prefer watching a good malayalam movie rather than watching other languages. We should utilize this with a good market. Subtitling will invite non-malayalees to the theatres to watch our movies. Though there are financial constraints, I hope our film makers will come up with a cost-effective method to achieve this.

  • Najeeb January 2, 20104:28 pm

    Hellooo….Heard a lot about ur part in kerala cafe and badly wanted to see that movie…I am located in dubai and until now we haven’t got the privilege to see kerala cafe here…Y its not being released here??? Any news???

    By the way …..hearty congrats….wat are your upcoming projects?

  • ambilivijayan January 5, 20106:37 pm

    hai anjali……….
    am ambilivijayan (dress designer cum drawing teacher)in oman with my family.congragulation for u r work.i got energy to work on my field by reading about u from vanitha….thank u very much……

  • Pyari January 10, 20108:55 pm

    I am sure that your sensible voice would be heard louder in the industry soon!

    Coming to ‘Kerala Cafe’, your piece of work “Happy Journey” was simply superb! I am not sure who looks into the casting of characters. The girl who did the role was perfectly chosen. This is one area where Malayalam movie makers often fail. When trend setters are tried over, castings go topsy turvy. Looks like you have given a close look to the finest details possible. A very good effort. We are expecting more from you Anjali!!!

  • Krishnadas January 25, 20101:56 am

    I am krishnadas from US , a palakkadian.
    I really want to congratulate you on Happy Journey. I think Jagathy’s acting was superb. Since he is in a kind of negative role, I don’t see much applause in any articles or interviews of you. I may be missing something.

    Way to go!!!


    By the way, I think you need a website where you can put the blog that a workpress blog. If you are interested , I can build one for you.

  • santhosh February 18, 20107:55 pm

    hai mam
    i saw u kerala cafe. i think u r a nri .
    iam also nri.
    iam not a film maker.iam not a storywritter even tho i have story (life story)this is a nri lady story . i thing u can only do this is making film.

  • Sonu K February 28, 201012:08 pm

    Hi Anjali ma’m..i’m an film student..i just read abt u,so thought of visiting ur blog..i’m sorry i didnt watched ur movie yet..but i heard abt it a lot..wish i can watch it soon..i read ur posts here..ur thoughts are nice.about subtitles,i use to think the same…keep writing..keep making good films….may god bless u with all happiness and creativity..

  • saneesh March 4, 201010:47 pm

    hi ,(dont know what to call)

    i say i never knew u before i watched “happy journey”.
    i could say it was simple but one of the bests in kerala cafe

    the silence in between shots kept me curious what she would do…
    dont know why it reminds me some classic ones
    ( people may say “classics are not such funny stuff like u did in happy journey”- i just dont care…but i say u got a permanent fan of ur films)
    best wishes.

  • lakshmy May 12, 20143:44 pm

    Hi Anjali,

    I am a fan of yours. I must say that I love making my non-malayalee friends watch some of our classic movies. Most of my friends really love watching them. They loved your Ustaad Hotel! When I gave them the news about Bangalore Days, first thing they asked was, is it releasing in Pune? Will it have subtitles?? Its great to know that finally it is going to be released with subtitles. Thrilled!

  • S May 13, 20149:24 am

    So thankful Bangalore Days is releasing with subtitles! Can’t wait to see it with my non-Malayalee friends!

  • iamworthatry July 17, 20149:54 pm


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