Soon as Deadpool’s alter-ego Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) meets Cable — the time travelling mutant — what he’s desperate to know, and perhaps rightly so, is if the Rs 2,000 notes are still in circulation in the future. And, more importantly, which part of the Golmaal series have they reached yet? Yeah. We were watching Deadpool 2, in Hindi, with the adorably modulated, cheeky voice, quite unmistakably actor Ranveer Singh’s. The trick works to the point that when Deadpool’s face is behind the mask (always), you’re almost certain it’s Singh in the body-suit!
It still feels slightly surreal though to walk into the theatre and find Wade discussing with his love-interest Vanessa what they should name their child — Jignesh, Alpesh, Mona…? He gently tells her to doll up, so they can make babies first. In other words: “Tum chhamiya bankar aa jao. Phir bachche banayenge.” Is that Wade, or Ved? Or maybe Wade, in short, for the Maharashtrian Wadekar, later discussing merits of the Gujarati dish Undhiyo at the local bar? Sure, this takes some getting used to, initially. But of all the Hindi dubs of Hollywood blockbusters I’ve seen, although only a few, Deadpool 2, referred to as “dedh shaana” in a dialogue in Devnagri script, ought to be the most localised version ever.
Still from Deadpool 2
And this isn’t because of the super-familiar Singh alone — the rest of the voices have been dubbed by professional artistes, barring YouTube star Bhuvam Bam, who goes naturally desi for the Indian cabbie Dopinder’s part. Several Indian movie stars have, in the recent past, lent their voices to American event pictures. Varun Dhawan, for instance, became Captain America for Civil War (2016), Arshad Warsi was Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 (2017), Arjun Kapoor got on the mic for Ice Age 5 (2016), and, of course, a complete constellation, including Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan, Nana Patekar, came together for Jungle Book (2016).
A cocky character like Deadpool though, with a penchant for screwball comedy, who pretty much talks in pop-cultural references, often looking straight at the audience, allows the Hindi translators to go wild, finding apt Indian equivalents to his referential humour — going from Gulzar, Kishore Kumar to Rajinikanth and Vikram-Betaal.
They can see, at one point, that Wade actually looks like Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) from Paa (he does). Or that his team X-Force sounds like a condom (Man Force?). Singh, I guess, would’ve particularly enjoyed taking pot-shots at his contemporary/rival Ranbir Kapoor, recalling Bombay Velvet (“Poore film ki baji padi thi”), before signing off, “Accha chalta hoon, duaon mein yaad rakhna!” (from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Hai).
With no-holds-barred Bollywood take-down humour, the writers seriously dive deep, unearthing curios like the Jism line, “Jism pyar karna nahin jaanta. Jaanta hai toh sirf bhook. Jism ki bhook,” or the gem from Dangal (they’re clearly obsessed with Dangal), “Geeta, Babita ne kya kaha tha: Khel bahut hua, ab Dangal shuru!” Sure. It’s endearing all right to hear the Swades song Yun Hi Chala Chal play on the car deck (thankfully, the wonderful unplugged version of A-ha’s Take On Me is left alone).
Two American country folk discussing merits of defecating in the open (“kheton mein”) over a commode might seem a bit much, but it pales in comparison to several other flights of fancy that dot this literary landscape, with characters delivering lines that should go straight to a meme, if not a tee —”Sukhdi bombil,” “Raseele honth,” “Murjhaye hue akhrot,” “Iski bhains ko rickshaw thokay,” or my favourite, “Iski maa ka Sakinaka!”
Yup. Sadly, these genius wordsmiths haven’t been credited on screen. I was told by the film’s spokesperson to simply call them the “in-house team from Star Fox.” Unfair. They deserve applause still. Like others in my theatre, it’s hard to tell if I was having this much fun, because the film is a scintillating, laugh-riot to begin with (it is), or that the spare candidates for X-Force have to link their application to the Aadhar card! Either way, this feels like the perfect send-up. And isn’t Deadpool a self-aware spoof (of a spoof) anyway? It is — making this version (playing only in 2D, at a cinema near you), in a layered, Meta sort of way, triply fun.