We have a strange habit of attributing our success as well as our problems to English. While one group hails the language as a job tool, the other one denigrates it for diluting our traditional values. Recently at the India Fashion Week, some designers held English responsible for the demise of the Indian silhouette!
Now, English has become the centre of another battle, the battle for TRPs. NDTV Imagine has come up with a new show Angrezi Main Kehte Hain. Considering each member of the family has something to do with the language, it is an interesting way of attracting eyeballs. “And we are teaching for free, unlike the institutes, which charge a hefty fee,” says Shernaz Patel, who is playing the teacher in the show. The renowned theatre personality describes the show as edutainment. “English has become a tool of communication. Even Hindi films have credits in English. We will follow a curriculum starting from the basics like sentence structure, usage of articles and words like thank you and sorry.” Shernaz says the focus is on solving basic problems. “Like the difference between tea spoon and table spoon and credit card and debit card. Similarly these days people face embarrassment in interacting with English speaking salespersons in malls.” The series has set characters like a grandfather who wants to interact with his English speaking grandson, a mother who faces problems in speaking during parent–teacher meetings and a girl who is getting married to an NRI.
“To keep things light we have gags in between, explaining the pronunciation in the process.” A Parsi, Shernaz says she thinks in English. “This is a ridiculous generalisation that the language affects your dressing sense or culture. I love wearing traditional Indian outfits. Going by the designers’ logic how will you describe the language of a person who loves to wear kurti with jeans? It is just a tool for communication; it has nothing to do with your identity.”
Talking about the Parsis, Shernaz says it’s a depleting community. “Thank God, the stereotypical portrayal has changed in films. Boman Irani gets to play different roles, so am I. For the first time in my career I am playing a Parsi on screen in Little Zizou.” Somebody who didn’t dump theatre for films, Shernaz is for keeping the sanctity of theatre techniques intact. “Over the years theatre has become a stop-over point for films. This has a lot to do with the commercial viability of the medium. Marathi and Gujarati plays are doing well, but Hindi and English theatre is in distress. What television actors are doing on stage in the name of comedy can’t really be called theatre.” Through her theatre company, Rage Productions, which she runs with Rajit Kapoor and Rahul Da Cunha, Shernaz gives an opportunity to playwrights who are doing original work through Writers’ Bloc Festival. “This year we are starting from June. The talent is there. The problem is in holding them to the medium considering the lack of space and money,” she sums up.