Entertainment

'The Lion King': a significant experiment in translation and micro-culture

Disney Channel, the entertainment destination for kids and families, is all set to make summer vacations more fun and memorable with Disneys The Lion King. The blockbuster animated feature film, that released on June 15, 1994, will premiere on Disney Channel on May 22, 2011 at 1.30 p.m. Critically acclaimed and a commercial success, the film continues to be the most popular hand drawn animation film till date.

Disney Channel, the entertainment destination for kids and families, is all set to make summer vacations more fun and memorable with Disneys The Lion King. The blockbuster animated feature film, that released on June 15, 1994, will premiere on Disney Channel on May 22, 2011 at 1.30 p.m. Critically acclaimed and a commercial success, the film continues to be the most popular hand drawn animation film till date.

Casting human voice in a multilingual film about animals means a comparative study between the personas of a human and an animal. It also means comparing cultures, and how voices from one culture can match those of the other. This is a journey where the animal is mapped onto a human, and the human voice mapped onto a cultural voice. Each step invites improvisation and ethnic experimentation.

A human being dubbing for an animal means that he has to let go of his self and enter the persona of the animal, its traits and behaviour. This however, is based in your own cultural context. The process of voice casting strikes the perfect chord in the Hindi version of the latest rendition of Lion King (2019). Shah Rukh Khan’s deep resonating voice for Mufasa is a fitting metaphor for the lion, which relates strikingly well to the elements of a father, a protector, a powerful justice keeper. Timon, the meerkat and Pumbaa, the warthog are voice-casted as local bhais from Mumbai and Bihar. They are the coarse rustic voices of Shreyas Talpade and Sanjay Mishra. Through their voices they bring in an essential underdog element that is inherent within both these characters with the ‘Hakuna matata’ attitude. This eventually becomes the common thread for a carefully mediated humour which succeeds in complex regional audiences in India.

There is a also a geographical displacement from Africa to America to regional India (Bihar and Mumbai) that takes place. The story is set in Africa, the film is produced in America and the voices are from India. Humanizing the animalistic element through cultural dialogue connections like Bhidu, Tension kaiko leta hai , and other Mumbai slangs opens a newly curated anthropocentric world.

Seiving through the voices in one’s memory, Zazu, the timid obedient hornbill bird, revealed an Indo-British inspector saying, “hum angrezon ke zamaane ke jailor hai!” from Sholay . It was Asrani himself magnificently fitting into the hornbill’s body and behaviour. A new augmentation to our previous imagination of the classic Rowan Atkinson’s 1994 voice for Zazu.

With the 1994 English version, absorption was far more for the music and the songs that stitched the scenes very well. Lion King is one of the very few movies which succeeds exceedingly well in translating our emotions to the language of sound through the dialect of music. The compositions of Hans Zimmer and Elton John have a deep impact on us each time we watch. They always appear married to each other in a holistic sense. If we watch the visuals on mute, the music comes seeking us and vice-versa. What stays with us when we watch films at a tender age are the temporal experiences rather than the finer details.

As we grow up, we watch reruns and the mind provides the narrative. We start developing a subconscious narrative which tells us, “Oh the exciting part is yet to come!!” As the scenes pass, we blindly cue the next trigger, “Oh the scary part is gonna come now!” or “Oh the stampede is gonna start!”. The movie grows with us and we absorb the complete narrative once we exhaust our excitement for each scene.

Some aspects deepen while converting the animated virtual mis-en-scene into the real 3D experience. In the traditional, coloured 2D animation methods, it is a lot more possible to experiment with our fantasy and imagination.

Understanding a fable in a different medium is a different experience. An invitation into a different medium excites us while an invitation into a realistic world might make us feel exhausted as it gives no room for imagination.

The haunting elephant skeleton ridden graveyard seemed more alien, desolate and dangerous in the original. The love between Naala and Simba is more youthful and sensuous in the original. The hyenas are scary, dark, evil and vicious in the latest 2019 version. The older version focuses more on their foolishness and carelessness, which justifies their urge to follow a non-virtuous leader like Scar.

Regional translations within animated movies invite filmmakers to pursue a sustained study of cultures and a global understanding of the world’s tastes through dialogue. It enables a study of the world through language.

Lion King (2019) was released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages for the Indian audience. Every writer in the team had specific tasks to suit it to culturally relevant stereotypes. This exercise not only investigates micro cultures of different countries, but it also a significant experiment in translation.

Lion King can be called a multicultural, multi-sensory philosophy in itself. It speaks about the inevitable circle of life, the triumph of good over evil, the questioning of morality and mortality, the fantasy of believing in speaking to our ancestors through rituals, regardless of the language we speak.


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 17, 2022 12:43:27 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/fluidity-in-a-plural-idea/article29910501.ece