Saturday, July 13, 2013

Lost in Translation- Can the same song be enjoyed in 2 different languages?

My latest favorite song, playing on  loop is 'Unnai Kaanadhu Naan Indru Naan Illaye' from Kamal Haasan's latest movie Viswaroopam. It's got a slightly no- very effeminate Kamal Haasan dancing Kathak, women Kathak dancers whose costumes and nupurs are drool-worthy, Shankar Mahadevan's voice and the peculiar male singing from the female perspective, which for once, fits right in.

But without a doubt, the lyrics take the cake in this one. Despite the aesthetics of the setting and sound, I found myself going back for the lyrics again and again. I must confess, I didn't get ALL of the lyrics straight away, but it was pretty clear its about a Gopika pining for Krishna's presence. Because:
a. The scene starts with a magnifique description of Krishna, and b. Krishna-Gopika Leelas are a central theme of many classical Indian dance forms.

In Indian mythology, Krishna is one of the 10 avataars of Mahavishnu. One of the other avataars of Mahavishnu is Rama, who was born on Earth as a human being without being aware that he is God (thats kinda schizophrenic, but more of that later). Hence, Rama underwent the joys and pains of the human life and was fully capable of human emotions such as mistrust and jealousy, which brought him more pains. Rama was a mortal and he knew it. Krishna, however, was that avataar of Mahavishnu, who came into the world with much publicity (issued a death warrant in-vitro to the reigning oppressor of the time, staged an escape when just a newborn) and as much entitlement as only a God can. He too underwent the joys and pains of the human life (mainly brought on by his extended family which was trying to get him into the thick of family disputes all the time) and was fully capable of delivering judgments which sealed the fate of humans with a smile. Gopikas were female mortals who lived in the same village as Krishna and were unrelated to him. They were the village belles who adored and worshiped Krishna with all their hearts. In mythology, the love and devotion of the Gopikas is explained as the meeting of the human soul with the Supreme being. The Gopikas were utterly devoted to Krishna and this was  an open secret. There was no secret in it, it was just open knowledge and nobody was perturbed or disturbed or any sort of 'urbed' by it.

Which is why 'Unnai Kaandhu Naan Indru Naan Illaye' fits right into the mythological setting too. In the song, the Gopika is basically saying that without seeing Krishna, she is not herself, her true self. Just as the way there can be no roots without a seed. She is sad about the fact that he can never be hers. Because she is only a mortal, while he is God. Yet, her devotion makes her resolve to sustain herself with the mere fact of his existence instead of pining away for his presence all the time. This is in the last lines of the song 'Indru kadhai enni veen ekam engaamale, unnai mooch-aaki vaazhvenada..'


When you are dubbing a picture in 2 or more languages, it is obviously not an easy task to translate the exact emotions into another language. Even if you get Javed Akhtar to pen the Hindi version. I don't think Javed Akhtar held a candle to the lyrics by Vairamuthu. Not even close.

Sample this- "Mai Radha teri,mera Shyam tu, .. par yu naa kalaai thaam tu.." = "I'm your Radha, you're my Shyam.. but please don't hold my wrist~~ don't hold me back from leaving.."

This is so superlatively bad and emotionally retarded if taken in the sense of the relationship between Radha and Krishna, or rather, ANY Gopika and Krishna that it has no right to masquerade as the Hindi version of "Unnai Kaanadhu".

Because, if and when Krishna was with the Gopikas (which I suppose, was occasionally), and when the Gopikas pined to be with Krishna (which was always)... they would never, ever say "Let me go.."

Infact, when Krishna was around, Gopikas abandoned herding their cattle, milking them, churning the butter etc etc and were swept up in the awesomeness of the presence of Krishna to care about anything, even hunger, in the world. It just seems so out of place to have a Gopika or Radha say "Oh Shyam.. let me go... don't hold me back.. "

So, for someone who heard the absolutely divine "Unnai Kaanadhu Naan Indru Naan Illaye" to hear "Mai Radha teri mera Shyam tu.." and accept that this is what they did to a song in translation... is... blue murder..

Wanna hear what blue murder sounds like? ;|

1 comment:

Gauwboy said...

Well put. I especially related to the comparison you made to the Hindi version. I can probably remind of you another blunder, “Kal tak Mukherjee Gaurav tha” - Kadavul pathi’s counterpart. Sucks balls.