July 05, 2005

Junoon Tamil

The variety of Tamil spoken on dubbed television shows, named after the serial Junoon which used to air on Doordarshan's Metro channel. Typically, the original Hindi dialogue is translated by hacks who tend to translate idioms literally. The exigencies of dubbing impose awkward constructions, resulting in a language which bears little resemblance to colloquial Tamil. The term also seems to be used loosely to describe any artificial Tamil, whether it's advertising copy translated from another language, the Tamil songs of North Indian singers like Udit Narayan and Sukhvinder Singh, or the speech of those who 'think in Hindi or English and speak in Tamil'.

As teenagers, our lives had revolved around Doordarshan. This was an institution that had even spawned an atrocious new version of Tamil that was dubbed 'Junoon Tamil;' it went on to become the biggest joke in the city in the mid-nineties. It so happened that the serial Junoon was dubbed in Tamil. Both the translation -- it was literal, with no regard for grammar or local idioms -- and the pronunciation were atrocious. (Hemanth Kumar, Beware: Friendly Auto Driver Ahead, rediff.com)
Then there's the Hindi of dubbed American sitcoms and children's programmes, which is quite unlike spoken Hindi, or even the anglicized Hindi of magazines like Stardust (their Hindi edition was famous for translated idioms like 'billi tokri se nikal chuki hai'). The language here is more like an artificially constructed Hinglish in which all the troublesome English words are left untranslated. Well, for instance, is one of those words for which there is no exact Hindi equivalent, so it's left untouched. Pronounced vail in dubbese, it pops up in every second line. 'Vail, main aa gaya', says Dad as he enters the room. 'Vail, tum phir laut sakte ho' replies Mom. Canned laughter.

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