Posted on February 20, 2016
The studio behind the highly popular Tamil version of Deadpool, on how difficult it was to adapt the film for our audiences.

As entertaining as Deadpool is, it posed quite a problem for the folks at Sound & Vision Studios, the dubbing studio behind the much-vaunted Tamil, Telugu and Hindi versions of the film. “We rarely get so much adult content in a film,” says Mona Shetty, president of the studio that has previously dubbed many Hollywood films, including 2012, Avatar, Fast & Furious 6, and Life of Pi. But Deadpool was a different animal entirely. An A-certified film, it is littered with obscene jokes. The problem is, even when a film is A-certified, the censor board won’t pass certain words. “ Goiyaale,” says Sashi Kumar, language supervisor of the company, who works out of Chennai. I’m startled a bit, until I realise he’s giving me an example of the type of words the censor board disallows. Interestingly, there seem to be different parameters for English films and their dubbed versions. “That’s why you’ll find that the original often has a lot more controversial material than their dubbed counterparts.

The dubbing team was walking on a tightrope. They needed to retain the flavour of the original, while not faithfully translating the lines. “Deadpool is a cheeky, rude character,” says Mona. “We decided that as long as we were able to retain this facet of his personality, it didn’t matter that we weren’t using as many expletives as he does in the English version.” And that’s why the line that has Deadpool’s friend pointing out that his face looks like a child born out of sexual relations between two avocados became “ surungi pona sapotta pazham madhiri irukka”.

I express disappointment that despite the dubbed versions being A-certified, they steer clear of adult comedy. It is not just me, thankfully; Sound & Vision Studios has received a lot of feedback about the film, with many asking why the same lines weren’t retained. Mona says she could have taken the risk had the studio been given more time. “If the censor board raises objections, it delays certification, which, in turn, delays the release. And all of this takes a toll on the collections,” she says.

Dubbed films are targeted mainly at B and C-centre audiences. “They usually watch these films for two reasons: action scenes and adult content.” In that sense, Deadpool is perfect, as it has both. It needed all of Sound & Vision Studios’s 15-year experience to do justice to the dubbing.

“The dubbing artistes are also given plenty of freedom in interpreting the script, so long as they avoid the controversial words.” Sashi has a list of avoidable words that the studio hands out to everybody involved in the process. The entire dubbing took about a month and a half.

And so, the Tamil Deadpool came to be. He’s cheeky and rude too, but “just less foul-mouthed”. Just as our censor board likes him.