BITS and Pieces

Get global. Get ahead.

Atul Kulkarni


“Learn, love and master languages!” says National Award winning actor, Atul Kulkarni.

Known for his thoughtful roles and his charismatic personality, Atul gets candid as he talks about the importance of languages in the entertainment industry.

Your most recent Marathi film, Happy Journey, recorded a stellar performance. And I couldn’t help but notice that it was subtitled. So do you think the subtitles had a role to play in the success?

Happy Journey was a visually appealing film with a fresh story; both the things that made it a potential hit amongst the youth. And looking at the cross section of major cities today, the youth was a fairly diverse audience to cater to. And this is exactly where subtitling helped. It helped us reach out to a wider chunk of our target audience. The non-Marathi crowd watched the film and loved it.

And what is your take on subtitling?

Watching movies is a group activity. And today, our social structure has become increasingly heterogeneous. Friend circles tend to be diverse, spouses can be from different regions and this is exactly the origin of the need for subtitling. It helps cater to the heterogeneous nature of our society. Subtitles enable groups, no matter how linguistically and culturally diverse, to watch one film and enjoy it. And I, as an actor, find it greatly satisfying.

But then why aren’t all the films subtitled?

Subtitling is important for regional language films and not so much for Bollywood movies as our audience has been exposed to them for a long time. Most mainstream regional films have started running subtitles at least in the multiplexes of cosmopolitan areas. Secondly, subtitling is really important for films that are sent to international festivals. It helps in gaining global recognition. And films are being subtitled with this objective for quite some years now.

On a slightly different note, you have played roles in various Indian languages, especially the southern ones. So how is the process? Does an actor need to know the language that his character is speaking?

No. I don’t know those languages. But I know exactly what I am saying. The director explains the scene and the assistants translate the dialogues for my understanding. I deliver the dialogues but I have a local dubbing artist dub them for me because I don’t get the pronunciation right.

But then is multilingualism of any importance to an actor?

Knowing languages never hurts. Multilingualism is essential for an actor from many angles. An actor, or any creative person for that matter, needs to love and be comfortable with at least a few languages. This enables him to read and enjoy literature that represents diverse cultures, making his personality multifaceted. And what is a language after all? It is set of abstract signs and symbols that the brain has to decipher and interpret. And this is an excellent exercise for the brain. As against cinemas, where both the audio and the images are given to the audience, a lot is left to reader’s imagination. This activity of reading, imagining and being creative helps an actor become better, it helps him open out and enrich his personality which is then reflected in every role he plays.

As a parting shot, what would you like to say to our readers, especially those who intend to enter the entertainment industry?

(Laughs!) Acting is nothing but expressing. And language is the most effective, and hence, the most used form of expression. So working on one’s language constitutes the major part of preparing to be an actor. I think that language is a carrier of emotions and transmitter of knowledge. So learn, love and master languages!

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Sonali Kulkarni - Editor-in-Chief, French-English Translator A novice at adulthood and an ardent disciple of Dan Brown and Ayn Rand, Sonali is a pathological bookworm, a borderline nerdy introvert and a hardcore adventure junkie who cannot live without chocolate. She is currently studying French and manages to speak some Spanish too. Having represented her state in national level Athletics for the better part of a decade, the nomad in her has now given it up to venture into the exciting world of languages, writing and travel.