Rajinikanth’s latest Tamil movie Kaala will also be released in Hindi as Kaala Karikaalan. Directed by Pa Ranjith, Kaala is set in Mumbai’s Dharavi neighbourhood. The June 7 release revolves around Kaala (Rajinikanth), a community leader who takes on a politician over the issue of housing rights for the poor and working class population that lives in the slum. Kaala is a Tamil-speaking migrant from the Tirunelveli district, but since the movie is set in Mumbai, the cast includes Hindi-speaking actors such as Nana Patekar, Anjali Patil, Huma Qureshi, Pankaj Tripathi and Ravi Kale.

We spoke to actress Anjali Patil, dialogue writer Ranjeet Bahadur and voice artist Mayur Vyas to find out how the highly anticipated movie has been adapted for Hindi audiences. Patil has appeared in Delhi in a Day (2011), With You Without You (2012), Chakravyuh (2012), and Newton (2017). Ranjeet Bahadur is working on the Hindi version of Rajinikanth’s upcoming 2.0, the sequel of Enthiran (2010), which was released in Hindi as Robot. Mayur Vyas has dubbed for the Hindi versions of the Rajinikanth starrers Chandramukhi (2005), Sivaji (2007), Endhiran (2010), Lingaa (2014) and Kabali (2016).

Anjali Patil: ‘A battle against good and bad’

A few of Ranjith’s assistants had watched my film With You Without You and approached me. Ranjith very honestly told me about my character in terms of the length and screen space. I realised that this is not a film where I should be thinking about the length of the role, but should be focusing more on the experience of working with Rajinikanth.

Fifty per cent of the film was shot on location in Dharavi. When we went back to Chennai, we had a massive set of Dharavi. During my first day of shoot, I totally forgot that I was in Chennai. It was exactly the same, including the shop names and all the little details that you can think of. The production design team has done an amazing job.

Kaala Karikaalan (2018).

Ranjith had a very strong idea about my character, Puyal Charumati Gaekwad. She is very feisty and hot-blooded. As he saw me perform every day in the scenes, he would push the character more. There was this one scene that I probably did not do with my full energy. Ranjith came up to me and said that I could get more angry and perform. The character evolved on the sets, and he gave me a lot of space.

Ranjith’s films have very strong sociopolitical themes, and I was always interested by that. Puyal is one of the strong characters who leads Kaala’s protests.

As Rajini sir would say, it is not a political film, but it has a political message. Everybody is talking about the political associations. Ranjith has delicately managed to weave in details about communities who function together in a place like Dharavi. It is a battle against the so-called good and bad. These topics are very subjective.

Ranjeet Bahadur: ‘A lot of cultural nuances’

If you look at the trailer and teaser for Kaala, Rajini sir’s character is much closer to reality than in his other movies. When the director is clear about what he wants, it is not very difficult to achieve this.

The main brief was to keep the spirit of the film as close to the original as possible. Since it is in Hindi and it is for a different audience, I had to adapt a few things. A film like Kaala has a lot of cultural nuances. Those things needed to be adapted. He [Ranjith] gave me a lot of freedom to take it forward as long as the essence was intact.

I could understand what the director’s intention was. If you know the intention, it is alright.

Kaala (2018).

I watched Kabali to understand Ranjith’s style. He has a very individual vision. That becomes a starting point. The preparation also included discussions with the filmmaker about the thought behind the dialogue. If you are just going to be translating, that won’t be the right thing. Dialogue is not a separate entity. Like everything else, it is a part of filmmaking that helps in the storytelling, just like acting and music.

I do not see language as a barrier. Gandhi [the 1982 film] was made in English. Indians speaking in English sounded quite odd in the beginning, but after a point you got used to it. Devdas and Kahaani are also examples. All you can do is create your own nuances in the language to keep the flavour alive. If it is too much of an alien language, the audience will not understand it and the purpose is defeated. You need to have a balance between understanding and authenticity. You cannot compromise one for another.

Kabali (2016).

Mayur Vyas: ‘No flipping cigarettes or sunglasses’

The only brief given to me was to match Rajini sir’s dialogue delivery. There was a lot of discussion about matching the tonality of the original. We had a lot of back and forth conversations about the dialogue.

Kaala could be considered as a 50% Hindi film. We had to constantly remind ourselves that we were doing a Hindi film and that it should sound like a Hindi film. Although Rajini sir has spoken most of his lines in Tamil except for a few lines in Hindi, most of the actors delivered their dialogue in Hindi.

There are different shades to his character – he’s a family man, but at the same time he is the leader of the poor and unattended people of Dharavi. In the teaser, Kaala is portrayed to be a negative character as he is often associated with the colour black and even Raavan in one instance. His intentions are good, but his ways are not socially acceptable. I had to constantly portray him on a positive note.

Kaala (2018). Image credit: Wunderbar Films.

Dubbing anything from Tamil, no matter how good the actor, is difficult. Caricature might emerge because Tamil has a very different style of delivery. The language itself has its load. You tend to get carried away. But we were careful not to do that. On several occasions, Ranjeet Bahadur and my team would inform me if I went overboard in any way.

Hindi lines are longer compared to Tamil. The Tamil expressions are shorter. In two or three words, a dialogue might be conveyed. Tamil language is also more lyrical and musical in nature. In Hindi, you normally finish the line by saying “hai” or “tha”. We might have to drop those words while dubbing. It might sound a little awkward, but it fits into that style. We have done many such experiments.

For instance, there is this popular dialogue in the teaser, “Kya re setting kiya hai? Vengai ka beta akela khada hai. Himmat hai to ek saath aao.” We worked on a lot of combinations for the last line. It is still not exactly what he has said in the Tamil version, but it matches the tonality. If the words and lines are not written correctly, the intensity might not come out properly.

For my preparation for Sivaji, I started off by watching a lot of Rajini sir’s older films, where he played darker characters, including K Balachander’s Apoorva Ragangal. With age, Rajinikanth has changed his style. He is doing roles that reflect his actual age. It is more mature and graceful. That is the only difference I inferred and incorporated into my work. His films are not just about flipping the cigarette or sunglasses anymore.

Kaala is a normal film. It is about one person raising his voice against the system. Of late, Rajini sir has joined movements that are more political in nature. Otherwise, I don’t think the director wants to make any political statement.

Sivaji (2007).