It’s somewhat poetic justice that 36-year-old Mayank Jain ended up writing the Hindi adaptation for Deadpool 2 despite having scorned at the prequel, Deadpool (2016). “In 2016, I was told that there is this super hero film, and I needed to watch it. I saw it and I told the studio head, yeh bahut vahiyat film hai (this is a horrendous film),” says Jain. Deadpool 2, which simultaneously released in Hindi and English earlier this month, has already sent the box office registers ringing. The Hindi adaptation has already garnered more than Rs 60 crore, a feat which can be credited partially to the slick Hindi premise and one liners written by Jain as a part of the film’s Hindi version. “I liked Deadpool 2 better than the first one,” says Jain, in a phone conversation from Mumbai, where he is in the middle of penning the Hindi adaptation for the upcoming Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams starrer Mission Impossible – Fallout, the sixth film in the series.
Apart from Deadpool 2, Jain has successfully adapted many English film franchises in Hindi. These include the Hindi adaptations of The Martian, Ice Age, The BFG, Kung Fu Panda, and a slew of Cartoon Network shows. He clarifies that his work is not about glorified translation. “The correct term is adapt. I adapt the script to an Indian context — the culture, the language and the flavour of colloquialism. Literal translation, though grammatically correct, can sound jarring. The local sabziwallah now doesn’t say ‘kshama kar dijiye’, he offers a ‘madam, sorry’. We need to reflect the changes that language has gone through. A ‘hello, how are you?’, when literally translated, would be ‘kaise ho aap’ but I will write it as ‘Aur bata kya chal raha hai, yaar’,” says Jain. “A lot depends on where it will play. If I am writing something for a north-Indian audience, then I will not use words like kalti ho le. I would use ghotala, and not jhol or locha. But maybe for a Mumbai-centric audience a tapori touch will do the trick,” he says.
A lot of Jain’s work is observing and keenly drawing parallels between the two cultures. In Deadpool 2, ‘Super Duper f**king group is changed to Punteron Ki Fauj. A reference to McRibs is morphed into paneer ke paranthe, a macho comparison between Thor and Deadpool is changed to Deadpool and Baahubali, a reference to Careless whisper by George Michael becomes Kishore Kumar’s Kora kaagaz. “I’m sure people would register McDonalds, but not McRibs — we don’t even get them in India. Paneer ke paranthe resonate with almost everyone. And even the swear words were adapted. The moment the audience in India hear Baahubali, the connection with the script and the context gets stronger. Also, I wanted to remove references that are seeped in American culture, contexts which might be lost on a chunk of our population,” says Jain.
The writer says that he has to work within strict technical parameters and also adhere to a brief issued by the studio. The Hindi words, while having to fit a social context also need to sync with the lip motion of the original version. “I can use many words to replace the word beautiful in Hindi, sundar is one. But to fit the exact lip sync, khoobsurat is a better fit as it’s the same length. Earlier we had VHS tapes and we would have to pause each frame, and then work. In the digital avatar it’s easier,” says Jain.
There is also the issue of cultural sensibilities. In Kung Fu Panda films, Po, the protagonist panda, is called Little Lotus Shan, This got translated into Nanhe Kamal in Hindi. Jain wanted it to be Rasagulla or Boondi Ka Laddu. “I thought Laddu or Rasagulla would be endearing as kids are often called by those names. But in Chinese culture, lotus has a place of pride, so we let it be,” adds Jain.
India has not always been lucky with Hindi adaptations and dubbing of foreign projects. We went through a phase when ‘my cat was also upset with me’ from Telebrands got translated to ‘meri billi ne bhi mujhse baat karna chod diya tha’. Stuff, that later contributed to many parodies and jokes in popular culture. “I remember that. That time we were too literal. Yaha-Vaha wali Hindi was in vogue. I remember watching Discovery channel and they would use words like ushmakatibandh for tropical and utari dhruv for the North Pole. Why would you watch something if you can’t understand the meaning of every other line,” says Jain.
A post graduate in Computer Science from Mithibai College, Mumbai, Jain has been a part of the Hollywood to Hindi adaptation world since he was 18. Voice and dubbing artiste Leela Roy Ghosh was his father’s close friend and right after his Class 12 exams, Jain’s father asked him to hang out at her studio. “One day I saw an adapted script, which I didn’t like. I offered my opinion and Leelaji asked me to write my own version. I thought maine kulhadi pe pair maar diya. But I did the needful, and she (Ghosh) liked what I wrote,” says Jain.
He believes that India has come a long way since the times when dinosaurs got translated to chhipkalis in Jurassic Park (1993). “The big studios and movie franchises are taking the Hindi market very seriously. Large-scale English films are released in Hindi the same day in India as they are in the West. Black Panther, Infinity War and now Deadpool 2 being the case in point. The moment you do that, a Hindi adaptation comes in direct competition with a big Bollywood releases at the multiplex. This just shows how serious they are about us and it has helped open new vistas for people like me,” concludes Jain.