Deadpool 2 is the latest big-ticket Hollywood movie to have been released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions. Following the mammoth successes of Hollywood releases in India – the most recent one, Avengers: Infinity War (2018), grossed over Rs 250 crores – the marketing team behind Deadpool 2 left no stone unturned to make the film appealing to Indian audiences.
Ranveer Singh was roped in to voice the merc with a mouth for the Hindi version. The Hindi trailer featured a host of Indian references, including local quips (“Iski maa ka Saki Naka”) and hat-tips to the headlines (“Main swachta abhiyaan ka fan hoon toh socha kyun na sabka vikaas main hi kar dun”). The Hindi version, however, is a hit-and-miss affair, unlike the near-flawless dub of Avengers: Infinity War.
The Hindi Avengers: Infinity War, written by Mayur Puri and Abha Jai Prakash, is on point. The story, with several parallel timelines, is communicated perfectly. “Infinity stone” becomes “anant mani” in Hindi. The popular line “I am Groot” is not translated.
The humour in Avengers: Infinity War is adequately communicated to Hindi speakers, especially in the scenes involving Drax. Remember the scene in which Thor lands up in the Guardians’ spaceship and Drax tells a jealous Peter Quill that Thor is not a “dude” but a “man” and that Peter is a “dude”? In Hindi, it becomes: “Banda tu hai, yeh mard hai.”
While in the English version, Thanos mockingly refers to Peter Quill as “the boyfriend” (of his adopted daughter, Gamora), in Hindi, he calls Peter Quill “damad ji”.
At several points in the Hindi version, characters slip into popular Hindi film dialogue (“Keh kar lete hain”, “Kismat kutti cheez hain”), and they work in the context of the scene.
Humour aside, the film has its darker moments involving, among other things, revenge over the killing of siblings (Loki) or loved ones (Gamora), and this opens up space for what in Indian commercial film idiom is known as punch dialogue. The ghee-soaked lines of threats and counter-threats issued between the umpteen heroes and the villain (“Gyaan ka shraanp sirf tumhe hi nahi mila hai”, “Badey totkey jaante ho, jaadugar”) are never laborious translations from the English.
However, there is a small problem with Avengers: Infinity War that becomes magnified in the case of Deadpool 2.
In a sequence in Avengers: Infinity War, movie buff Spider-Man suggests to Iron Man, Doctor Strange and others to get rid of the villain, Ebony Maw, by taking cues from the climax of James Cameron’s Alien (1986). Moments later, Ebony Maw is blasted out of the spaceship and in the next shot, a frozen Maw floats off in outer space, which is a direct homage to Aliens.
In the Hindi film, Alien becomes Museum Ke Andar Phas Gaya Sikandar, which was the Hindi title with which Night at the Museum (2006) was released in India. The entire fun of the scene goes missing, and that happens a lot in Deadpool 2 as well.
Deadpool 2 is not as strongly plot-driven as Avengers: Infinity War, and its entertainment value comes from its irreverent, R-rated, and often, juvenile humour. Writer Mayank Jain tries to find Indian equivalents for every single pop-culture reference made by Deadpool in the English version, and not all of them stick.
In the original, Deadpool compares the box-office gross of the first movie with that of The Passion of the Christ (2004), another R-rated blockbuster. He notes that though The Passion of the Christ beat Deadpool as the highest-grossing R-rated film in the United States of America, Deadpool beat it back in the overseas market.
In the Hindi version, The Passion of the Christ is replaced by the Baahubali films, and the logic of the dialogue falls apart.
Some solid comedy writing in English, such as when taxi driver Dopinder explains in uncomfortable detail that he wants to be Kirsten Dunst from Interview with the Vampire (1994) to Deadpool who could play Tom Cruise, is ruined in Hindi with an unfunny reference to Tiger Shroff and Baaghi 2 (2018). In another scene, a depressed Deadpool finds hope in his mistaken belief that David Bowie has not died. In the Hindi version, Bowie is replaced with Kishore Kumar, and the joke is wasted.
The English-language Deadpool 2 assumes that its audience is aware of every pop culture reference. The xenophobic treatment of mutants by humans in Deadpool 2, which ties to the X-Men movies and comic books and is referred to in several scenes and lines, appears out of place in the Hindi version. “Sarey hue mutants!”, a snarl by a henchman does not have the same zing as its English counterpart.
Dialogue is the unique selling point of the Deadpool films. In the Hindi version, the comedy works only when it is visual, such as in the case of the anticlimactic death of the X-Force team which would be funny in any language.
To be fair, Deadpool 2 is simply a hard film to translate. It does not have the distinct “Indian-ness” of emotions and character motivations, as Mayur Puri, the Hindi writer of Black Panther had earlier told Scroll.in. Perhaps, this has been reflected in Deadpool 2’s box office in India as well.