Accented Pleasures

Updated: May 10, 2020, 07:58 IST | Paromita Vohra | Mumbai

My favourite sketches are of Pyaari Bakri and Gopal the Goat, featuring Cow-shik the Cow. They are full of appallingly excellent puns like "why you are looking like rogan, no josh?"

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraI am a committed fan of Danish Sait's lockdown videos. Formally, these videos with their minute observational detail of how a variety of people discuss the lockdown (like a man saying to his cook "Jaya, you're not a maid. You're a mermaid") are pithy commentaries on social attitudes, without the self-importance of social commentary. Because of their intense goofiness—Sait wearing a huge moustache as a beauty-parlour deprived woman, using tissue boxes, Bacardi bottles and dumb-bells to represent cellphones—even the most pointed comment dissolved by laughter, is taken, without sticking meanly in your throat.

My favourite sketches are of Pyaari Bakri and Gopal the Goat, featuring Cow-shik the Cow. They are full of appallingly excellent puns like "why you are looking like rogan, no josh?" The story is a proper rom-com, starting with mouth-watering mutual insults, GG admitting his love with, "I'm in love with the sheep of you" and PB being a jealous cat about, well, a cat. With Eid, will their story end like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak? I'm keeping hausla and preparing myself. But my love for PB, is also personal.

Pyaari Bakri, I could listen to you all day, because you speak in Dakhni. I've lived in Secunderabad. "Kya dillagi karen ji" will switch on my dreamy smile in a second. But, it also reminds me of my Chawal mama who spoke in Dakhni. Not really my uncle, but a close friend of my parents from their Air Force days. I changed his name from Shahul to Chawal with my baby accent, and it became a pet name. Chawal mama told stories, especially of being hoodwinked or bamboozled, with the incipient giggle, self-deprecation and your-deprecation, the delight in outlandish behaviours and atranga characters, even those who wronged you, which come bundled with Dakhni, and make its musciality delicious. He teleported this humorous self-awareness into English. Pyaari Bakri, saying, "Gopal, kaiku itna chindi dikhra", instantly reminds me of Chawal mama exclaiming "that fellow, woh toh rascal nikla sweetheart!" Such humour sees two sides, one's own misfortune and its comedy, laughing at behaviour, not individuals.

It makes life an eccentric, liveable adventure.

I love accents. They bring out the idiomatic taste of language, the way coriander stems highlight a gravy's tendency. The distaste people have for (non-firangi of course) accents, yaniki snobbery, is so #BoreMatKarYaar. Snobs look down on people who say pijja or pis-za instead of peet-za, as provincial. Anything more provincial than snobs? Their palate cannot recognise the salty heaven of an overloaded Haji Ali pis-za, the joyful corruptions in chance encounters of languages, food, music—yaniki creativity in undesignated locations.

Imitating accents is tricky. Done generically, crude outlines of sound, it becomes a way of not knowing; of stereotyping to mock and diminish. Accents done precisely, require attention to a language's entire idiom, its way of being—context. It becomes a way to know and enjoy particularity and difference.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at paromita.vohra@mid-day.com

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