A Suitable Boy dialect coach defends show's Indian accents: 'English wasn't the...

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Home / TV / A Suitable Boy dialect coach defends show’s Indian accents: ‘English wasn’t the first language in the 1950s’

Reacting to the debate around the accents with which Indian characters speak in the BBC’s A Suitable Boy, the dialect coach who worked on the show has said that the accents are more accurate than most people are suggesting.

Directed by Mira Nair and written by Andrew Davies, A Suitable Boy was released on Netflix on October 23. Several critics have noted the stilted manner in which the characters speak English.

Hetal Varia, a ‘Mumbai-based voice, dialect and accent consultant’, told HuffPost India that Indians in the 1950s, which is when the story is set, actually sounded like this. “A Suitable Boy takes place in the 1950s in post-independent India. The language we spoke then was English, of course, but it was still spoken by Indians for whom it wasn’t the first language,” she said.

She added, “The important thing to remember is that most characters in A Suitable Boy are from very well-bred families and their manner of speech is inherently different.” She said that her brief was to “get the artists to speak deliberate English but steer far from the South Indian stereotype.”

She concluded by saying that the ‘trick is to get the emotionality of the dialogue right so it appears that the character is speaking from within and not just parroting the lines.’

A Suitable Boy is based on the novel by Vikram Seth and stars Tanya Maniktala, Ishaan Khatter and Tabu, among dozens of other actors, both familiar and new.

Also read: A Suitable Boy review: Mira Nair’s unsuitable adaptation is partially redeemed by Ishaan Khatter and Tabu’s forbidden love story

The Hindustan Times’ review noted, “It’s clear from the very first scenes that A Suitable Boy is targeted towards a Western audience, as a window into an exotic culture. Most of it is in English, with bits and pieces in subtitled Hindi and Urdu. In all honestly, it makes for a most grating viewing experience. White people wouldn’t care, but it’s jarring to watch two villagers converse in English.”

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