The Age of Strained Accents
I don’t think anybody can have missed it, but most of the top lead actresses in the Telugu film industry aren’t Telugu any more. Shriya, Kamalini, Genelia, Ileana, Charmy, Kajal, Tabu (who could be an exception since she’s from Hyderabad), Sonali Bendre, Trisha – they’re from everywhere but Andhra. A few lead actors (Siddharth Narayan for example) are from out-of-state but most are Telugu.
Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with non-Telugu people acting in the Telugu industry. If out-of-state actors have talent they are bound to be an asset to the industry, raising acting standards and contributing in various other professional and cultural ways. And I think that the current crop of actors and actresses have really contributed in a big way. If anything, I think there should be even more out-of-state actors in the Telugu industry. But one thing that does happen is we get to hear Telugu spoken with really odd accents. Voices are dubbed in many cases, but not always – and then we get to hear some annoyingly tamasha Telugu.
Now I love local Telugu accents and dialects as much as any one – they’re interesting and keep things real. But these aren’t local accents; they’re just poorly spoken Telugu that happens when Telugu is written in Devanagari or Tamil or whatever and the actors try to read it without any experience with the language. And there just doesn’t seem any sign that directors care; even Sekhar Kammula’s films have some really weird diction. I still have hopes for Chandra Sekhar Yeleti (of Anukokunda Oka Roju fame); if he keeps making movies with the kind of attention to detail we see in that movie, he’d probably take care to avoid bad accents.