Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I sometimes find the ads on TV more entertaining than the actual programs. This is especially true on days when I’m not the ‘Lord of the Remote’ in the house. In a way, it’s interesting to dissect a spot and see what it is actually trying to say, to whom and how.

Indian ads, like Indian cinema and television, rely on dialog, punch lines and personal charisma to reach out to the viewer. So it’s not hard to imagine what would happen when Hindi ads are dubbed into Malayalam and other south Indian languages. Taken out of their original cultural context, the dialogues seem artificial and punch lines don’t make any sense. The south Indian viewer may not give a damn about your hot new Bollywood star. Add to this fake accents and translations with little regard for style or usage.

A recent spot translated “Tax Bachao” to “Tax Rakshikku” in Malayalam. That’s not bad translation. It’s criminal negligence! I can’t imagine how anybody with even a basic knowledge of Malayalam vocabulary can make such a blunder. Off the shelf translation software would have done a better job.

Whether the ad agencies and advertisers realize it or not, poorly dubbed ads manage to say only one thing, “We don’t care about you”. And viewers hear it loud and clear.

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