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Learning the desi lingo

As more and more non Hindi-speaking actors enter Bollywood, hoping to make it big, diction trainers find themselves inundated with (sometimes wannabe) celebrity clients.

bollywood Updated: Apr 22, 2012 15:35 IST
Prashant Singh

Sunny Leone might have charmed everyone with her smooth talk on Bigg Boss 5, but right now the Indo-Canadian adult-film star is busy mouthing random sentences in Hindi. Ahead of her Bollywood debut in Jism 2, the actor is taking audio lessons in Hindi and her exercises include repeating aloud, what she hears on tape. She is not alone. As a host of non Hindi-speaking actors enter the industry, hoping to make it big in Bollywood, they are going all out to to get the Hindi right As a result, Hindi diction trainers are fast becoming popular in the industry.

“Fluency is important in any language since it’s the most important tool for communication. A lot of actors understand Hindi but can’t speak it. So the work includes everything from basic grammar to phrase formation,” says voice and diction trainer Vinod Tharani, who has worked with Deepika Padukone, Jacqueline Fernandez, Amy Jackson and Bruna Abdullah in the past.

Experts also point out that foreign actors often struggle with getting right the finer nuances of the language. Besides fluency, they find it difficult to differentiate between sounds like ka and kh and n and na. Besides they have problems in pronouncing words like seedhi and nazaakat.

Understanding the difference between the ta sound in tamatar and talvar is also a challenge for them. Plus, a line like kya kar rahi ho? is often confusing for them due to the repetitive hi and ho sounds.

Mumbai-based trainer and actor Vibha Chibber, who has trained Nargis Fakhri, Giselli Monteiro and Lisa Haydon, feels that the biggest challenge is to get the Hindi accent right.

“I try to strengthen their basic grasp of the language. Since they are actors, they have to emote as well as understand what co-actors are saying,” she says. Language and diction coach Vidur Chaturvedi who runs Kreating Charakters in Andheri, has come out with a new solution: a novel course book to make things easier. Tricky Hindi words like zindagani, qayamat, qadradaan and zalzala find mention in the booklet, which he constantly updates.

But Tharani feels that once an actor finds a stable footing in the industry, she or he stops worrying about getting the Hindi right. “In Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Katrina has dubbed in her accented voice but no one was bothered since audiences have accepted her,” he says Courses in Hindi can range from 20 classes to three months. And although no trainer wants to talk about the remuneration, it can vary between Rs 50,000 to over a lakh.

Books by Gulzar
Deepika Padukone was given books written by Gulzar (in Urdu) and Nirmal Varma (in Hindi) by her trainer Vinod Tharani. He would ask her to read out difficult Urdu and Hindi words as many times as possible. Also, since she used to naturally speak on a high pitch, Tharani told Farah (Khan) that she needed to speak in a lower pitch to get the diction right.

20-day rehearsals
For her role in Rajneeti, Katrina Kaif would listen to audio recordings of poetry and political speeches. Her trainer Vidur Chaturvedi would make her repeat a few words and phrases. Her speeches in Hindi had to sound authentic since her character in the film hailed from Bhopal. Hence, she would practise her speeches for 20 days before the shoot.

Interviews in Hindi?
Nargis was very keen to learn Hindi for multiple reasons. She wanted to do interviews in Hindi and even give a speech in the
language if she won an award. But later, she told her trainer Vibha Chibber in disappointment, “No one speaks Hindi here.” “To strengthen her Hindi, Imtiaz Ali would speak to her only in Hindi on the Rockstar sets,” says Chibber.

Hair comes Hindi
British model Amy Jackson, who made her debut with Ekk Deewana Tha, is always asking questions, sometimes about the oddest things, says her trainer, Vinod Tharani. During one of her classes, she asked Tharani what the Hindi translation of the words ‘hairy dog’ was. When he replied ‘jhabra kutta’, she couldn’t stop laughing.

On Bhai’s demand
Apparently, Hazel, who made her Hindi film debut with Bodyguard, was trained by Vidur Chaturvedi at producer Atul Agnihotri’s office. There were rumours that Salman Khan was very keen that Hazel learned Hindi before making her Bollywood debut, since he had seen his former girlfriend Katrina Kaif struggle because of her non proficiency in Hindi.