How Yana, Kalki learnt Hindi
Vikas Kumar is better recognised as Inspector Deshmukh of Kotey Sikkey on Sony Entertainment Television. But we don't know that this actor is also a language trainer for many Bollywood actors.
An MBA graduate, Kumar worked in theatre under veteran Barry John to try his luck in acting. A lucky break got him his first job as a voice coach for the Hollywood film One Night With The King, which was filmed in Rajasthan.
"I had no experience but I'd always been confident of my language and diction," Kumar says. "I trained around 40 Indian actors to speak in a British accent."
After that, he started getting more work, and even held personal language classes for actors. Some of the actors he has trained include Vidya Balan, Kalki Kochein, Jacqueline Fernandez, Arshad Warsi, model Amrit Maghera, Yana Gupta, Shenaz Treasurywala, Rajat Barmecha, and model-actor Sahil Shroff.
He takes us through some of his experiences.
Image: Vikas Kumar on the sets of Ishqiya
Yana did not understand the language when I first met her. I must have had a few sessions with her before she got busy with a dance reality show (Jhalak Dikhhlaa Jaa).
She likes working systematically and teaching her was a lot of fun because she's very passionate about our county and the Hindi language.
As a trainer, it helps when the student shows keenness towards what you have to teach. She regrets not having learnt Hindi all these years.
Whenever I gave her homework, she would complete it on time, even with her busy schedule. Most non-Indians get stuck with the work 'Main'. With practice, they get it right.
Yana would ask me the meaning of the song lyrics, which she had to perform to in Jhalak. She would write them down and learn. She always wanted to perform with lip sync.
She is a fitness freak. During our sessions, she would offer me different types of herbal tea.
Image: Yana Gupta in Chalo Dilli
Vidya is fluent in Hindi and has a knack for the language. I was not there to teach her any language but to train in the Bhojpuri dialect for the film Ishqiya.
Since the film was based in Gorakhpur, I had to teach her a mix of languages, which the locals speak in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
We had a 15 days workshop in Mumbai. Then I travelled with the team for two months for the shooting.
Vidya is a diligent student. After every shot, she would come to me and check whether it was okay. Even if there was a slight mistake, she would learn it and go back.
Though she is a big star, she's a sweet person. We are still in touch with each other.
Most of the time she SMSes me in Bhojpuri: 'Bikas bhaiji kaisan ba, tuhar kowno kabar naahe' (Vikas brother, how are you? Long time no news).
I was very fond of the masala chai I would have while training at her place.
Image: Vidya Balan with Vikas Kumar
Kalki is a simple person with no star tantrums. She comes with a certain discipline like any other theatre person.
She would carry the printouts everywhere, to meetings, parlours and while travelling. She takes her training very seriously. Whenever I would see a crumpled printout, I would know that she had done her homework.
It's not easy to teach a new language in a short period. So while training non-Indians for a film, my job is to make them sound like an Indian with proper diction. I concentrate more on the diction rather than teaching the language.
Let me tell you an incident. Both Kalki and I got busy with our respective work and I couldn't take her classes for some time. She was shooting for My Friend Pinto and right after that, she had to fly to Spain for Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
Since we didn't have time, I held a session at the B Blunt salon in Mumbai, where she was getting her hair done. She spent about two-three hours in the salon, so we had enough time to complete the exercise.
Image: Kalki Koechlin in Dev D
Arshad is super talented. He can do comedy and serious roles equally well but he hasn't got his due.
Naseeruddin Shah and he had to speak the Bhopali language in Ishqiya. I was there to guide them with the language and diction. Arshad is a fast learner. We didn't need to have any workshop for him. He would rehearse his lines twice or thrice before the shoot and get it right. Though I am much younger to him, he would call me 'sir' and ask me for corrections.
During the shoot, he would also ask me to teach him some abusive words that he could use in the film.
There is a scene in the film where Naseerji asks Arshad to shoot Vidya. Arshad asks Naseeer why he doesn't kill Vidya. Naseer replies, 'Mujhe londya se ishq hogya hai.'
So Arshad replies, 'Accha tumar ishq ishqiya hain our mera ishq sex.'
He had to stretch the word sex a bit. He got it right after three-four retakes.
Image: Vinay Kumar and Arshad Warsi
Shenaz isn't fluent in Hindi even though she is from Mumbai. She had a strong influence of English while speaking Hindi, like most Parsis.
She was working in the film Radio then. The first thing I ask the actor for is the bound script of the film. I read it and then work on almost all the scenes with the actor -- this includes pronunciation, expressions and body language.
We would sit with script across the dining table and rehearse the lines. I would read Himeshji's (Reshammiya) lines and rehearse with her. She would become emotional while rehearsing the emotional scenes, have tears in her eyes! She is a mind-blowing actress but strangely, she doesn't have many films.
She loves eating fruit. Whenever I went to her home, she would offer me fruit.
After the film's release, she got a lot of compliments about the way she spoke Hindi.
Image: A scene from Radio
Rajat is like any other 21-year-old. He wears jeans, tees, funky shoes, and is always on his mobile phone. He has a cool dude attitude. But his character in Udaan is just the opposite.
He had no acting background. I was asked to do an acting workshop with him, especially the emotional scenes. He goes through different stages of emotions in the film -- from his mother's death to how he retaliates against his authoritative father (Ronit Roy). He wasn't good in expressing his emotions so they asked me to help him out.
There is a scene where he had to slap his father. I told him to slap me since I was reading the father's lines. He wasn't getting the right emotion and I wanted to crack this guy and improvise the scene before they left for Jamshedpur for the shoot.
He started laughing and wouldn't slap me. So finally I slapped him, and then he slapped me.
When he had to shoot the scene, he was to fake slap Ronit. But Rajat slapped him so hard, Ronit was zapped. The director was happy that his shock translated so well on camera.
When Ronit came to know the real reason behind the tight slap, he came to me said, 'you're the real culprit.'
Image: Rajat Barmecha in Udaan