I don’t usually research about which series I should start watching. I am lazy, so I follow the hype and mostly binge watch what people recommend. Recently, I decided to ‘subscribe’ to Netflix. Obviously, I subscribed to it the Indian way. This means watching every show possible during the one month it’s free for and conveniently unsubscribing after you are done squeezing every bit of sitcom juice from it. If someone asks you the reason for unsubscribing? Just say, ‘Oh, the choice is so limited, not worth the money.’
Can’t openly confess that we’re very clever Indians who don’t believe in wasting. Just like how we have a tendency to wash and store the plastic takeaway containers sometimes. If you bought it, means you’re supposed to keep it. Does anyone have those toilet kits airlines provide you with? It’s the most useless kit, but I cannot throw it. I hope ‘someday’ I am in fact going to use it. Whatever.
I recently finished watching the Netflix original series, Narcos. It is a documentary cum drama based on the manhunt for the drug warlord, Pablo Escobar. There are more shows and films made on his life. One of them a Columbian tv series, but none of them got to reach the popularity Narcos has. Probably because of the ‘Hollywoodization’ around it.
I have never bothered to read about the drug cartels and trafficking issues happening around the world, and since nothing major has happened in the recent past (Otherwise Arnab would have talked about it), I was, and still am, oblivious. But I am more aware now, maybe by only 0.1%.
Coming to the point of this post, I realised I was watching the show in Spanish after completing one season. I have never been very keen on watching films and tv shows that are in languages I don’t know. Even if that show is dubbed or has voice-overs, I’d choose to watch videos in English, Hindi or Punjabi. There aren’t enough shows in Punjabi and Hindi that are decent, so basically what I mean is, I still watch re-runs of Friends.
The reason is that if I do not understand the language, I feel that what is being presented to me is not as engaging. Something like the conversation with your Kannada speaking Uber driver and Hindi speaking me. No subtitles in real life. We both get so annoyed at each other that one of us is bound to cancel the trip. Unless, an angel (not Taher Shah), who has the correct bilingual combination helps us out.
An alien language, while watching Narcos, wasn’t really a barrier for me to take in and understand the gangster version of Tom & Jerry. The difference being, there was one very smart Tom and several Jerry’s in Narcos.
The popularity of the show is promoting the fact that we don’t have to abstain from watching content, simply because it is in a dialect we don’t get. Even if you haven’t realised this yet, think about it and you might.
Reading the subtitles in the midst of a scene always seems to be distracting the viewer from what’s really going on screen. Narcos, on the other hand, has managed to change that, at least for me. I didn’t even realize that more than 50% of the dialogues were in Spanish. Maybe it was because of the way the show is made, the story or the actors, I did not feel that not knowing Spanish hindered or hampered my experience of the show, as a viewer.
In fact, had the dialogues been in English, I don’t think it would have been that impactful. Language here has played such an important role in creating the ambience and keeping us as connected to the Columbia between 73′-93′, and hence the story. Watching it in English would be like watching Mahabharata ( and there were so many versions of this) in English. Just doesn’t fit, doesn’t feel right.
Also, I feel that subtitles are so much better than dubbing. The point of a show according to my beautiful and insightful mind is to make the time it is set in relatable, even if we are watching it 30-40 years after an incident it is portraying, happened. Even if a show is not relatable, something like Game of Thrones, the viewer has to find that element that can get him/her hooked to it. Be it language, acting or the story.It has to look fantastically and ridiculously real. For instance, watching Interstellar is not at all relatable, but it makes you think and wonder until you get creeped out by the Universe. Get it?
Subtitles are making us lazy binge watchers better at multi-tasking too. Not a lot of people can watch the screen, quickly read the subtitles, comprehend it and move on. Or maybe I am the only turtle, who finds it hard to simultaneously use my eyes, ears, brain?
Have you realized how many times you have liked a song, just because of the music, even when you don’t understand the lyrics? The first song that comes to my mind is the ‘Ketchup Song’ by Las Ketchup and ‘Macarena.’ You can dance to the latter even today!
So yes, go ahead and watch that Korean film, listen to that Tamil song and dance to the mandarin lyrics.
You may like it very mucho, mucho mucho.