Wonders never cease in the Indian film industry. One has always been perplexed by actors working in movies whose language is absolutely alien to them. Now, how can one perform and emote when one does not have the faintest clue about what he or she is mouthing. Incorrect diction will quite likely lead to incorrect lip sync. Will it not?
But Indian directors and producers do not seem to care about this. As long as the actor looks good and has a boxoffice appeal, that will do. Why bother about the finer and the most important aspects of acting like facial expression and emotion. This is especially true in the case of actresses. As long as they look like glam dolls and are willing to show a bit of skin, they are in.
I was appalled to read an interview of Sonakshi Sinha – who plays opposite Rajinikanth in Lingaa. This will be her debut Tamil film. And Sinha felt that since she had already starred in five Hindi remakes of southern hits ( Dabangg, Rowdy Rathore, Son of Sardaar, Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty and the upcoming Tevar) and four of these had been with Tamil helmers (A.R. Murugadoss and Prabhudeva), she was comfortable working in a Tamil work. "I do not want my southern movie career to end with Lingaa”, she said. Also, southern films are rich in content, she felt.
The question is, how did she manage to speak in Tamil. "My director, his associates and our writer actually made it very easy for me to pick it up. I was allowed to read it off placards or be prompted while speaking. Also, having worked with Tamil units before helped a great deal," she added.
All this is fine, but to emote and get the right expression and gestures in a language that is so far removed from your own is a humungous task. Miss Sinha said she had overcome that.
No way. For a Tamil like me, Sinha’s lip sync was awful. Although K.S. Ravi Kumar, who helmed Lingaa, had made efforts to keep the actress far away from the camera (there were not many close-ups with dialogues), it was quite apparent that here was an actress who had no clue about the language, Tamil in this case.
Also, I have watched Sinha in several other works, and she was particularly good in Lootera and Once Upon Time in Mumbai Dobaara. In the first, as an asthmatic girl in the 1950s Bengal, she was extraordinarily nuanced and expressive. In Once Upon a Time…she portrayed marvellously the trauma of a rising starlet, pursued and wooed by a gangster.
In contrast, as Bharathi, a village belle, in Lingaa – who falls in love with Rajinikanth’s character, Raja Lingeswaran, she seems awkward (maybe her blouse-less image contributing to this) and ill at ease. Naturally so. If one has to mouth lines in an absolutely alien language, one cannot be expected to perform one’s best. But in a Rajinikanth work, who cares about the women. They hardly have any significant roles. Often, they are just decorative dolls.
One would like to conclude here that actresses like Sinha – who has a reputation to guard and is capable of good work – must refrain from being tempted into doing pictures in languages they do not understand. So, what if the hero is larger than the screen. Rajinikanth in this case.