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She minds her language

 By Khalid Mohamed

Okay, so Bobby Jasoos has come and vanished with the wind. I sat through it, wondering why the tense relationship between Bobby and her father was touched upon but never explicated.  That was a potentially more dramatic and worthwhile theme for the film, instead of the plethora of disguises the heroine was made to wear, without contributing a whit to the narrative.

It did seem as if the director Samar Shaikh had lost the plot, overawed by the fact that…gee whiz… Vidya Balan was actually acting for him: hence the kind of gargantuan close-ups which Rajkumar Santoshi once devoted to his unrequited love Meenakshi Seshadri. When close-ups are employed, they have to be with economy and must be relevant to the situation and emotion being enacted.

Still, I hung on to Bobby Jasoos despite a mediocrity personified newcomer, Ali Fazal, who struck up as much chemistry with Ms Balan, as a school laboratory class. The reason was Ms Balan’s dexterity at delivering the Hyderabadi-tinged dialogue. The actress had obviously done her homework and cheers for that. It may have not been as authentic as Shabana Azmi’s Deccani dialogue for Ankur, but then comparisons are odious, aren’t they?

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Vidya Balan in Bobby Jasoos

For sure, the Hyderabadi accent was practised and marvellously delivered by Vidya Balan, who unfortunately has chosen her projects randomly of late. I for one would want to forget her in Ghanchakkar and Pyaar ke Side Effects, and rather remember her for Parineeta, Paa, No One Killed Jessica, Ishqiya, The Dirty Picture and Kahani. Super acting sparks there.

So, why am I picking on Vidya Balan today? Maybe because she’s the last of the actresses who cares for diction and the adab of language. Naturally, I flashbacked then,  to a conversation I’d had with the actress on the very subject. Excerpts:

 You seem to be the only actress who cares for diction and dialect nowadays. Yaaay to that!

 I have always been attracted towards linguists. Now please don’t let that entice any one-track minds. I simply mean that there is something special about any man – or woman, for that matter – who has a special regard for language. So I was always envious of my elder sister, Priya – who knows a smattering of practically every language. Quite easily, she can string words together to communicate effectively.

 We are Tamilians from Palakkad of Kerala. With time, like my sister I have picked up nuances of Rajasthani. Gujarati and Marathi we have been conversant as kids living in the Chembur neighbourhhod of Mumbai. English was the basic medium of education. Hindi as well as Punjabi we picked up from our neighbours, the Aggarwals, ever since we were kids.

 Vis-à-vis Urdu,  the language has that quality of romanticism. It is elegant, royal, even gaalis in Urdu sound charming. My first image of Urdu as a language is associated with the TV show Mirza Ghalib which I would watch as a kid. Naseeruddin Shah’s pronunciation and command over the language were impeccable. As an actor, it’s a must to get one’s pronunciation right, with the correct emphasis on certain syllables. The dialogue of The Dirty Picture —  my head would have been on the chopping block if had faltered with any of the lines. I had to keep in mind, of course, that it was my character – Silk – saying the lines, not me.

 Beautiful-Bollywood-Actress-Vidya-Balan-Full-HD-HQ-Wallpapers5 copyDo you intend to study languages, which are essential for your craft?

 I would love to read and write in Urdu..so I could read more poetry in the language. So far, I have essentially marvelled over the lyrics and poems of Gulzar saab, in their recorded forms..and in Roman scripts. I hope to read more also of Firaq and Mir Taqi Mir by and  by. I’ve been an aspiring Urdu speaker.

I love Bengali too and am fluent in it. I was introduced to it it by the cinema of Satyajit Ray. I have seen all his films except for Paras Pathar which I hope to catch up with soon. Of the foreign languages, I’d like to learn Spanish. That’s because I like their culture, cinema, director Pedro Almodovar, and Antonio Banderas, of course. French I did study in school but somehow didn’t take to it..perhaps schools should teach spoken French instead of the grammar..because you can get lost in the labyrinths of the past, present and future tenses.

 Artistes cannot afford to ignore the demands of diction while acting. Meryl Streep is amazing, whether she is playing an American, Polish or British woman.  As Mrs Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, she was outstanding. Her dialogue, in the case of every character she plays, is word perfect. So far, I have not done any specific accents or dialects. For the first time, in Ishqiya I  tried to convey the dialect of eastern U P where it was set.

 Are you okay with foul words in the dialogue?

 gulzar.jpg (640x428)By my upbringing and nature, I’m a bit conservative when it comes to foul words in any language. It’s okay for cuss words to be used once in a while among friends..but never with one’s peers and colleagues. All that mc-bc-tc-vc is disrespectful. Once Dada (Pradeep Sarkar), quite unlike him,  screamed at a technician on the sets of Parineeta. I froze with fright. Today, I’m okay with that.

 But  at a function, I couldn’t even say the word ‘idiot’ in front of Gulzar saab. He would have thought that I am very ill-mannered. I am Fan No. 1 of his ghazals. I was tongue-tied on meeting him. Nervously, I rattled off something in Bengali to the photographers who were at the spot.

 To come now to movie dialoguebaazi, it may not be the way we speak in real life..but a balanced element is a must for cinema. Take the wonderful dialogue about life dangling us like ‘kathputlis’ enacted by Rajesh Khanna in Anand. In real life, that would not sound authentic..in cinema it has become memorable.

 Of late, cinema has veered towards the usage of colloquial language..anything too dramatic sounds bombastic. Dialogue is more colloquial and crisp today. Also, ideally one should talk in a blend of Hindi and Urdu 24 x 7 because that helps you greatly as an actor — whether you have to say, `Bye bye’, ‘Shubh ratri’, ‘Aavjo’, ‘Vanakkum’ or ‘Khuda haafiz.’


 

Follow Khalid Mohamed at @Jhajhajha on Twitter 

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