Abstract literature is fixed in a written form,

Abstract

 

The
very process of expressing the varied aspects of womanhood entails, for female writers
and auteurs, a critical engagement with patriarchy and, hence gender is both a
discursive and substantive category of cultural organization. Any translated work has a possibility of capturing a fresh form and
may have its precincts to put across the creative work and a new wording
emerges depending on the opinions, beliefs, values, locale and the gender of
the translator.  In case of an
inter-semiotic translation, especially from the literary to the audio-visual
medium, a whole new world of options is at once available to the translator. And
if the purpose of translation is to make the source text accessible and to be
heard by a larger readership, what happens to the text when it is transformed
by the translator in the process of making it accessible to the readers of
another language is a crucial question that needs to be answered. Does the
power of manipulation and interpretation that the translators have,
empower the source text or empower the
translated text? This issue, which is vital in translation of all texts,
becomes all the more important in case of marginalized literatures, which
spring as a consequence of and highlight the struggle of the oppressed. Here
each and every word springs up from the existing society, which is experienced
or viewed by the writer or translator or both. The present paper explores the
various issues related to translating a literary text into film by film
makers and the issues it affects and/or empowers.

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Key
words: Inter-semiotic translation, female auteur, patriarchy, gender,
marginalised

 

 

Introduction

 

“The main difference
between film and literary work lies in the fact that literature is fixed in a
written form, while in a film the image (representation) is supported by the
sound, in the form of music or words”.

                                                                              
                                                                              —Torop

 

                        A brief survey of the current trends in Translation
Studies indicates a tendency of its movement beyond strict textual analysis
encapsulating broader research paradigms. The 1960s and after has brought in
drastic changes in the concept of “text”. A text today has been redefined and
re-conceptualised to include meaning structures comprising varying semiotic
codes. The concept of intersemiotics is used first by Roman Jakobson in his Essays of General Linguistics. In the
section headed ‘On linguistic aspects of translation’ in 1959, he distinguishes
first the “intralingual translation”, secondly the “interlingual translation”
or the translation itself, thirdly the “intersemiotic translation” or the
“transmutation”, which consists of the interpretation (performance) of
linguistic signs by means of systems of non-linguistic signs. More clearly, interpretation
of a verbal sign can happen in three ways: Intralingual, Interlingual and Intersemiotic
translation. In the case of intralingual translation or rewording, the changes
take place within the same language where a verbal sign (word) belonging to a
particular language is replaced by another sign (word) belonging to the same
language. Interlingual translation or translation proper on the other hand can
be seen as replacing a verbal sign with another sign but belonging to a
different language. And Intersemiotic translation or transmutation is an
interpretation of verbal signs by means of signs of nonverbal sign systems. More
than focusing on the words, emphasis is on the overall message that needs to be
conveyed. Thus the translator, instead of paying attention to the verbal signs,
concentrates more on the information that is to be delivered. Thus a text when
made into a film becomes an inter-semiotic translation from a written medium to
the audio-visual medium. Roman Jakobson uses the term ‘mutual translatability’
and states that when any two languages are being compared, the foremost thing
that needs to be taken into consideration is whether they can be translated
into one another or not.

            Furthermore,
texts can no longer be considered as isolated entities that are created in a
vacuous space. Rather, texts are now studied within their broader socio-
cultural contexts, as well as their spatial-temporal location. In fact, with
the advent of newer information and communication technologies (ICTs), the
nature 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 as
subject, as well as the social effects translation can and does have in real
world situations. Inter-semiotic translation is being seen as powerful and far
reaching, with ample scope for the translator to add different and multiple dimensions
to the literary texts. Film adaptations of novels have a big sway for the audience
because the consumption of audio-visual material is more in comparison to the
linear literary material. The successful adaptations of the novels of Chetan
Bhagat, Jhumpa Lahiri and other Indian and Indian diasporic writers today have
become commercial hits winning mass appeal and not just won the acclaim in the
elite category of art movies. It is in this context that a few illustrations of
inter-semiotic translations by women film directors are examined and their
approach and impact is analysed.

Approaches
by Film Makers:

            The
Sahitya Academy winning kannada novel Phaniyamma
written in the year 1977 by M. K. Indira is a classic that has been read from
several perspectives as being one of the few post-independent novels that
records the transition that Indian social milieu as a whole experienced. This
novel undergoes a complete makeover and gets a clear feminist slant in the
hands of the film maker Prema Karanth in the film with the same name directed
by her in the year 1980. The Film won the National Award for Best Kannada Film
as well as the Fipresci Award, and was shown at the Mannheim International Film
Festival too indicating the strong impact it has made. This is achieved by her
not by making additions and deletions to the original text of Phaniamma, but by presenting it in a way
that is suitable to a film text. M. K. Indira’s literary text is in the form of
a simple linear narration, but in the film Prema Karanth cuts back and forth
between the young Phani and old Phaniyamma in which the child becomes the
‘epistemic self’ The past and the present although separate are related in
uneasy ways to show that Phaniyamma is trying to understand her own place in
life. Karanth shows Phaniyamma’s face in contemplative register in between
episodes, lending it additional dimensions of the current feminist stances of
women looking inward in search of their real selves.

            The
tragic incident in the novel where the child Phani’s beautifully plaited and
ornamented mane gets cut in the fair, followed by the unexpected death of her
child bridegroom and the after effects are narrated by M. K. Indira in a
serious way. But the intensity of the event is multiplied many times over in
one shot in Karanth’s film.  In the said
shot there is total darkness and a young girl’s voice asking why she is
imprisoned showing the inhumanity beset in some traditional customs that are
being practiced blindly, where the child is being punished for no fault of hers
and reasons not comprehensible to her. At which Karanth does a montage of shots
of knife on young Phani’s hair. Once in a fair where a thief cuts her hair for
the ornaments and then after she is widowed with shots of knife, hair on the
floor and a tearful barber followed by the shocking spectacle of a young Phani
in widow’s garb. Through all this the young girl registers the events only
through the loss of her bangles. Karanth makes this bewildered state the most
powerful critique of the patriarchal system.

            Again
Karanth makes use of the same hair cutting scene to show the change in women
over the years. Dakshayini the girl from the next generation who is widowed
does not allow for the hair cutting ritual. She chases the barber and in a most
rebellious shot drags her mother-in-law to the barber. He exits horrified. Then
there is a close up of her dead husband and a framed shot of her emerging long
haired. In another shot Dakshayini is shown slowly and deliberately applying
kumkum to her forehead, showing that her rebellion is not completely stamped
out, which makes the feminist angle all the more prominent and contemporary.

            Phaniyamma
is put into the groove of strict traditional practices meant for Brahmin widows
and allowed no physical contact in her house. Once when a boy accidently
touches her she has to take a bath and forego a meal. That is when she
understands the logic behind the ‘madi'( purity)- the inside sacred the outside
profane. So she ventures forth into the village which in the film in a slow
moving song she is shown going from house to house. The orbit of her contact is
outside. In her own home she is barred from ‘sacred space’ and confined to a
dark room. Karanth here shows her as a female who has submerged her desires
which society had buried in her childhood and emerged as a woman who made a
space for herself outside the society she lives in.  The film very consciously has brought that
ultimately it is the humanity that emerges victorious outgrowing the barriers
of caste, community and gender, and the realization of this for Phaniamma is
most fulfilling. The scene where Phaniamma stealthily goes to the house of an
outcaste at night in order to ease out a difficult delivery, strongly registers
her rebellion against the narrow bounds of traditions.And this episode sums up
a woman’s proclamation of self-identity. 

            Yet
another illustration of the empowering stance of inter-semiotic translation is
a film adaptation of ‘A Flowering Tree’ which in turn is a Kannada folktale
narrated by Siddamma and translated into English by A. K Ramanujan. It is originally
“a woman’s tale” which communicates ecofeminist belief in woman power or
Shakthi, and the concept of Stree Shakthi which is Ahimsa or non-violence. The
story revolves around a girl who is bestowed with magical powers to become a
flowering tree to help people around her, particularly her mother who does
“menial jobs in order to feed and clothe and bring up her children”. She
marries 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 favorable
environment when people show genuine love and concern to her she finally
becomes a human being.

            This story was made into a
kannada film titled Cheluvi by Girish
Karnad in 1992. It is about a girl who has mystical powers to turn into a
fragile tree but at the same time yield some exotic and rare flowers and lovingly
tended by her sister. The origin of the flowers was kept a secret but anyone
who smelled the flowers would love to buy them again and again. Kumar who was
obsessed with these flowers decides to buy the whole basket from the sisters
and 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 private
pool (A Typical South Indian Setting) and tends to her as she becomes a tree, her
flowers drop into the pool but the flowing water carries out the flowers along
with them and the children of the house also witness her becoming a tree. The
children later force her into the forest, and break her branches when she
becomes a tree and run away abandoning Cheluvi. Cheluvi is unable to regain her
human form due to the missing branches. A poor wood cutter notices her plight
in the forest and carries her home and upon her request places her in front of
her husband’s house. Kumar who had been furiously searching her realizes that
it is his wife lying in the courtyard and is desperate to make her whole once
again. Cheluvi says that she will be able to regain her human form if he is
able to find her missing branches. Overjoyed Kumar decides to take her into the
forest, but to his despair many trees are felled and he is unable to find her
branches. The movie ends with hopelessness writ large on everybody’s faces.

            The
story ‘A Flowering Tree’ clearly has feminist undertones, where the contrastive
pictures of the girl’s metamorphosis into a tree and back, shows the objectification
and the sly treatment she receives at her in-laws home. As depicted in the
story the woman gets transformed into a tree spontaneously in her mother’s
house and her older sister plucked the flowers carefully, without hurting a
stalk, or sprout, or leaf”.  But in the post-marriage situation, the woman
changes into a tree amidst confusion and chaos created by her sister-in-law
Shyama and ends up with broken branches and deserted to suffer. Her plight is revealed
as below-

 “In their greed to get the
flowers, they tore up the sprouts and broke the branches. They were in a hurry
to 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 and
feet. She had only half a body. She was a wounded carcass” (Ramanujan 58).

                Her
situation is in fact a reflection of the difficulties and agonies of
displacement every woman faces owing to the institution of traditional
marriage.  But the same story when
translated into a movie by a male director, Girish Karnad assumes a whole new
set of meanings. The environmental concerns take center stage and man’s greed
and the destruction caused thereby becomes all the more prominent. The
film raises the issue of deforestation and also likens the life of the selfless
tree to a woman who also spends her life showering all that she has to her
family, without any self-interest. This bestowal of love goes unacknowledged
and is thanklessly exploited is also highlighted in the movie, but the strong
feminist edge of the story is not explicitly stressed in the film.  Thus as Dr. Meenakshi Pawha in her article on
Cheluvi points out-“Karnad seems to be saying in Cheluvi that humanity’s
alienation from nature lies at the root of the ecological crisis. Ironically,
it is our very separation from the physical world that creates much of this
pain, and it is because we are taught to live so separately from nature that we
feel so utterly dependent upon our civilization, which has seemingly taken
nature’s place in meeting all of our needs”. Karnad therefore reinterprets
Ramanujan’s story to voice the environmental issues rather than the feminist
edge that was the basic pre-occupation in the original.

Conclusion:

 

            The
two illustrative films in this paper show how the existing system can be circumvented
in raising the feminist questions through films.  Prema Karanth shows the older Phaniyamma
looking 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 how
the story comes to be told. Visual self-reflexivity becomes important for the
film’s feminist narrative in that
the image reflects the woman in the story as opposed to the narrative apparatus
reflecting male narratives in mainstream Indian cinema. In the translation of
“Flowering Tree” by A.K.Ramanujan clearly symbolizes woman- nature relationship
and their survival in a patriarchal society. The film by Girish Karnad shifts
the story from a folktale scenario of beautiful maidens and charmed princes and
redeeming feature of becoming human to focus on a real life issue of
environmental destruction with no redemption.

            As representational and conceptual
categories, the protagonists of female auteurs are, more often than not, caught
within an ironic ambivalence between ‘being’ and ‘becoming.’ And in the process
they raise many conservative hackles. Whereas patriarchy glosses over this
ambivalence by positing both being and becoming as related aspects of womanhood
becoming- being a mere acculturation tool for her notional being, female
auteurs refuse to blur this patriarchal glossing of women’s being and becoming.
She instead, configures this dialectics of women’s being and becoming as
inherently complex and at times contradictory, and hence fraught with more
inclusive but debatable representational potentials, which are realized in the
translations into film by women. Hence
new issues emerge depending on the options, beliefs, values and the locale of
the translator, when it is transformed by the translator in the process of
making it accessible to the readers/viewers of another language.  The power of manipulation and interpretation
that the translators
have empowers the translated text. Thus in conclusion it can be
said that the gender, society, religion, medium, and technical context affect
the transmission of women in inter-semiotic translations.

 

 

 

References: 

Braidotti, Rosi et al. Women, the Environment and Sustainable
Development- Towards a Theoretical Synthesis, London: Zed books,
1994. Print.

Jakobson Roman. Essais de
Linguistique Générale, Minuit, 1963, Print

Karnad, 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 Refereed
e-Journal of Literary Explorations. Vol.2. Issue III. August, 2014. August
2014. Pp. 375-378.

Ramanujan,
A. K. Folktales from India, New Delhi: Penguin Books ltd, 2007. Print.

— . A
Flowering Tree and other oral tales from India, New Delhi: Penguin
books.1997.Print.

Torop P.
 La traduzione totale. Ed. by B. Osimo.
Modena, Guaraldi Logos, 2000.

Webliography:

 http://www.nfdcindia.com/mipcom2.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaniyamma

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