Abstract Thevery process of expressing the varied aspects of womanhood entails, for female writersand auteurs, a critical engagement with patriarchy and, hence gender is both adiscursive and substantive category of cultural organization. Any translated work has a possibility of capturing a fresh form andmay have its precincts to put across the creative work and a new wordingemerges depending on the opinions, beliefs, values, locale and the gender ofthe translator. In case of aninter-semiotic translation, especially from the literary to the audio-visualmedium, a whole new world of options is at once available to the translator.
Andif the purpose of translation is to make the source text accessible and to beheard by a larger readership, what happens to the text when it is transformedby the translator in the process of making it accessible to the readers ofanother language is a crucial question that needs to be answered. Does thepower of manipulation and interpretation that the translators have,empower the source text or empower thetranslated text? This issue, which is vital in translation of all texts,becomes all the more important in case of marginalized literatures, whichspring as a consequence of and highlight the struggle of the oppressed. Hereeach and every word springs up from the existing society, which is experiencedor viewed by the writer or translator or both. The present paper explores thevarious issues related to translating a literary text into film by filmmakers and the issues it affects and/or empowers. Keywords: Inter-semiotic translation, female auteur, patriarchy, gender,marginalised Introduction “The main differencebetween film and literary work lies in the fact that literature is fixed in awritten form, while in a film the image (representation) is supported by thesound, in the form of music or words”. —Torop A brief survey of the current trends in TranslationStudies indicates a tendency of its movement beyond strict textual analysisencapsulating broader research paradigms.
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The 1960s and after has brought indrastic changes in the concept of “text”. A text today has been redefined andre-conceptualised to include meaning structures comprising varying semioticcodes. The concept of intersemiotics is used first by Roman Jakobson in his Essays of General Linguistics. In thesection headed ‘On linguistic aspects of translation’ in 1959, he distinguishesfirst the “intralingual translation”, secondly the “interlingual translation”or the translation itself, thirdly the “intersemiotic translation” or the”transmutation”, which consists of the interpretation (performance) oflinguistic signs by means of systems of non-linguistic signs. More clearly, interpretationof a verbal sign can happen in three ways: Intralingual, Interlingual and Intersemiotictranslation. In the case of intralingual translation or rewording, the changestake place within the same language where a verbal sign (word) belonging to aparticular language is replaced by another sign (word) belonging to the samelanguage. Interlingual translation or translation proper on the other hand canbe seen as replacing a verbal sign with another sign but belonging to adifferent language.
And Intersemiotic translation or transmutation is aninterpretation of verbal signs by means of signs of nonverbal sign systems. Morethan focusing on the words, emphasis is on the overall message that needs to beconveyed. Thus the translator, instead of paying attention to the verbal signs,concentrates more on the information that is to be delivered. Thus a text whenmade into a film becomes an inter-semiotic translation from a written medium tothe audio-visual medium. Roman Jakobson uses the term ‘mutual translatability’and states that when any two languages are being compared, the foremost thingthat needs to be taken into consideration is whether they can be translatedinto one another or not.
Furthermore,texts can no longer be considered as isolated entities that are created in avacuous space. Rather, texts are now studied within their broader socio-cultural contexts, as well as their spatial-temporal location. In fact, withthe advent of newer information and communication technologies (ICTs), thenature of “text” continues to be ever-changing, and ever-evolving. Additionally,more and more studies are focusing on the role and agency of the translator assubject, as well as the social effects translation can and does have in realworld situations. Inter-semiotic translation is being seen as powerful and farreaching, with ample scope for the translator to add different and multiple dimensionsto the literary texts. Film adaptations of novels have a big sway for the audiencebecause the consumption of audio-visual material is more in comparison to thelinear literary material.
The successful adaptations of the novels of ChetanBhagat, Jhumpa Lahiri and other Indian and Indian diasporic writers today havebecome commercial hits winning mass appeal and not just won the acclaim in theelite category of art movies. It is in this context that a few illustrations ofinter-semiotic translations by women film directors are examined and theirapproach and impact is analysed.Approachesby Film Makers: TheSahitya Academy winning kannada novel Phaniyammawritten in the year 1977 by M.
K. Indira is a classic that has been read fromseveral perspectives as being one of the few post-independent novels thatrecords the transition that Indian social milieu as a whole experienced. Thisnovel undergoes a complete makeover and gets a clear feminist slant in thehands of the film maker Prema Karanth in the film with the same name directedby her in the year 1980. The Film won the National Award for Best Kannada Filmas well as the Fipresci Award, and was shown at the Mannheim International FilmFestival too indicating the strong impact it has made. This is achieved by hernot by making additions and deletions to the original text of Phaniamma, but by presenting it in a waythat is suitable to a film text.
M. K. Indira’s literary text is in the form ofa simple linear narration, but in the film Prema Karanth cuts back and forthbetween the young Phani and old Phaniyamma in which the child becomes the’epistemic self’ The past and the present although separate are related inuneasy ways to show that Phaniyamma is trying to understand her own place inlife. Karanth shows Phaniyamma’s face in contemplative register in betweenepisodes, lending it additional dimensions of the current feminist stances ofwomen looking inward in search of their real selves. Thetragic incident in the novel where the child Phani’s beautifully plaited andornamented mane gets cut in the fair, followed by the unexpected death of herchild bridegroom and the after effects are narrated by M.
K. Indira in aserious way. But the intensity of the event is multiplied many times over inone shot in Karanth’s film. In the saidshot there is total darkness and a young girl’s voice asking why she isimprisoned showing the inhumanity beset in some traditional customs that arebeing practiced blindly, where the child is being punished for no fault of hersand reasons not comprehensible to her. At which Karanth does a montage of shotsof knife on young Phani’s hair.
Once in a fair where a thief cuts her hair forthe ornaments and then after she is widowed with shots of knife, hair on thefloor and a tearful barber followed by the shocking spectacle of a young Phaniin widow’s garb. Through all this the young girl registers the events onlythrough the loss of her bangles. Karanth makes this bewildered state the mostpowerful critique of the patriarchal system.
AgainKaranth makes use of the same hair cutting scene to show the change in womenover the years. Dakshayini the girl from the next generation who is widoweddoes not allow for the hair cutting ritual. She chases the barber and in a mostrebellious shot drags her mother-in-law to the barber. He exits horrified. Thenthere is a close up of her dead husband and a framed shot of her emerging longhaired.
In another shot Dakshayini is shown slowly and deliberately applyingkumkum to her forehead, showing that her rebellion is not completely stampedout, which makes the feminist angle all the more prominent and contemporary. Phaniyammais put into the groove of strict traditional practices meant for Brahmin widowsand allowed no physical contact in her house. Once when a boy accidentlytouches her she has to take a bath and forego a meal.
That is when sheunderstands the logic behind the ‘madi'( purity)- the inside sacred the outsideprofane. So she ventures forth into the village which in the film in a slowmoving song she is shown going from house to house. The orbit of her contact isoutside. In her own home she is barred from ‘sacred space’ and confined to adark room. Karanth here shows her as a female who has submerged her desireswhich society had buried in her childhood and emerged as a woman who made aspace for herself outside the society she lives in. The film very consciously has brought thatultimately it is the humanity that emerges victorious outgrowing the barriersof caste, community and gender, and the realization of this for Phaniamma ismost fulfilling.
The scene where Phaniamma stealthily goes to the house of anoutcaste at night in order to ease out a difficult delivery, strongly registersher rebellion against the narrow bounds of traditions.And this episode sums upa woman’s proclamation of self-identity. Yetanother illustration of the empowering stance of inter-semiotic translation isa film adaptation of ‘A Flowering Tree’ which in turn is a Kannada folktalenarrated by Siddamma and translated into English by A. K Ramanujan.
It is originally”a woman’s tale” which communicates ecofeminist belief in woman power orShakthi, and the concept of Stree Shakthi which is Ahimsa or non-violence. Thestory revolves around a girl who is bestowed with magical powers to become aflowering tree to help people around her, particularly her mother who does”menial jobs in order to feed and clothe and bring up her children”. Shemarries a prince who is enamoured by her beauty and her special powers. Later,she suffers in the hands of her jealous in-laws, exploited into a ‘thing’thereby brings in the theme of objectification of women. In a favorableenvironment when people show genuine love and concern to her she finallybecomes a human being. This story was made into akannada film titled Cheluvi by GirishKarnad in 1992. It is about a girl who has mystical powers to turn into afragile tree but at the same time yield some exotic and rare flowers and lovinglytended by her sister.
The origin of the flowers was kept a secret but anyonewho smelled the flowers would love to buy them again and again. Kumar who wasobsessed with these flowers decides to buy the whole basket from the sistersand falls in love with Cheluvi and coaxes her to let out her little secret.Cheluvi reluctantly gives away the secret to Kumar, who takes her to the privatepool (A Typical South Indian Setting) and tends to her as she becomes a tree, herflowers drop into the pool but the flowing water carries out the flowers alongwith them and the children of the house also witness her becoming a tree. Thechildren later force her into the forest, and break her branches when shebecomes a tree and run away abandoning Cheluvi. Cheluvi is unable to regain herhuman form due to the missing branches. A poor wood cutter notices her plightin the forest and carries her home and upon her request places her in front ofher husband’s house.
Kumar who had been furiously searching her realizes thatit is his wife lying in the courtyard and is desperate to make her whole onceagain. Cheluvi says that she will be able to regain her human form if he isable to find her missing branches. Overjoyed Kumar decides to take her into theforest, but to his despair many trees are felled and he is unable to find herbranches. The movie ends with hopelessness writ large on everybody’s faces. Thestory ‘A Flowering Tree’ clearly has feminist undertones, where the contrastivepictures of the girl’s metamorphosis into a tree and back, shows the objectificationand the sly treatment she receives at her in-laws home.
As depicted in thestory the woman gets transformed into a tree spontaneously in her mother’shouse and her older sister plucked the flowers carefully, without hurting astalk, or sprout, or leaf”. But in the post-marriage situation, the womanchanges into a tree amidst confusion and chaos created by her sister-in-lawShyama and ends up with broken branches and deserted to suffer. Her plight is revealedas below- “In their greed to get theflowers, they tore up the sprouts and broke the branches. They were in a hurryto get home. So they poured the second pitcher of water at random and ran away.
When the princess changed from a tree to a person again, she had no hands andfeet. She had only half a body. She was a wounded carcass” (Ramanujan 58). Hersituation is in fact a reflection of the difficulties and agonies ofdisplacement every woman faces owing to the institution of traditionalmarriage.
But the same story whentranslated into a movie by a male director, Girish Karnad assumes a whole newset of meanings. The environmental concerns take center stage and man’s greedand the destruction caused thereby becomes all the more prominent. Thefilm raises the issue of deforestation and also likens the life of the selflesstree to a woman who also spends her life showering all that she has to herfamily, without any self-interest. This bestowal of love goes unacknowledgedand is thanklessly exploited is also highlighted in the movie, but the strongfeminist edge of the story is not explicitly stressed in the film. Thus as Dr. Meenakshi Pawha in her article onCheluvi points out-“Karnad seems to be saying in Cheluvi that humanity’salienation from nature lies at the root of the ecological crisis.
Ironically,it is our very separation from the physical world that creates much of thispain, and it is because we are taught to live so separately from nature that wefeel so utterly dependent upon our civilization, which has seemingly takennature’s place in meeting all of our needs”. Karnad therefore reinterpretsRamanujan’s story to voice the environmental issues rather than the feministedge that was the basic pre-occupation in the original.Conclusion: Thetwo illustrative films in this paper show how the existing system can be circumventedin raising the feminist questions through films. Prema Karanth shows the older Phaniyammalooking at her younger self, and in looking at her, the whole process of self-reflection becomes intense and becomes the motivation for the narration or howthe story comes to be told. Visual self-reflexivity becomes important for thefilm’s feminist narrative in thatthe image reflects the woman in the story as opposed to the narrative apparatusreflecting male narratives in mainstream Indian cinema.
In the translation of”Flowering Tree” by A.K.Ramanujan clearly symbolizes woman- nature relationshipand their survival in a patriarchal society. The film by Girish Karnad shiftsthe story from a folktale scenario of beautiful maidens and charmed princes andredeeming feature of becoming human to focus on a real life issue ofenvironmental destruction with no redemption. As representational and conceptualcategories, the protagonists of female auteurs are, more often than not, caughtwithin an ironic ambivalence between ‘being’ and ‘becoming.’ And in the processthey raise many conservative hackles. Whereas patriarchy glosses over thisambivalence by positing both being and becoming as related aspects of womanhoodbecoming- being a mere acculturation tool for her notional being, femaleauteurs refuse to blur this patriarchal glossing of women’s being and becoming.
She instead, configures this dialectics of women’s being and becoming asinherently complex and at times contradictory, and hence fraught with moreinclusive but debatable representational potentials, which are realized in thetranslations into film by women. Hencenew issues emerge depending on the options, beliefs, values and the locale ofthe translator, when it is transformed by the translator in the process ofmaking it accessible to the readers/viewers of another language. The power of manipulation and interpretationthat the translatorshave empowers the translated text.
Thus in conclusion it can besaid that the gender, society, religion, medium, and technical context affectthe transmission of women in inter-semiotic translations. References: Braidotti, Rosi et al. Women, the Environment and SustainableDevelopment- Towards a Theoretical Synthesis, London: Zed books,1994.
Print. Jakobson Roman. Essais deLinguistique Générale, Minuit, 1963, PrintKarnad, Girish. Cheluvi. 1992.
Maathai,Wangari. Unbowed-One Woman’s story, London: William Heinemann, 2006.Print.Macdonald,Margaret Read. Earth Care: World Folktales to Talk about, Arkansas:August House Publishers, Inc. 2005.
Print.Pawha Meenakshi, “Fretwork Of Trees:’Connectedness’ And ‘Alienation’ In Girish Karnad’s Cheluvi(1992)” Research Scholar: An International Refereede-Journal of Literary Explorations. Vol.2. Issue III. August, 2014. August2014.
Pp. 375-378.Ramanujan,A. K. Folktales from India, New Delhi: Penguin Books ltd, 2007. Print.— .
AFlowering Tree and other oral tales from India, New Delhi: Penguinbooks.1997.Print.Torop P. La traduzione totale. Ed. by B.
Osimo.Modena, Guaraldi Logos, 2000. Webliography: http://www.nfdcindia.com/mipcom2.htmlhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaniyamma