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Scribes for Hire: 
Visibility, Identity, and the Notion of “Quality” in the Work of Subtitling in South Asia

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 Suryansu Guha

“Ultimately,” said English subtitler Nasreen Munni Kabir, “the best subtitle is the one that is invisible, if you notice them, they are either comical or badly written” (Joshi 2016). The work of subtitle writing for films has existed since the days of early silent cinema when subtitles were an indispensable and inseparable component of the film itself. Printed texts, both dialogue and description, edited into the midst of photographed action called “intertitles” were an integral component of the narrative flow of silent cinema when there was no sound and no dialogue that could be heard. With the advent of the talkies, the use of intertitles became redundant. Carol O’Sullivan and Jean-François Cornu narrate the history of how Hollywood’s need to export American-produced films to overseas markets led to “multiple language films,” that is, one feature film produced in many languages (2019, 9). Yet this solution was unsustainable because not all productions could afford to pay voice actors to dub films in other languages in every territory.[1]  From 1931 onwards, subtitling became the cheapest means of making films accessible to international audiences (O’Sullivan and Cornu 2019, 216).

My essay is equally invested in another, more invisible, class of lower-ranked subtitle writers who are employed as microtaskers in different postproduction agencies or Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) firms. The continued employment of the boutique class of English subtitle writers depends on the expectation that they are able to produce “skilled” subtitles, as opposed to the “unskilled,” non-specialized subtitle microtaskers who supposedly produce inferior-quality, often funny and error-prone English subtitles with faulty translations. My research also documents the exploitative conditions of their lower-tier rank of employment, lack of authorial agency and recognition (in terms of on-screen credits), their sinking rates of compensation, and the pressures to churn out more volume of output to show how the question of “quality” is ultimately rendered meaningless for them.  

Subtitlers occupy one of the lowest rungs of film labor hierarchy. The work that they undertake is assumed to be unskilled service work, but it is often crucial to the smooth viewing experience of a film. Subtitles play a big part in making a media text accessible to a diverse range of linguistic audience demographics spread across a wide geopolitical spectrum. Therefore, subtitles are an indispensable part of the media industry’s global reach, and it is through subtitles that a film gets to travel across continents and win awards at international film festivals. In recent years, film studies has begun to see that the translation component of films, especially films that are born international, is worth investigating. Abe Markus Nornes (2007), Carol O’Sullivan (2011), and Tessa Dwyer (2017) writing about Hollywood, along with Mark Betz (2009) and Jean-François Cornu (2014) researching the context of European films, were some of the first scholars to lay the foundations of academic conversations around subtitle writing. While their overall aim is to “revalue screen translation” (Dwyer 2017, 3), much of their work on the newly emerged field of film translation derives from a combination of film theory and film history. As a result, it does not take into consideration creative workers themselves or their work conditions. Even though the work of subtitling is being re-evaluated, the subtitle writers themselves continue to be obscured, forgotten, even disavowed. This is the gap that my essay aims to address by drawing from the indubitably rich vein of film translation scholarship and combining it with more embedded forms of ethnographic research involving subtitle writers as interlocutors. 

My methods are informed by scholars of infrastructure studies who lay bare a specific economy of individual actors and their ensembles that are not readily apparent (Larkin 2013; Simone 2004). To produce the “best” subtitle, which, according to Nasreen Munni Kabir, is invisible and seamlessly integrated with the film viewing experience, the subtitle writers themselves become invisible or “black-boxed” (Latour 1999, 183). However, not all subtitlers are invisible in the same way. For instance, Kabir, whose words I begin the essay with, is a fairly well-known personality in Bombay who breaks bread with the industry’s who’s who. Besides making documentaries on former industry stalwarts like Guru Dutt, she has been a program curator and subtitler for BBC’s Channel 4 since the 1980s. The invisibility of an individual subtitler varies depending on who you ask, and my analysis shows how the terms of their employability and rates of compensation are inextricably intertwined with the degree of their visibility or the lack thereof. By providing an account of the cultural industrial context within which there has been a boom in the demand for quality English subtitles after 2008, my study demonstrates how these occupational identities of “skilled” and “unskilled” subtitle workers were coterminous with the idea of what constituted a “good” or a “quality” subtitle. 

The Pioneers: Bollywood’s Overseas Market and “Boutique” Subtitle Writing


It was the Bombay film industry’s expansion into the overseas market that slowly created a demand for “quality” subtitles. Overseas success for contemporary films made in Bombay was not exactly unprecedented in the industry. Raj Kapoor’s 1951 film Awaara (The Vagabond), Asha Parekh and Jeetendra’s Caravan (1971), and Mithun Chakraborty’s Disco Dancer (1982) are often cited as stories of Bollywood’s overseas “conquests.” Disco Dancer was, in fact, one of the most watched films in 1982 in the Soviet Union.[2]  But these successes were largely sporadic, partly due to ideological reasons, because the films of these eras were addressed to the lower- and working-class audience demographic.[3]  At the turn of the millennium, the Bombay film industry started reinventing itself from an industry that made films with a more working-class audience in mind to one that catered to the newly emerged metropolitan middle classes and diasporic audiences living abroad. Tejaswini Ganti calls it the gentrification of Bollywood (2011) and traces its causes partly  to the rise of an overseas market [4], which was touted as the “sixth distribution territory” for Bombay in addition to the other five distribution territories scattered throughout the country.[5]  

Following the global success of Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge (The Lover is Going to Steal the Bride Away, Aditya Chopra, 1995), major production houses started setting up overseas distribution offices.[6] Initially this new overseas market  was comprised of the UK and North America [7], but Indian films of late have also been doing very well in the Chinese and East Asian market following the success of Aamir Khan’s Dangal (Let’s Wrestle, Father, Nitesh Tiwari, 2015) and Andhadhun (The Piano Player, Sriram Raghavan, 2018).[8]  In the early 2000s, big producers and directors quickly realized that the overseas collection from a film would be “five to six times more than what [it] would earn in [its] own territory” (Ganti 2011, 322). This shift did not happen overnight. For the studios, studying the overseas market took time as they sought the help of diasporic entrepreneurs who ran dot com companies or websites dedicated to Bollywood fandom. Aswin Punathambekar shows how these companies helped studios in Bombay get a sense of what the diasporic audiences wanted (2015, 136–138). They provided the producers and filmmakers in Bombay with a steady supply of metrics, page hits, downloads, and other statistics that helped them understand diasporic audience tastes. As a result, there were a number of films like Taal (Subhash Ghai, 1999) and Fiza (Khalid Mohamed, 2000) that did poorly in India in terms of box office numbers but did very well overseas. The watershed moment in Bollywood’s becoming a global project came in 2002, as Punathambekar (2015) and Nitin Govil (2015) demonstrate in their studies of Kaante (Thorns, Sanjay Gupta, 2002) that the film’s intended aim was to show Indian cinema as an industry worthy of investment from abroad and capable of producing global blockbusters.[9]  In the next few years, from 2000 to 2008, well-marketed Indian films with big talent attached would make close to $2 to $6 million on average. 

The next big change in Bombay’s global push came, interestingly, after the release of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. Jointly produced by Channel 4 and Fox Searchlight, a large part of the film was shot in Bombay’s Dharavi area and consisted of many cast and crew members who are familiar faces in Bombay. Following the commercial and critical success of the film, Indian distributors at that time hypothesized that there could be an even bigger space for Indian films in the global market and not just within the diasporic audience.[10]  As a result, there was more of a concerted effort on the part of overseas distributors to market Indian films more aggressively in foreign territories, especially in the UK and North America. A year before the release of Slumdog Millionaire, Indian production and distribution giant Eros International also acquired an international Tamil film distribution company called Ayngaran. This allowed Eros to secure international rights to around twenty-five new films that were already in development (Vijaykar 2007). At the same time, Bombay producers wanted to make the films themselves more accessible and into something that would sustain overseas audience interest. While the gentrification and a more transnational aesthetics played an integral part in this push, there was also a simultaneous demand for quality subtitles because dubbing was simply too expensive and unsustainable. 

The ensuing push of Bombay cinema becoming global in turn created a renewed demand for subtitles as a core component of a film’s overseas release. This does not mean that subtitling as a profession did not exist prior to this moment; subtitles were not considered essential to a film’s theatrical release, but they were in fact commissioned for DVD releases of films. Subtitler Vivek Iyer, the founder of Anuvaad Media, a localization service company based in Bombay, recalls how he was writing subtitles for DVDs back in 2004 with a small company called Words Infocomm. He explains, 

we used to sit and work with video cassettes on the side and back then we used to get the beta tapes which you
played on the VCR. You would play/pause with the remote and type it out in MS Word, and then code it into Excel.
We had to create macros for it. This was because subtitles were mandatory for DVD releases, but no one cared
about the quality aspect of it because they wanted to get it done as cheaply as possible. [11]


Fig 1 Erroneous translation of a song lyric from the Hindi Language film Dil Hai Tumhara (For Yours is the Heart, Kundan Shah, 2002), featuring Mahima Chaudhry (left) and Arjun Rampal (right), which is unintentionally funny.

(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author.)

Fig 2 Over-the-top translation of dialogue from the Tamil Language action film Madhurey (Ramana Madhesh, 2004). The line is supposed to translate to “I can smell his bad breath in this house.”.

(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author.)

Fig 3 Incorrect translation of the Hindi word for “painkiller” in the Hindi language film Kaala Patthar (Black Stone, Yash Chopra, 1979). Rakhee Gulzar (left) and Amitabh Bachchan (right)..

(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author.)

After the success of Slumdog Millionaire, the art house and indie directors in India started recognizing the value of well-written English subtitles and how they can be instrumental to Indian films’ overseas success.[12]  A large part of the overseas audience for mainstream Bombay films comprised second-generation “desis” who were interested in the culture but were not very conversant with the spoken language. At the same time, deprived of the government patronage that had orchestrated the rise of parallel cinema in the 1970s, art and indie filmmakers in India had also increasingly gravitated towards securing capital from Europe to get their projects off the ground (Kaur 2021). As a result, their films also had to be made with a European arthouse and cinema-literate audience in mind who did not speak the language but were interested in Indian films. This called for well-written subtitles. As a result, both mainstream and indie distributors bought into the trend of “quality” subtitling. 

The English subtitling business started to grow into a more lucrative one, and soon entrepreneurs already working within the industry and privy to its recent developments saw opportunities to meet this demand. Nideesh Vasu, who was vice president of the Star TV network for seven years, for instance, left his job to set up a company called Fresh TV. In its early years, one of the things at which the company excelled was providing content localization services like English-language dubbing and subtitling. According to him, localization services in India were poor and yet it should not have been so because India’s metropoles consist of young individuals fluent in English. Subtitling and localizing films represented areas of “possible growth” that his entrepreneurism addressed as he banded together a group of young subtitle writers who would deliver “quality” content in 2007. “And once you set a benchmark, the rest of the industry follows,” Vasu said, when I interviewed him in July 2021. [13]   


Fig 4 Snippet of an article from The Times of India, March 20, 2007, which voices dissatisfaction with foreign-language subtitles of Hollywood films as they contain typos and bad translations.

(Image Credit: ProQuest.)

With English subtitling slowly burgeoning into a more serious form of creative work in Bombay, it was around 2012 when Nasreen Munni Kabir got a call to translate the song sequences in the big-budget movie Jab Tak Hain Jaan (As Long as There Is Life, Yash Chopra, 2012) into English. In 2013, she created the English subtitles for Dhoom 3 (Vijay Krishna Acharya, 2013), which would earn a gross overseas box office revenue of $28 million dollars (more than double that of Jab Tak Hain Jaan). Of course, the overseas market of newly subtitled Indian films had already been soaring in a post–Slumdog Millionaire global movie landscape.[14]  The number of films crossing the $10 million mark had also gone up. Whereas from 2000 to 2008, barely one film would cross the $8 to $10 million mark, in the next ten years Bombay would see at least six films cross the $10 million mark, with at least twenty-eight films earning somewhere between $1 and $30 million dollars in the overseas territory.

Fig 5 Chart showing the annual overseas box office collections of four highest grossing films from 2005 to 2018. (Data sourced from

Occupational Identities: The Self-Brandings of Malayalam- and Tamil-to-English Subtitlers

It was not only the Bombay film industry that had a newfound motivation to subtitle their films; the South Indian film industries also wanted to reap the benefits of what Nideesh Vasu termed “the subtitling revolution.” Subtitler Rekhs from Chennai (who stylizes her name as “rekhs,” which has come to pass for both her actual name as well as her brand) also got her “big break” in 2011 with Gautham Menon’s Tamil-language drama Vinnaithandi Varuvaya (Will You Cross the Skies and Come for Me?). The Malayalam-to-English subtitler Vivek Ranjit also subtitled his first film (Beautiful) in 2011 for director VK Prakash. In our conversations, Ranjit talks about how there was no practice of English subtitling for commercial Malayalam films: “It was a closed industry, only Malayalis in the Gulf would watch Malayalam films outside of Kerala. Subtitling used to only happen for films that were sent to festivals and National Awards.”[15]  But the producers in the Malayalam film industry post-2008 who banked on the overseas audience also wanted subtitles written with greater care, by better writers, and in accordance with the “highest standards.” The film industries in India became more “quality”-conscious and sought well-translated English subtitles as opposed to the “badly translated” or erroneous subtitles that were the norm according to Niall Flynn (2016, 3). This drive for quality ultimately led to the rise of the “prestige” or “boutique” subtitle-writing class. Subtitlers like Kabir, rekhs, Ranjit, and Vasu are the pioneers and the proponents of this class. Although they were not very well known outside their professional circles, like above-the-line practitioners are, film subtitlers in the post-Slumdog era were not invisible in the way their predecessors who used to subtitle films for home video releases were. Nor were they being effaced or hidden from view by the “step by step process of making films” that “perpetuate[s] the myth of seamless integrity,” like other below-the-line artists from the Global South (Chung 2018, 10). 

An important function of this visibility was the strong occupational Identity or self-representation that the boutique writers cultivated for themselves. John Caldwell’s work in production studies shows that it is not only the above-the-line practitioners in film industries who are deeply invested in projecting the right kind of persona for themselves to the world. His work on below-the-line film and video workers and trade groups in Los Angeles shows how these workers are always in the process of fashioning cultural self-portraits (2008, 126). Similarly, as creative workers, boutique subtitlers are also every bit as assertive of their own identity, the way they are seen, and the identity of the work they produce as any above-the-line creative laborer. In the next few paragraphs, I will describe in detail some of the ways in which boutique subtitlers assert and cultivate their identity.

Fig 6 Snippet from a British weekly newspaper called Eastern Eye, May 17, 2013, that talks about how Bollywood films are appealing more and more to non-Asians. The article also discusses the importance of well written subtitles (the section has been highlighted in yellow). The top right photo is of German fans surrounding Shahrukh Khan (not visible in the snippet) at the Berlin Film Festival in 2008.

(Image Credit: ProQuest)

Most boutique writers get on-screen credits for the work they do, which is something they have had to work and struggle for. Not only do they get on-screen credit, but they are often publicly endorsed by the indie or mainstream directors that they work with. Director Anurag Kashyap, for instance, has not only ensured screen credits be given to the subtitlers of his films but has also publicly endorsed the importance of his English and French subtitlers. Similarly, Nandita Das, who directed Manto (2018), also acknowledges the handiwork of Nasreen Munni Kabir in making the film’s global audience receptive to the cultural nuances of the film’s dialogues.[16]  Subtitler rekhs’s work has also been consistently acknowledged by South Indian A-list stars like Vijay and Surya (Aiyappan, 2017). Besides being publicly endorsed by above-the-line practitioners, boutique subtitlers are often interviewed by mainstream English newspapers and trade journals as well as TV and YouTube channels. In most of their public interviews, boutique subtitlers push back against the idea that subtitle translation is rote, menial, and unskilled work.[17]  They talk about the philosophies and challenges of the work, as an above-the-line director or a screenwriter often does when interviewed, to emphasize the intellectual labor that each of them invests in translating and spotting every line of a film. There is, after all, a considerable amount of skill and craft involved in the process of subtitling that is easy to miss unless witnessed firsthand. Lucy Suchman writes about invisible work, though in the context of domestic labor, explaining: “Not only do representations of work involve perspectives and interests, but work has a tendency to disappear at a distance, such that the further removed we are from the work of others, the more simplified, often stereotyped, our view of their work becomes” (1995, 59).

Fig 7 Indie director Anurag Kashyap’s Instagram post from May 17, 2016, where he is seen to appreciate the work of his French subtitler François-Xavier Durandy
(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author)

In publishing, translation is not just considered a highly specialized job, but the translator of a publication often comes to acquire royalties from the translated version of a text. This is something that François-Xavier Durandy says subtitlers in France are working towards.[18]  Not only do they have collective representation, but French subtitle and dubbing artists regularly publish research that contributes to changing public perception of subtitle work.[19]  At the same time, subtitlers in France are also demanding standardized rates.[20}  Producing quality translations of a source text like Hindi, Tamil, or Malayalam into a target language like English is always a difficult and time-consuming job because of the cultural nuances embedded in the source language that are sometimes simply untranslatable. Vivek Ranjit, for instance, speaks of the great difficulty involved in translating idioms and humorous expressions from Malayalam into English: “You have to find other alternatives to communicate that joke to a person who is not aware of the cultural context.”[21]  Ranjit’s words are reminiscent of film theorists Ella Shohat and Robert Stam’s deliberation on European film translation: “Given the challenge of an unattainable adequation, the translator, in principled despair, must settle for a semantic and affective approximation” (1985, 43). 

There is also the added difficulty of translating Indian song sequences in English. This is an avenue where subtitlers of the past have really struggled. Geoff Brown writes, “Song lyrics needed the most obvious adaptations, with original meanings transferred or bypassed, perhaps local colorings assigned, and syllable numbers and vocal stresses approximately matched” (2019, 112). Often, the songs that pre-2008 subtitlers would translate would end up sounding ridiculous. Subtitler Jahan Singh Bakshi feels that song sequences require even more specialized skill than usual. In his interview with me, he admits that he prefers to collaborate with Srilata Sarkar who is an academic and a part-time translator.[22]  Sethumadhavan, who is a producer with DAR motion pictures and a part-time subtitler, reveals how sometimes “people play it safe by avoiding songs altogether, so the film will have subtitles but when the song comes in, it will be blank.” [23] However, subtitler rekhs has strongly pushed back against taking the easy way out of leaving songs untranslated because she feels songs are the very essence of Indian films.

Yet subtitling is more than just the act of translating from one language to another. Although the most discernible (and synecdochic) part of subtitling is the aspect of language translation, it is only one component of subtitling. The subtitler must keep in mind that the subtitled text cannot impose itself on the film; it cannot clutter the screen; it is a textual accompaniment that cannot hinder the visual. Nasreen Munni Kabir’s years of experience have made her sensitive to these intricacies of the work that often film viewers take for granted. She says, “A lot of subtitlers do not take into account that you cannot have two whole lines of text on the screen within two seconds. You cannot even read the subtitles in most films because they are too fast. It is not like translating a book.”[24]  This is echoed in Mark Beatz’s book where he writes that the limitation of screen space is a major obstacle for subtitling because the average viewer’s reading speed is 150–180 words per minute and thus source language dialogues are often translated in a condensed form (2009, 91). 

Cintas and Remael do a very good job of comprehensively outlining this process: “Having assessed how much time and space are available for a given translation and having ascertained that some form of text reduction is required, the subtitler then proceeds to
. . .  eliminate what is not deemed relevant for the comprehension of the message, and/or reformulate what is deemed relevant in as concise a form as is possible or required” (2021, 147). This component of subtitling work that has to do with the arrangement of lines on the screen, when they come on the screen, and how long they stay, is referred to as “spotting” in postproduction parlance.[25]  Subtitler rekhs speaks of how she sought the advice of an optometrist to figure out what the suitable number of words, punctuations, and even the color for a subtitle on screen ought to be.[26]  In one of her public interviews, rekhs says that her subtitles will always have two idiosyncratic hallmarks: firstly the lines of the subtitle will be yellow in color and, secondly, they will never have periods or full stops.[27]  So she naturally gets annoyed with how streaming platforms like Netflix tinker with these choices by changing the color from yellow to white or by adding periods.[28]  

Fig 8 A scene from the Telegu film Mahanati (The Great Actress, Nag Aswin, 2018), subtitled by rekhs, where one can see her signature yellow subtitles without periods. 
(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author)

Around the time I was in continuous conversation with him, Vivek Ranjit had also taken to social media to voice his disappointment with Netflix for changing the subtitles he made for the Malayalam film Nayattu (The Hunt, Martin Prakkat, 2021). Ranjit elaborated on the issue when I spoke with him: “I try to retain the essence of the language and the culture, so it’s communicated in a certain way to the audience. But Netflix’s practice is to standardize everything and make it palatable to Hollywood. Many of my subtitles have been ruined by Netflix like that; all the cultural references are dumbed down.”[29]  The reason subtitlers protest when streaming platforms change their work is not because they want to assert authorial control over the products of their labor; it’s a more complicated issue about a subtitler’s reputation and occupational identity, which is linked to their chances of continuing to get work. In recent years, the subtitler fraternity has worked hard to ensure they are credited on IMDb and in film end credits. Prospective employers of subtitlers decide who to hire based on the quality of a production’s subtitles. Since they now know who the subtitler is, if prospective employers watch a film that has disappointing subtitles, they will be disinclined from hiring that subtitler, not realizing that Netflix has altered the original subtitles. Thus, streaming platforms’ interference with a subtitler’s work complicates their relationships with their respective networks of trust and has the potential to undo the brand image that the subtitler has worked very hard to create. 

Fig 9 Screenshot of Vivek Ranjit’s tweet protesting the unfair practice of misappropriating his subtitles.
(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author)

Under extraordinary circumstances, this form of tampering also has the capacity to land the subtitler in trouble with the law. With India in the feverish grip of a general culture of moral outrage, the culture industries are always under increased scrutiny. For instance, there was a police complaint lodged against the Netflix Original Sacred Games (Vikramaditya Motwane, 2018–2019). In the show, one of the characters is seen to refer to the late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, one of India’s former prime ministers, as fattu, which is derogatory Hindi slang for a coward. The subtitles on Netflix were seen to translate the word fattu as “pussy.” This offended a member of the late former prime minister’s political party as he lodged an official police complaint against the show’s makers. But Jahan Singh Bakshi, who was the subtitler for the show, had translated the slang fattu into the word “wimp.” It’s difficult to conclusively state why or how the word was changed to start with but one can speculate that Netflix’s QC (Quality Analysis and Check) team must have changed the word “wimp” to the more American-sounding “pussy.” 

Fig 10 The letter of complaint that INC member Rajeev Kumar Sinha submitted to the police
(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author)

While the boutique subtitlers have every right to be vocal about their work being distorted by Netflix, this must also be understood as a struggle to assert one’s occupational identity. Every boutique subtitler has their own set of ideas about the principles of film translation and subtitling. These ideas and (often staunch) belief systems, in turn, inform how they perform their worker identities. Subtitler rekhs’s insistence on yellow subtitles is not very dissimilar to Vivek Ranjit’s frustrations about the removal of his “contextual subs.” Although these are separate incidents, both are instances of subtitlers trying to craft a brand identity through the quality of their work. In rekhs’s case, the yellow color of the subtitles functions as a distinctive mark, almost like a signature, that tells her employers and audiences that it’s her work and craftsmanship. As someone who has worked hard over the years to build such a brand, rekhs is careful of her reputation, which she calls the “rekhs gold standard.”  Maintaining a brand identity is important for her continued employment in the industry. Vivek Ranjit also spoke about how he needed to build a considerable social media presence to be recognized in the film industry as someone who is “reliable” and “trustworthy.”[31]  There is a degree of visibility that must be performed as an indistinguishable yet uncompensated part of the work. rekhs cultivates this visibility in the industry among producers and fans through semi-professional activities like organizing fan club meetings on the online platform Clubhouse and hosting film screenings in different parts of Chennai.

Networks of Trust, Performative Labor, and Work Compensation

To get work on a regular and consistent basis, the subtitle writers not only need to establish a network but also maintain the social obligations that come with it. Affective or performative labor is vital to maintaining these networks of trust and kinship. In addition to establishing themselves as workers who can provide quality subtitles, they must also establish themselves as workers who are reliable enough to be trusted with an unreleased film for subtitling. Producers and filmmakers rely on their respective networks of trust and kinship to prevent their films from being pirated before its release. Often when filmmakers do not trust a subtitler, they will send them an inferior print of the film with watermarks; sometimes instead of sending the film, they will send a draft of the untranslated script, which is painfully difficult to translate without a visual locus or point of reference. Work pace and rates of remuneration vary wildly in this line of work. Whereas someone like Nasreen Munni Kabir would never subtitle more than five or six films a year, other subtitlers would do fifty to sixty. Subtitler rekhs thinks that an average film should take at least ten days to be subtitled, but she claims that most directors give her only three or four days.[32] 


One subtitler says that remuneration numbers vary wildly (from as low as $175 to $700 per film) and in covid times, it had gone down exponentially. They add, “sometimes I don’t have work and I have to run my family, so I take it up, sometimes they [filmmakers who request their films to be subtitled at a low price] are acquaintances who are in a tight spot.”[33]  The subtitle writer is in a constant state of negotiation for wages. While this is predominantly a problem with smaller productions, big production companies also often fail to pay the subtitler. In 2019, subtitler rekhs claimed that Lyca Production company, which made the big-budget, multi-star-cast film 2.0 (S. Shanker, 2018), had not paid her for the work that she did for them (Shekhar 2019). Her team had done the English subtitles, which were used to make the Telugu and Hindi subtitles. Yet Lyca initially failed to compensate her, even though 2.0 had made over $8.6 million overseas piggybacking on her team’s work. It is worth mentioning that Lyca did pay her eventually after she went to the press and others in the industry came out in support of her. Furthermore, Ranjit’s comment about helping “acquaintances” also speaks volumes about the double bind of precarity and the pitfalls of depending on the networks of trust and kinship to earn one’s livelihood. The cost of maintaining the network is being “flexible” with one’s work hours and rates of compensation. Subtitlers are expected to constantly compromise with their work hours to cater to the capriciousness of filmmakers. Most filmmakers would leave subtitling and other postproduction work for the very last second and then at the last-minute demand that a subtitler turn in work in an astonishingly small amount of time.[34] 


Writing in the context of dubbing vs. subtitling, Josephine Dries says that the former is more localized, national-protectionist, and often union-controlled because it is physically situated in a studio environment, while the latter is more free-market and international with competitive rates where the translator often works from home with their own software and equipment (1995, 28). But the boutique subtitling profession that I have been documenting so far is an exception. Boutique subtitlers are more locally based compared to microworkers who are more international. This means that boutique subtitlers have a local clientele, that is, filmmakers and producers based in India and South Asia. But postproduction and subtitling BPOs (like Prime Focus or Deluxe Entertainment) that hire microtasking subtitlers have both local and international clientele. The boutique subtitling profession not only co-exists side by side with its microtasking counterpart, but the former also derives its self-definition from a process of othering the latter. In fact, there exists a tumblr blog called “Pagal Subtitles” (Mad Subtitles) where rogue subtitled translations are put on permanent display. It functions as a subtitling hall of shame for these “other” inferior subtitle microtaskers. 

Fig 11 This is a post from the tumblr Pagal Subtitles, which shows a song and dance sequence featuring South Indian megastar Rajnikant. The subtitles clearly struggle to articulate the meaning and cultural nuance.
(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author)

Historically speaking, subtitles have always had a bad reputation among a section of cinephiles (especially Americans) who feel that their superimposition on cinematic space degrades the film-viewing experience.[35]  Interestingly, when confronted with these charges in 1947, eminent American subtitler Herman Weinberg defended his craft by “arguing that poor- quality subtitling is the problem rather than subtitling per se” (O’Sullivan 2011, 44). As noted in the opening of the essay, Nasreen Munni Kabir’s aphorism that subtitles ought to be invisible is, on some level, also a reflection on these less successful attempts at cultural translations. The Pagal Subtitles hall of shame entries are examples of subtitles that disrupt the visual pleasure or jouissance of film watching instead of facilitating it. This bogey of bad subtitles is central to the self-portrait of the boutique or prestige subtitle writer. In one way or another, during our conversations, the boutique writers implied that the work they produce is of better quality and that this quality is a marker of occupational distinction. But what is it that actually makes the subtitles written by one group of workers more superior to the other? Is it the lack of a special skillset or the fabled spirit of imagination indispensable for work in the creative industries? The final section of my essay argues that the difference lies in the conditions of employment of this underclass of subtitle “coolies.”[36] 


The Underclass: Microtasking and the Subtitle Sweatshops 

“Poor quality” subtitles are usually produced in a number of postproduction BPOs. Commonly referred to as “subtitle sweatshops,” these are office-like workplaces where subtitles are formulaically churned out (and sometimes partly algorithmically generated) in volume by the hour, supposedly in an assembly-line manner with very little attention to detail and very little appetite displayed for correct translation of linguistic nuance. These BPOs have existed, in one way or the other, prior to the “subtitling revolution” of 2008. Sweatshop- or factory-produced subtitles are supposedly all about quantity and volume instead of quality; it’s the paycheck that matters, not the prestige. The employees in these agencies (the ones I call the subtitling microtaskers) are primarily young South Asian men and women, most of them fresh out of school, not very dissimilar to social media content moderators hired in Silicon Valley (Roberts 2019, 75). Despite the exploitation they face, boutique English subtitlers like Ranjit, rekhs, and Bakshi are not exactly invisible and erased to the same degree that their BPO microwork counterparts are. The sweatshop subtitlers do not see themselves as employed by the film industry and are (naturally) exempt from any industrial networks whatsoever. They initially see this work as creative labor that is also playful and fun but helps pay the bills.[37]

The radically low rates of compensation they receive is matched by their dispensability as freelance workers who constitute a standing reserve pool of labor for the service economy.[38]  As subtitle microtaskers, their rates of compensation are nowhere close to what the boutique writers get paid. They never receive screen credits for the work that they have produced and hence we never come to know their names. Unlike the boutique writers who can assert some authorial claim over the product of their labor, microtaskers have no claim whatsoever to the work they produce. Their employers, the BPOs, own the work, which is in stark opposition to how much agency a boutique subtitle writer can assert. rekhs, for instance, even refers to her subtitles as her “babies” in an interview (Greenberg 2019). The microtaskers do not get the agency to dictate their conditions of work, nor do they have any say in how their work gets modified by QCs (or quality checks), which are done by other service workers, often by algorithms. Boutique writers either do their own spotting or have some control over how it gets done. In postproduction BPOs, the spotting is usually done by a different person than the one who translates the subtitle. This dividing up of the work of spotting and subtitling is in line with Taylorist principles that are generally aimed at increasing the volume of output and maximizing the efficiency of labor.

Fig 12 A subtitle BPO workplace in South Asia where the photograph was taken by one of my interlocuters in South Asia. Faces have been removed and replaced by emoticons.

Scattered through Bombay, Pune, and Bangalore, these agencies (or as Netflix calls them, Preferred Fulfillment Partners) are a staple for both US- and South Asia–based streaming platforms. There are four big (and several smaller) postproduction BPOs or “one-stop shops” in India.[39]  Most of the big postproduction BPOs do have an in-house staff, but the bulk of microtasking is handled by freelancers. The in-house teams are also every bit as dispensable as one would expect them to be. Saakshi Ranganathan (name changed), who was an in-house employee for one such big BPO, has now been converted into a work-from-home freelancer after she was pregnant in 2019. Though she disclosed to me that she voluntarily chose to continue as a freelancer to take care of her child, most of her full-time colleagues were either sacked or converted to freelance during the first few phases of the covid-19 lockdowns. Similarly, the compensation and work hours radically differ according to the needs of the agencies and the flow of work. In Bombay, it can sometimes be as low as $0.2 per minute, while in Delhi, it sometimes goes up to $0.8 to $0.9 per minute. 

Fig 13 Photo of the front of Prime Focus Technology’s Andheri Office on Netflix’s website listed as a “Preferred Fulfillment Partner,” only one of two listed in South Asia alongside Vista India. 

(Image Credit:

The BPO subtitle workers are part of the larger workforce from the Global South to whom the film and media industries of California outsource service work at “competitive rates.” Govil writes how “Hollywood has moved toward a system of contracting creative processes to independent companies around the world with revenue distribution and joint production arrangements tying together the studios with a dispersed array of international players” (2015, 104). Outsourcing postproduction work to BPOs helps film and media industries get away with providing low wages, zero job security, and no health insurance to a dispensable and rolling work force. Christian Fuchs writes, “It is a form of politics that aims at helping capital to reduce the price of labor-power as much as possible, if possible, even below the minimum value that is needed for human existence” (2014, 122). 

The workers are very much aware of the exploitative nature of the service industry that employs them. Pramita Rahman (name changed), who is a freelance language and subtitle worker, says, “Most free lancers agree on one thing, that the work itself is ill-paid. If they pay us 50 cents, they’ll pay an American a dollar for the same work.”[40]  Pramita, who wrote the Bengali subtitles for some episodes of the HBO show The Sopranos, was paid Rs. 450 (roughly $6) to translate each forty-minute episode. Needless to say, this rate of remuneration is astronomically low in every available scale of comparison. It’s not even one-tenth of what the “standard” rates are supposed to be. In addition, Pramita had very little clue as to who her actual employers were. The work came to her through a chain of intermediaries, that is, she knew someone who got the job from someone else who may in turn have gotten it from another person. These networks of anonymity define outsourced digital work as opposed to the networks of trust of the boutique subtitle workers. But the networks themselves are defined by the needs and requirements of capital to tap into its reserve army of labor. Ned Rossetier writes, “The flexibility of global supply chains and just-in-time modes of production shape who gets employed, where they work, and what sort of work they do” (2016, 6). At the same time, the sheer vastness and opacity of the obscure networks of employability is what, according to Srinivasan, “threatens the ability of workers to bargain” (2020, 140)

Whereas for the boutique writers of Bombay and Chennai, quality is the byline of their brand, the subtitle microtaskers I worked with have long since understood that producing “quality” or “skilled” work is not going to get them very far. Volume and timely output are instead what is valued in their professional circles. Rajiv Kulkarni (name changed), who is a subtitle editor at a small localization firm called Scryptic Media, explains, “The thing is, you might be really good at your job but if you don’t respond in time that’s not going to sit too well with them. Quality in this line of work means lower prices and quicker turnaround times. That’s how the world works in subtitling.”[41] Similarly, Aparajita Bagchi (name changed), an ex-employee of Deluxe Entertainment, points out that “some streaming platforms like AltBalaji [Mumbai based streaming arm of Balaji Productions] are not at all concerned with quality.”[42]  As Nick Srnicek argues, “high skill personal jobs are unlikely to be successful on a lean platform” (2016, 118). 

Instead, subtitle microtaskers are always assessed in terms of numbers and metrics that vary on several “performance related aspects.” Often, continued employment depends on these metrics as we have seen from Lilly Irani’s description of Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). She writes that AMT employers choose “turkers” or freelancers according to certain parameters like “percentage of tasks the worker has done that have been approved and paid for by other requesters, the geographical location of the worker, and AMT qualification exams the worker has passed” (2015b, 723). Other platforms have similar yet different metrics and parameters for evaluating what makes a good worker for the employers, but the workers themselves have no way of assessing their clients. For instance, Scryptic Media has its own ranking system, and so do platforms like Glassdoor, Upwork, and Truelancer. Netflix also has its own rating system for subtitlers, which it calls the Hermes number.  [43]

Fig 14 A still from the TrueLancer website where workers are listed along with their hourly rates, ratings, and reviews.
(Image Credit: screen capture provided by author)


In my essay, I have shown how the demand for “quality” English subtitles was created after 2008 to meet the demands of Bombay’s soaring global ambitions. “Skilled” English subtitle writers were desired more and more in the film industries of Bombay, Hyderabad, and Chennai to meet their demands for global profits. After the advent of streaming, these demands increased even more because OTT platforms also wanted regional Hindi, Bengali, Telegu, or Tamil subtitles for American shows. My discussion presents an account of how quality became a desirable aspect of subtitles after 2008 and how subsequently one class of subtitle writers built their occupational identity and brand around this idea of “quality” that they can “deliver,” and which others cannot. Ultimately, this analysis shows how the process of systemic alienation of labor is built into the idea of “quality,” which makes worker define themselves as either “superior to” or “different from” their colleague in the same profession. This is sometimes apparent in the contempt and mutual disregard that some of the boutique subtitlers have for not just the microtaskers but also for each other. In fact, when I informed my interlocutors that I was writing about their work, one boutique subtitler went a step further and informed me that they did not want to be “clubbed in the same category as some other subtitlers.”[44]  They categorically asked me to exercise caution about their hierarchical status in this fledgling subtitling industry if I were to write about them. Thus, it is easy to discern the notion of quality that creates hierarchies and contributes to the exploitation of both classes of subtitle workers whose labor is fair game for the service economy’s extractive apparatus. 

By and large, boutique subtitlers collectively believe that they have raised the standard of subtitle writing in India. They have contributed to making Indian films more accessible, yet I cannot say with authority whether the subtitles written by the microtaskers are qualitatively poorer. This is not to say that there isn’t a thing called “bad” translation; there most definitely is. My work, however, is more oriented towards the socio-economic underpinnings of what gets construed as “quality” and how it is connected to the varying degrees of precarity and exploitation in the subtitling industry. A recurring theme in my interviews with the all the subtitle writers was their own theorization and reflection on the creative process of subtitle writing. The more one spends time listening to them break down their creative process, the more one is bound to acknowledge it as such. One would appreciate the work not as rote, monotonous, and menial service work but as the intellectual labor that it can be, if not impoverished by the material conditions of anonymity and alienated labor that is impeded by the affordances of what Irani calls “computational labor relations” (2015, 226). Not only are the “sweatshop subtitlers” receptive, sensitive, and intelligent about the work they produce, but like boutique writers, they spend a lot of time thinking about their work and ways to make it better. None of the “sweatshop subtitlers” I spoke with gave me the impression that they don’t derive some degree of satisfaction or artistic fulfillment from the work. Though they are not industry insiders, they are very passionate about cinema as an artform, and they see subtitling as a means of contributing to something they love and admire. Unfortunately, it is also that love and passion of cinema that the incursions of capital turn into “productive cooperation,” which renders the worker precarious and hyper-exploited (Lazzarato 1996, 134).


[1] Carol O’Sullivan and Jean-François Cornu, in The Translation of Films, 1900–1950, speak of how there are specific territories in Europe like France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, which are known as “dubbing territories” where distributors prefer to release dubbed versions of films. Then, there are territories like Portugal, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, and Luxembourg where distributors prefer to release films with subtitles. These are distribution practices that were as true in the early twentieth century as they are today.

[2] “The film drew 60.9 million Soviet viewers in 1984, the highest turnout for any film (domestic and foreign) that year. Till today it continues to be screened on television and in some theatres” (Rajagopalan 2008, 93).

[3] Films made in Bombay from the 1940s to the 1990s leaned heavily on telling stories of class exploitation. The protagonists were mostly rural or urban poor (like the tapori archetype Ranjani Mazumdar speaks of in Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City), and the films had a more working class, lowbrow audience. Therefore, it was natural for these films to have an overseas market in countries like the Soviet Union and China during the cold war era.

[4] The overseas diasporic audience was only one part of the reason Bollywood cultivated what Ganti calls a “coolness” and global style; the other major reason was the increasing rise of English-speaking urban viewers who have historically been the “most neglected segment of the Hindi film audience” (2011, 318). One of Ganti’s research participants, Shyam Shroff, explains how, with the rise of multiplexes, they started seeing “a kind of audience that never used to visit the cinemas because of the conditions of the cinemas” (2011, 340).

[5] Punathambekar writes that within India, film distribution is mapped into five major territories and then those territories are further divided into fourteen sub-territories. The overseas territory is the sixth distribution territory (2013, 133). These territories are Delhi/UP/East Punjab, Eastern zone, CP/CI/Rajasthan, Bombay, South (Ganti 2004, 59). However, Mittal’s work shows eleven major territories instead of five, as he considers the sub-territories as territories in themselves (1995, 55).

[6] Punathambekar (2015) relates the trade story of how the production house of DDLJ (YashRaj Films) earned only a fraction of what the overseas sales made because they sold full distribution rights. This became a parable from which Bollywood distributors walked away with a lesson, but more importantly, the idea that the overseas success of a Bollywood film was very much a reality.

[7] In fact, box office data websites like Box Office India do not even list China and Russia under its overseas territory collection label. It only lists the UK, US/Canada, Middle East, and Australia. I consider these as the four subdivisions of the sixth distribution territory.

[8] Aamir Khan’s Dangal (Let’s Wrestle, Father, Nitish Tiwari, 2015) and Andhadhun (The Piano Player, Sriram Raghavan, 2018) were huge successes in China, with the former earning more than $140 million and the latter earning more than $31 million.

[9] This trend of gentrifying Indian films to make them compelling enough for foreign markets would carry on well into the 2010s. Film journalist Anupama Chopra, writing for The New York Times (September 26, 2014), implies that this is a new genre of “crossover Hindi films.” In her article, she also cites Ryan Kavanaugh, chief executive of Relativity Media, which partners with Bollywood entertainment company B4U, to show how Bollywood’s strategy is to “tailor the same content for two markets.”


[10] Phil Contrino, the Director of Media and Research for the National Association of Theatre Owners in North America, writes in a box office report (August 2012) that there was a growing interest in films set in India after Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

[11] Vivek Iyer, personal communication to author, July 23, 2021, 8:40 pm IST.

[12] Iyer would go on to subtitle an Anurag Kashyap film called Dev.D released in 2009, but it was two of his more commercial films, Jodhaa Akbar and Kismat Connection, both released in 2008, that would make a splash at the overseas box office.

[13] Nideesh Vasu, personal communication to author, July 7, 2021, 2:30 pm IST. The first project Vasu’s newly found company took on was a joint UK-India co-production called Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal (Vivek Agnihotri, 2007).

[14] In 2009, Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots made more than $16 million dollars in the overseas territory, which was double the amount that the previous year’s highest overseas grosser, Rab ne Bana di Jodi or A Match Made by God (Aditya Chopra, 2008), had made. This made 3 Idiots Bombay’s most successful overseas hit ever at that point in time. However, in 2010 My Name is Khan (Karan Johar) leapfrogged 3 Idiots to earn $20 million at the overseas market. In six years’ time, Dangal (2016), a film that was incidentally subtitled by Nideesh Vasu’s company, will have made $30 million overseas.

[15] Vivek Ranjit, personal communication to author, July 25, 2021, 5:30 pm IST.

[16] Das is quoted in Bhatt’s article in the Economic Times dated January 13, 2019: “We need to think of our films as world cinema. And subtitles are critical for our films to reach the world audience. In one of the sequences at the beginning of Manto, a voice announces the arrival of one ‘Kishori.’ The subtitle, however, calls him a ‘pimp’ instead of retaining the proper noun. Why? Because Nasreen told me some foreign audience might misinterpret Kishori as the father’s name.”

[17] Ironically, the final section of my paper will also show that while they try and push themselves out of the category of unskilled or below-the-line labor that is derogatory to them, they push those same standards onto the microtaskers who work in BPOs.

[18] François-Xavier Durandy, personal communication to author, July 25, 2021, 5:30 pm IST.

[19] The Civil Society of Multimedia Authors (aka LaSCAM) published a dossier profiling the work, working conditions, practices, and trade images. The group was founded in 1981, and it strives to negotiate its members’ royalties with broadcasters; it also collects most of the rights from television and radio stations, Internet service providers, and video platforms (YouTube, Netflix, Google Play, and iTunes, among others). In addition, they also represent and defend the interests of authors with the authorities, broadcasters, producers, and publishers. Subtitlers and dubbers also have their own association called ATAA, which is not a union but functions more as a collective body.

[20] The letter published by SNAC in January 2018 outlined tariff rates for dubbing and subtitling artists in France.

[21] Vivek Ranjit, personal communication to author, July 25, 2021, 5:30 pm IST.

[22] Jahan Singh Bakshi, personal communication to author, July 20, 2021, 11:30 pm IST. Jahan found Srilata on social media and was impressed with some of her translations, which she had put up, and since then they have been working together.

[23] Sethumadhavan, personal communication to author, July 28, 2021, 7:30 pm IST.

[24] Nasreen Munni Kabir, personal communication to author, July 26, 2021, 10:00 pm IST.

[25] In Cinema Babel: Translating Global Cinema, Abe Markus Nornes presents a detailed account of the spotting process, which for him “create[s] an interface between particular structures of a given target language and the rhythms of both speech and editing” (2007, 159).

[26] rekhs informed me that she has had discussion with an optometrist by the name of Heather Wilson, along with another film reviewer by the name of Lyle Pearson. rekhs likes to color her subtitles yellow because, according to the optometrist, white-colored subtitles (along with period punctuation marks) irritate the eye.

[27] This was revealed in an interview with Melanie Greenberg, who is a YouTuber who lives in Naperville in Illinois. She runs a channel called Pardesi Movies which reviews South Indian films.

[28] rekhs, personal communication to author, September 10, 2021, 1:00 pm IST.

[29] Vivek Ranjit, personal communication to author, July 25, 2021, 5:30 pm IST.

[30] rekhs, personal communication to author, September 10, 2021, 1:00 pm IST.

[31] Vivek Ranjit, personal communication to author, July 25, 2021, 5:30 pm IST.

[32] rekhs, personal communication to author, September 10, 2021, 1:00 pm IST.

[33] Vivek Ranjit, personal communication to author, July 11, 2021, 2 pm IST.

[34] In Cinema Babel: Translating Global Cinema, Nornes writes that this is a characteristic of cinema elsewhere in the world where the translation, that is, subtitling and dubbing, is an “afterthought” (2007, 124). Similarly, in Words on Screen, Michel Chion writes, “Almost always done after the fact, subtitling is not an integral part of the work, so it can be replaced by other texts in other translations, including other sets of subtitles in the same language (this is a frequent case for new editions of DVD that ‘modernize’ older subtitles)” (2017, 146).


[35] In “The Global Film,” published in Hollywood Quarterly and translated by Jay Leyda, Russian filmmaker Vsevolod Pudovkin writes, “Since the spectator has to read, almost without pause, the translated words of the film’s dialogue, idiotically printed on the picture itself, he cannot be expected to gain any impression from the pictorial composition of the original film. Furthermore, the spectator – for he is no longer an auditor, but only a spectator – can only be distracted by the unknown language coming from the loud-speaker; this has no more meaning for him than the static in poor radio reception” (1947, 329).

[36] See article published in The News Minute titled “‘2.0’ subtitler rekhs says she’s still not been paid, Lyca remains silent” by Anjana Shekhar published on August 25, 2019.

[37] Silvia Bruti and Serenella Zanotti, in “Orality Markers in Professional and Amateur Subtitling: The Case of Vocatives and Address Pronouns,” talk about how it is also important to trace the lineage of the creative playful idea of professional subtitling to the sparsely talked about practice of fan subtitling.

[38] See Lazzarato (1996) and Braverman (1975), who talk about how there is always an unemployed labor force at the disposal of capital that rises to address work as and when it arises and is then dispensed with.

[39] In South Asia, there are agencies and organizations that often handle a bundle of tasks related to a specific area of work. These are called “one-stop shops.” For instance, places like Sound Vision and Prime Focus not only handle subtitling and dubbing but a whole host of activities, including audio mixing, sound production, commercials, promos, and all the possible tasks and activities that come under the umbrella of postproduction. Perhaps the idea of the one-stop shop can be traced back to Nina Lath Gupta, Managing Director of the NFDC, who inaugurated the Film Bazaar Co-Production market. In an interview with Harmanpreet Kaur, she says, “They would come to Bombay and realise that Bollywood was only one part of what makes Indian cinema. It was a major challenge for the international film fraternity. You need a one-stop shop and so it was important that we create a one-stop shop in India” (personal interview, July 19, 2013). See also Harmanpreet Kaur, “At Home in the World: Co-productions and Indian Alternative Cinema,” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies (2021). Among the four big ones, Prime Focus Technologies (Bombay) and Deluxe India (Bangalore) are owned by parent companies from the US. The other two, Vista India and Sound and Vision (both Bombay based), are based in India (though the founder of Vista India is a New York–based Indian American). Some of these big companies have grown big by buying up small subtitling and other postproduction setups from Bangalore, Pune, and Bombay. There are also small subtitling and other language service providers and postproduction agencies founded by Indian entrepreneurs like Mayank Jain’s Vaudiot Creatives, QLAB, and Dice Media, as well as subtitling agencies like Scryptic Media, which is owned by a foreign company called Subtechs.

[40] Pramita Rahman, personal communication to author, July 26, 2021, 6 pm IST. The quote has been translated from Bengali.


[41] Rajiv Kulkarni, personal communication to author, August 17, 2021, 7 pm IST.


[42] Aparajita Bagchi, personal communication to author, August 19, 2021, 8:30 pm IST.

[43] The Hermes number is an index by which the work of a subtitler who works with Netflix is rated. It is associated with Netflix’s Hermes program launched in 2017, which was designed to recruit subtitlers for its localization purposes. The program got such an overwhelming response that they had to close the entry shortly after opening it. The statement on their website explained, “we have reached our capacity for each one of the language tests due to the rapid popularity and response from applicants all over the world. Therefore, we are closing the platform to future testing at this time.” (Bond 2018)

[44] Anonymous


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