April 21, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, the movie by Gurinder Chadha is being dubbed in Hindi and actor Sendhil Ramamurthy not happy about it. The actor says that he did not have a clue about it and he kind of hates to see himself speak Hindi and wishes that the film just had Hindi subtitles.
This week when the American NRI actor flew down to Mumbai he was in for a real shocker. His debut film in the Indian film industry, It’s A Wonderful Afterlife is being dubbed in Hindi. Sendhil’s thick but gracious American accent is a dead giveaway. He is not at all familiar with our national language and yet he will be seen spouting rapid fire Hindi dialogues in It’s A Wonderful Afterlife.
Sendhil doesn’t hesitate in expressing his displeasure. “I just heard about the dubbed version. I kind of hate it. I was clueless that there was going to be a Hindi version. I’m boggled and not too happy to hear that I will be speaking in Hindi. I’ve heard myself speak French, Japanese, Polish and many other languages that my TV series Heroes was dubbed in. It sounds weird and takes away from the performance. Now I’m about to hear myself in Hindi. I wish they had just inserted Hindi sub-titles.”
The actor’s maiden Bollywood film Shor, produced by Ekta Kapoor, has him verbalizing in English. “My character is supposed to mouth a smattering of bad Hindi in Shor. I have exactly fifteen words in Hindi in Shor. Trust me, I’ve counted them. In fact I even tried to cut it down. I had thirty Hindi words to begin with and I campaigned to get them reduced by half. I must be the only actor in the world who has actually asked for my lines to be cut.”
Sendhil says he doesn’t see any incongruity in being a Bollywood actor who can’t speak Hindi. “When I was here the last time my producer Ekta Kapoor had thrown a party for me to meet the Bollywood actors and actresses. When I apologetically confessed that I can’t speak in Hindi they said, ‘Neither do we.’ I’ve to be realistic about what I can expect from my so-called Bollywood career. I can’t play a fluent Hindi-speaking hero. I wasn’t born and raised in India. So a full-fledged Bollywood career is out of question. However, there so many genres of films being made in Bollywood.”
Sendhil’s second language is Kannada since his father is from Karnataka. “My mother is a Tamil and my dad is a Kannada. I can barely manage the latter and I don’t know Hindi at all. For those 15 words in Shor, I had a Hindi tutor. I memorized them on my iPod while on my treadmill or driving.”
Speaking about the extensive media exposure, Sendhil says, “I do have a responsibility to promote a film when I am in it. I’ve to rush back to commence work on a new American television serial, Covert Affairs from April 20. I wouldn’t be in India for the premiere of Gurinder’s film and that disappoints me. I wanted to be here for the premiere. I did try to accommodate it.”
Talking about Covert Affairs, where Sendhil essays the protagonist, he says, “I get to play a character very different from what I play in Heroes. It’s a childhood fantasy come-true. I’ll be running around shooting guns. I don’t only get to play out an action fantasy; I even get paid for it. I’m excited because I play an American CIA agent. It isn’t an Indian character. I’m trying not to do culture-specific roles which are very difficult.
Coming back to It’s A Wonderful Afterlife Sendhil says, “It’s a fun film. I hope people enjoy it. Nobody can accuse Gurinder of making the same film twice.”
Sendhil is all praise for his co-star Shabana Azmi. “Shabana and I have kept in touch post shoot. My parents are her huge fans. When I was shooting with her in the UK they actually flew over from the United States to meet her. Shabana was so warm and generous with my folks.”
Sendhil is married to actress Olga Sosnovska. “I met her in London at a drama school. She’s a British-Polish. We have two children. I make sure the family travels with me when I’m shooting outside the US. They were with me throughout in the UK while filming Gurinder’s film. It’s difficult to co-ordinate their schedules with mine. Luckily I’ve the means to fly them wherever I can.”
Sendhil is pleased with his children’s cosmopolitan upbringing. “They speak Polish with my wife. They attend a French school and my parents converse with them in Kannada. So either my children are going to be amazingly cosmopolitan or they’ll just be confused. I’ll let you know.”
— Subhash K Jha / Sampurn Wire