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  • Writer's pictureManish Nepal

Thank you, subtitles

I'm a recent convert to the fan club of Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon Prime.

Besides the fact that these content providers serve better quality entertainment than traditional TV, I love them for the English subtitles they offer for regional movies.

I was recently on a binge-watching spree watching and re-watching 4-5 Tamil and Malayalam movies when it dawned on me: I don’t have to wait for Thursdays anymore to drive down to Sathyam Cinema (in Chennai) to watch a Tamil movie with subtitles.

Subtitles are priceless because they don’t just mediate the entertainment value to non-speakers of a particular language, they bridge the language and cultural gap. In a diverse country like India, I think online streaming services are acting as a unifying force — at least to a cultural extent.

A person like me could have never experienced Mani Ratnam’s beautiful storytelling in 'Kannathil Muthamittal' and 'Iruvar' had it not been for the English — a vestige of colonial times. Although they aren’t perfect, subtitles have enabled me to be awe-struck by 'Ustad Hotel' and 'Bangalore Days' as much as a native Malayalam-speaking movie buff would be.

I think English, for that matter, is proxying the lack of a national language in India and helping its people celebrate their unity in diversity.

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