Dubbing the Indian Nation: Language, Love and Resistance

Israel, H. (Speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


What is the function of multiple languages in Indian films that comment on the nation? I compare the centrality of multilingualism in two films one from the 1990s, the Tamil Roja (1992) with that of the recent Marathi film, Sairat (2016). Both are award-winning ‘regional’ films that use language in very specific but different ways to negotiate with the category ‘national’ cinema. In Roja, Tamil, Hindi and English work in the service of the nation—a romantic idea that must be preserved at all cost, even to death if necessary. In Sairat, Marathi, Telugu and English challenge the idea of India as great nation; the threat of death that gradually builds up to its final execution rather indicts the nation. Their translation trajectories indicate a similar divergence. The Tamil Roja was released without subtitles. Sairat was released with English subtitles. While Roja was dubbed in Hindi, Sairat has been ‘remade’ entirely in a different location, with different actors, telling a different tale in Hindi. It becomes Dhadhak (2018), a softer film, focusing more on the love plot than caste. Both films have been ‘hits.’ Roja in both Tamil and Hindi. But interestingly, Dhadhak has been panned by film critics and heavily criticised by general audiences across the country. Sairat’s “marathiness” is integral to its cultural contestation and so my argument is that Sairat resists dubbing into Hindi, the language of ‘national’ cinema. The only way it can enter Hindi cinema and a ‘national’ space is by diluting the rawness and terror of caste discrimination. I contend that the presence of multilingualism in the films and how they are translated for Indian and International audiences should be central to the scholarly debate but are unfortunately aspects that have not received critical attention so far.
Period13 Dec 201814 Dec 2018
Event titleDubbing the Bollywood Cinema: null
Event typeConference
LocationLeicester, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • South Asian Cinema
  • Dubbing
  • subtitling
  • Tamil Cinema
  • Marathi cinema
  • Roja
  • Sairat