The Talk Of Tinsletown

From learning slangs to nasal twangs, actors are hiring dialect coaches to master regional languages and do full justice to their onscreen characters

It is not easy to navigate through India’s diverse dialects and cultures. To breathe soul into a character, fine actors take the efforts of mastering not just the body language of the character, but also the spoken language. Be it Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, Malayalam, Bengali or Konkani to name a few, actors learn the tongue-twisters to excel and do full justice to the on-screen character. Actor Anushka Sharma and Vicky Kaushal’s chaste Gujarati in Jab Harry Met Sejal and Sanju respectively and Hrithik Roshan’s racy Bhojpuri dialogues in Super 30 swept the audiences. But not many realise that some credit goes to the behind-the-scenes hard work of language tutors and dialect coaches, who train the actors to master the finer nuances of a language. From honing dialects to refining dialogue fluency, these coaches elevate the authenticity of characters on the big screen bridging the gap between reel and real representation, paving the way for showbiz success.

Words of Wisdom

In the early days when dialect coaching was a foreign concept, actors often turned to existing production staff for diverse linguistic training on the sets. With his deep-rooted understanding of local Bihar dialects, fluency in Hindi, and proficiency in various English accents, Bihar born Vikas Kumar effortlessly secured a role in providing dialect training for British English in a Hollywood production. The A-list coach trained Vidya Balan in Hindustani-Bhojpuri for Ishqiya and Kannada for Shakuntala Devi. He also coached Katrina Kaif with Hindi dialogues and pronunciation for Tiger Zinda Hai, and John Abraham for Pathaan.

Vikas says, “To bring out the various flavours of the language, I do immense research, study the character, dissect the words and speak to people from that culture before conducting my sessions with the actors.”

Vikas, who is also an acclaimed actor in hit series like Aarya and Kaala Paani is the founder of ‘Strictly Speaking’ which offers services for voice, diction and language training. Vikas employs various techniques to help actors master a language —tongue placement in front of a mirror, uttering complex words et al. “The best form of learning a dialect is through imitation. Hence, I approach each sound as if I am playing the character myself,” adds Vikas

No Language Barriers

Actor Vicky Kaushal garnered big laurels for speaking fluent Gujarati in the Sanjay Dutt biopic Sanju. Vicky essayed the role of ‘Kamli’, Sanju’s best pal. But the switch from Punjabi to Gujarati was not easy for Vicky.

Dialect coach Dimple Shah helped Vicky put a soul into the Gujarati character. Dimple, who has coached Anushka Sharma for Jab Harry Met Sejal and Abhishek Bachchan for The Big Bull says she stumbled upon the query for a Gujarati dialect coach while working as a theatre actor. “My technique and approach depends on the actor. Some actors want to learn the basics of the language while the others want to strictly adhere to the script,” says Dimple. For Kaushal’s portrayal of Kamli, she and the director approached the dialogues script wise, and developed various forms of thick accents based on the Gujarati culture in Surat. “I know where the boundaries lie. If a potential dialogue may hurt the sentiments of my people I will take it up with the director and stand my ground,” she adds.

Actor Aamir Khan’s portrayal of a Punjabi man in Laal Singh Chaddha gained appreciation from the audiences for its realistic portrayal and perfectionism. Thanks to actor and dialect coach Kulvinder Bakshish who trained Aamir. Kulvinder, who was a theatre actor and choreographer, speaks of his career trajectory as a dialect coach. “Apart from being a theatre director, I started training budding actors as an acting coach and realised that most of the actors required language training. It began my journey as a dialect coach for Punjabi,” he says. Kulvinder, who trained Aamir to speak Punjabi speaks highly of the actor’s hardworking strict persona. “Aamir Khan wouldn’t move ahead until his dialect was not perfect and enjoyed the journey and process of language learning. It took some time. Our ears act as our antennas in absorbing the language from the subconscious which makes audio listening language the easiest method to learn a dialect,” adds Kulvinder.

The Gift of Tongues?

For actor and dialect coach Vikram Pratap, his theatre background in Indore proved instrumental in mastering Bundel-khandi fluently. He honed the dialects of renowned actors like Sanjay Mishra, Pankaj Tripathi, Neetu Kapoor, and Tillottama Shome in Bundelkhandi, Malwi, and Indori. Pratap’s breakthrough as a dialect coach came when he was recommended to visit the film set of Kadvi Hawa to teach Bundelkhandi dialect. “I often immerse my characters in the culture that they are playing. The body language, what they eat and how they behave. For example, Indore people have a penchant for using their hands while speaking. So I bought that essence in Pankaj Sir’s character,” says Vikram.

He has now established his own team of coaches to handle on-set training during his absence says, “People connect personally to an actor when the dialect coach introduces phrases, jokes, words and behaviour mannerisms of the culture within the character,” he says.

While accurate portrayal of dialects adds depth to storytelling, there’s a risk of perpetuating stereotypes or causing offence to a culture if character is not handled with care. By fostering a deeper understanding of cultural nuances and working collaboratively with communities, dialect coaches can play a pivotal role in ensuring respectful and authentic representation on the silver screen.

Mind Your Language

Actor and Dialect coach Vikas Kumar trained Katrina Kaif with Hindi dialogues for Tiger Zinda Hai

Actor-cum-dialect coach Vikram Pratap taught Bundelakhandi to Sanjay Mishra and Tillottama Shome for Kadvi Hawa and Indori to Pankaj Tripathi in OMG 2

Dimple Shah taught Gujarati to Anushka Sharma and Vicky Kaushal for Jab Harry Met Sejal and Sanju respectively

Actor-dialect coach Kulvinder Bakshish taught Punjabi to Aamir Khan for Laal Singh Chaddha

Sunita Sharma is a Haryanvi dialect coach who trained Aamir Khan for Dangal and Kangana Ranaut for Tanu Weds Manu

Ashish Pathode a dialect and acting coach collaborated with Vicky Kaushal for the movie Sam Bahadur

I research, study the character, dissect the words and speak to people from that culture before conducting my sessions with the actors.” — Vikas Kumar, actor-dialect coach, founder, Strictly Speaking

People connect personally to an actor when the dialect coach introduces phrases, jokes, words and behaviour mannerisms within the character.”— Vikram Pratap, actor and dialect coach

Some actors want to learn the basics of the language, while others want to strictly adhere to the script.”— Dimple Shah, writer-actor cum dialect coach

I started training budding actors as an acting coach. I realised that most actors required language training.” — Kulvinder Bakshish, actor and dialect coach

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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