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Alumni Talks: Interview with Mrs. Nandhini Karky

Interviewee: Mrs. Nandhini Karky (NK)

Interviewer: Guru Nivash (GT)


GT: How did you initially develop a penchant for writing?

NK: I didn’t get into the habit of writing through writing poems or stories as such; though I’ve been a voracious reader since my childhood. My father instilled a deep appreciation for both Tamil and English literature in me. The burning desire that I had for reading comics began to open up my vision of the world. After coming to CEG, I slowly started to pen down my thoughts and observations of my surroundings in and around the campus. My seniors and friends were kind enough to encourage me to write more, and that’s how I arrived at where I am now.

GT: Could you run us through your subtitling career?

NK: When I used to work at TCS Trivandrum, I translated a popular song from the movie Kaakha Kaakha for my non-Tamil speaking peers. They were taken aback by the beauty of some of the lyrics. I’ve also translated several songs for my husband, Madan Karky and his website. Some of my friends in the film fraternity then suggested that I try my hand at subtitling. So, I decided to do a certification in subtitling from Subtitling Worldwide, Netherlands.

After my certification, I went on to provide subtitles for almost twenty movies. It was initially really hectic until I decided to establish a subtitling firm called Subemy. Subemy is now the first academy in India to teach subtitling and intends to create quality subtitlers who can take our art and culture to a worldwide audience. We offer subtitling courses in both inter and intralingual subtitling. Over the years, we have trained many students and worked together with them on movies on numerous occasions. We are hoping to continue these courses later on, but for now, our focus lies in providing subtitling services.

GT: Can you please share some of your experiences working with a diverse set of film directors?

NK: The overall experience has been nothing short of eye-opening. For fascinating films like Thanga Meenkal, I involved myself in more brainstorming sessions with director Ram. Our brainstorming sessions together were always creative and fruitful. He truly helped me envision his perspective, and it was an absolute joy working with him. The film even went on to bag a lot of appreciation from non-Tamil speaking cinephiles, as the subtitles conveyed the right emotions according to the screenplay.

I’m also fortunate to have worked with director Mysskin. Whenever I asked him a query to clear my doubts, he would always be eager about it and take me into his world without any hesitation. His excitement and passion for cinema are contagious, and I adore it.

Gautham Menon mostly writes his films in English. While working with him, his team checked with Menon’s original version and gave their inputs during the subtitling process. The subtitles were particularly well-refined for the movie Yennai Arindhaal.

It was a great experience subtitling Madha Yaanai Koottam as the cultural references and dialects were all new to me. Sudha Kongara, who previously worked as a subtitler for director Mani Ratnam also helped us hone our subtitling skills. She has a definite sense of what she wants and makes bold decisions while choosing her subtitles; she doesn’t expect them to be neutral and inoffensive in language or tone.

It has been a fascinating journey so far. Sometimes, the directors won’t find time to go through subtitles; but working with each one has been an enriching experience. They’ve added immense value to our journey and keep us motivated to do our best.

GT: What was the idea behind Sunseeds, your poetry collection book?

NK: It mostly focuses on my reflection on nature. I’ve been writing poems on my blog for a long time now. I tried to put more emphasis on understanding the nuances of how the human mind works. When you observe the world closely, it not only tells you a lot about your surroundings, but also about yourself and how your mind works. Whenever I had an opportunity to be mindful of nature, I took some time to pen down my thoughts as poems. I explored these themes further, before finally bringing them together as my first poetry collection, which has now been published as a book.

GT: Can you share your perspective on Sangam Literature and the importance of it in Tamil history?

NK: Sangam literature is considered to be one of the oldest forms of literature written in one of the oldest living languages in the world. Unlike other types of ancient literature, it does not only concentrate on the greatness of Gods and Goddesses or the wealthy kingdoms of the time but also sheds light on the stories of common people. It also portrays how people's lives intertwine with nature, unlike any other form of literature. Sangam literature has always been one of the best windows to the past and gives us a glimpse into the people's lifestyles and the environment they lived in back then. It beautifully brings together numerous aspects of life through just a few lines of poetry. Sangam literature is one of the highest forms of poetry; it also shows us how the Tamil language must have evolved and existed to write poetry in its highest form. If you are interested in Tamil culture, Sangam literature paves the pathways that completely open your mind up about the past.

GT: Can you walk us through what you do with Sangam Lit?

NK: The recent findings of the Keeladi excavations have revealed that all of its residents were literate and that reading or writing wasn’t just restricted to the elite. Sangam literature is the living embodiment of literacy for all, irrespective of social standing. People from varying backgrounds can relate to the references made in these poems, and this is what I am trying to convey through my podcast SangamLit that has been running for two years now.

I usually take up one poem every session and delve deeper into the meaning of it while explaining some of the interesting words along the way. I try to interpret the emotions conveyed in the texts and connect them with those of the present. As of now, I have completed almost 400 poems of Natrinai, a 9-12 line group of poems that focus on various aspects of life in each geographical region back then. I have also recently started exploring Kuruntokai, an ancient form of Tamil haikus.

GT: What kind of advice would you give to students?

NK: Be passionate about what you love; keep exploring your passions. I encourage you to read Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David J. Epstein. It is an inspirational and strategic book that provides an outstanding view of how major professionals cultivate diverse and interdisciplinary experiences and use them in their favour.

GT: We are humbled to have interviewed you. Thank you so much for taking your time off to be a part of this insightful session with us. Do you have anything else to say?

NK: Thank you so much for the interview. Kudos to The Guindy Times for keeping arts alive in an increasingly technical world through magazines! All the very best to you!

GT: Thank you so much. 

Tagged in : Subtitling, writing, Alumni, poetry,