Its a known fact that Germans love Bollywood films, especially those films that show the extravaganzas that Indian films are so famous for — saris, romance, lots of songs, drama. Thanks to these Hindi-to-German translators who’re in much demand in Germany, Bollywood Actors are now talking in German.
Thomas Vogt of Rapid Eye Movies, the only distributor of mainstream Bollywood films in Germany, says that Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G) was a phenomenon in Germany. It had all the ingredients that Germans look for in an Indian film. And even the dubbed version that was shown on Television received lots of attention.
Since then, there’s been a healthy demand for good Hindi-to-German translators, for doing Hindi-to-German film subtitles.
Sonja Majumder (born to a German mother and a Bengali father) and her Cologne-based colleague Gaby Gehlen are two such professionals, who’re quite in demand for doing this kind of work. The duo says, “Thanks to the popularity of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, since then, we did subtitling for all of SRK’s films in the 90s, and even their DVDs were released with sub-titles here in Germany.”
Majumder, who had studied Indian cinema, met Gehlen, a professional translator around a decade back. “In many Hindi movies, there are references to old films, which I can never understand. But Sonja gets that,” says Gehlen. Majumder learnt professional subtitling from Gehlen, the art of shortening sentences, a key skill set given that German sentences are structurally longer than Hindi.
Majumder says, “Earlier, Hindi films shown on German television were either subtitled or dubbed from English. But Hindi-to-German translations capture nuances better because German, like Hindi, has a polite form. What also takes longer is wordplay and jokes that work in Hindi but fall flat in German. Chatur’s ‘chamtakar’ speech in 3 Idiots was a tough assignment. Not only was the mention of rape in a lighter vein unthinkable, getting two words to rhyme as in the original was also difficult.”
Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, and Salman Khurshid, former Foreign Minister of India, without taking themselves too seriously, together with Eliese Steiner and under the direction of Sumit Osmand Shaw, pay homage to the Indian film. They reenact one of the most popular Bollywood song from ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’
Bollywood films are only going to grow more popular from here on (doesn’t mean that all the films will do well in Germany…those that try to ape foreign films are unlikely to do well here in Germany…what they want to see is more of India in the films). Having said that, those who’re good at both the languages (German as well as Hindi) can see themselves in demand in the near future.