Subtitles are not a substitute for dialogues: Girish Kasaravalli3 min read

April 21, 2012 3 min read


Subtitles are not a substitute for dialogues: Girish Kasaravalli3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A twelve time National award winning director and a Padma Shri recipient, Girish Kasaravalli is a pioneer of Kannada parallel cinema. He began his tryst with the art at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, where he was a gold medallist.

Initially a student of B.Pharm from Manipal College of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MCOPS), his love for films propelled him to focus on directing instead. The director of ‘Kurmavatara’ (The tortoise: An incarnation) was in Manipal for Cinephilia, a film fest organised by Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC). Excerpts from an interview with TMJ:


Bollywood adaptations of south Indian films always manage to do better at the box office than their southern counterparts. How do you view this phenomenon?

Do they? I think my knowledge of Bollywood cinema and popular cinema is very limited, but my son watches a lot of films and he keeps saying that the original films are much better. Surya performed better than Aamir in Ghajini, he said. Bollywood films make more money because they have a pan Indian reach. On the other hand Tamil films have another kind of reach. They go to other Asian countries, but the reach of Bollywood is enormous, not only in Asia, but also in some African and European countries. It’s a limitation of the language and nothing to do with the quality of the films.

Though in Kannada, your films cater to a wider audience through English subtitles and translations. Due to this process would you say the essence of the film is lost?

Yeah, but a film is also visual. All performing arts get the meaning through experience, not through the text. It’s true that subtitles are not a substitute for dialogue.

Your films are usually socially and politically driven. Is this because you feel as a director you have an obligation to the public?

I have been making films wherein the character has two faces – one private and one social. My interest is how there is a kind of interaction between these two. You cannot imagine an individual without the outside forces. Outside forces have some or the other kind of influence. So that makes me invariably pick up a story and look for the forces which is beyond it and that way I end up making a social analysis of the time.

Most of your films deal with complex plots. Do you think this creates a gap between your interpretation and the audiences’ interpretation?

First of all, I think my films are very simple, not complex at all. Secondly, why do we presume that audience don’t understand certain things? One who expresses ideas is not the only one who has understood the film. What gives you the feeling that he has not understood? Certain people may not be able to articulate. That’s what I said in the beginning, I’m basically a visual man. So why should I articulate my feelings through words? I’ll articulate through visuals. If someone goes back singing a song or gets deeply disturbed, my job is done.

Your films are women oriented with the female leads having a huge role in the film and are just extended props. Is this portrayal based on a certain person in your life?

Yesterday I was reading an essay that said all my perception is shaped by Kannada literature. Kannada literature is very woman sensitive. It’s a feminist perception. I don’t totally agree with your statement that my films are women centric because I have made 14 films out of which 6 are about men. (He laughs). Jayamaala, Tara and Soundarya came to me and asked me to make films keeping them in mind so I had to make films for them.

Does this reflect your views on women empowerment?

Women empowerment is a term used of late. In literature and folk traditions we have great respect for women. It is one thing I really admire. In all the films one thing repeats is the way that women negotiate with the tensions of life. Be it Nagi (Dweepa), Thayyi Saheba or Hasina – all have fought the tensions of life.


Sub-edited by Bhavani Seetharaman