Warming up to regional languages of India
Are we open to watching shows in languages like Malayalam, Bengali and Gujarati yet?
I am currently scripting a full-length play in English on Indian weddings, Punjabi weddings to be specific. An interesting character in the script is Richie Aunty played by local actor Mandeep Walia. She is loud, rich, fun-loving, and speaks well in Punjabi. She's likely to be the spice of the show. As I penned down her dialogues, we debated on whether our audience will understand her dialect or not, and how much of the essence of the show we will lose were she to speak in English. Then someone remarked, "It would be a good way to bring a regional language to the fore. Plus, it'll add authenticity to the scenes." This of course, further led to the discussion on how even though a large part of the performing arts community is made up of Indians, we're yet to warm up to native tongues of the land.
It's only recently that we've opened our hearts to watching theatre in Hindi. A name that does come to mind and needs to be credited for this change would be actor, producer, director, and playwright, Prakaash Soni. Part of the Theatrewallas group, Prakaash and his team recently brought alive an evening of Hindi and Urdu theatre (stories of Satyajit Ray, Ismat Chughtai and Mohd Aslam Pervez). However, arts in regional tongues remains a rarity.
In August this year, a drama titled The Bet by Anton Chekov, directed by Ajay Annoor, co-founder of Al Quoz Theatre, was staged in Malayalam. December 2017 saw a Gujarati stand-up comedy, Kem Chho Dubai?! Last year's Short + Sweet Theatre Festival UAE saw an interesting category called Regional, however, most of the shows performed under the same were in Hindi, with a few in Marathi and Bengali as well. All these shows were staged at The Junction and Rashmi Kotriwala, co-founder of the performing arts space, and an actor-director herself, is keen to promote the regional Indian languages. "It is important to give the artistes opportunities to express themselves in their native tongues. UAE is home to a huge Indian diaspora and arts present a perfect platform to ensure that the languages don't perish," she shares. "The younger generation is forgetting how to communicate in their mother tongue. It's a good idea to re-introduce them to regional languages through various art forms," says local comedian KD, whose video in Sindhi was well-received by the community.
With the number of English shows running in the hundreds, followed by a handful in Hindi, regional acts are few and far between. A rise in the latter would be commendable. As of now, all I can say is that change is here, and so are the performers; it's up to us, the audience, to cheer on louder for the same.
KD will be performing a Sindhi stand-up comedy GANO NA GALAYO at Headlines Cafe, Mercure Hotel, Dubai, at 8pm tonight
In other languages
. Arabic, Nov 14 (8pm)-15 (4pm, 8pm), Ghorba w Naseeb-Expatriation and Destiny, The Junction
. Hindi, Dec 16-17-18, 8pm, Yaar Julahe, The Junction