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Half Girlfriend: Arjun Kapoor may play ‘Bihari boy’ Madhav Jha, but doesn’t sound like one

Somewhere along the line, Bihar has become Bollywood’s shorthand for colorful thuggery or rustic idiocy. If Hindi films are anything to go by, the only stories about Bihar worth telling highlight its lawlessness and penury.

In Apaharan, director Prakash Jha attempted to expose the thriving kidnapping industry in Bihar while his Gangajaal was spun around the infamous Bhagalpur blinding case. The badlands of Bihar were the backdrop of the blood-soaked rivalry between generations of gangsters in Anurag Kashyap’s two-part Gangs of Wasseypur. And then there was the extremely cringe-inducing Padmashree Laloo Prasad Yadav that ends with the politician addressing the lead characters.

Biharis have been living with this stereotype, for better and for worse, for a few decades now. So, it’s a relief to see a basketball-playing Stephenian from Patna in Mohit Suri’s Half Girlfriend. In case you haven’t read the Chetan Bhagat novel the film is based on, Half Girlfriend is about Madhav Jha, a bumbling Bihari boy (Arjun Kapoor) who falls in love with a rich Delhi girl Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor).

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Thankfully, Madhav will not join the long list of gun toting, gaali giving Bihari characters the Bollywood audience has come to know. While there might not be a crime in the film, if the promos are anything to go by, the collective Bhojpuri accent in the film could qualify as an assault (Arjun’s “Ee haph girlphriend hota kya hai?” in the teaser was enough to make my ears bleed).

Peppering dialogues with chiradiya and kahe; replacing ‘z’ with ‘jh’ so ‘zindagi’ becomes ‘jindagi’; or, saying ‘hum’ instead of ‘main’ and kijiyega and lijiyega instead of karo/lo is not enough to sound Bihari. The ‘kaa’ in ‘kaa ho’ isn’t just a ‘ka’ or a ‘kaa’ but a sonorous ‘kaa’ with unique glottal articulation. Even after all these decades of Bihari characters, Bollywood mostly seems unable to decipher the nuances of intonation that go with getting the accent right. It’s not easy to put a finger on it but it’s probably the correct pitch levels while handling vowels that let most of our actors down.

A recent offender was Alia Bhatt in Udta Punjab. As the nameless Bihari hockey-player-turned-migrant-labourer, the actress was in top form. Subjected to rape and drugs, she brought out the vulnerability and resilience that had me rooting for her. But only after I made a conscious effort to not hear her accent. Though Alia had actor Pankaj Tripathi (Gangs of Wasseypur, Nil Bateye Sannata and more recently, Anarkali of Aarah) as a dialect coach for the film, her accent rang false. Aside from Alia, everyone else in the film sounded 100 percent real. “She sounds like a Juhu girl trying to talk like her Bihari maid. It’s all wrong,” scoffed a fellow Bihari who I watched the film with.

There’s a thin line between sounding like a caricature and realistic. On the other end of the spectrum is director Avinash Das’s debut film Anarkali of Aarah. Swara Bhaskar’s Anarkali sounds so authentic; I could close my eyes and be instantly transported to Gopali Chowk in the heart of Aarah. A half Bihari in real life, Swara might have never lived in the state, but she knows how to lean-in just so on the last word of a sentence.

What actors and directors don’t understand is that there isn’t one Bihari accent but hundreds of them, dialect-by-dialect, town-by-town. I am told the only time my Bhojpuri accent surfaces is when I speak with my parents. During those conversations, to some non-Bihari friends I sounded like Amitabh Bachchan (from Namak Halal and Don). He spoke Hindi with an Awadhi accent in those films and not Bhojpuri but I am nitpicking. After the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, I got a lot of “but you don’t sound like a Faisal, sorry Phaijhal”.

With accents that are as tuneful as Bihari, if you get the pitch wrong people really notice. Dialects and accents have very rarely been the focus of a performance in Bollywood. In the last few years, actors like Kangana Ranaut and Aamir Khan have successfully sounded like their Haryanvi characters in Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Dangal with the help of diction coaches. It’s not very tough to sound Bihari if you really want to.

Happy Bhag Jayegi star cast share fun facts about each other and play The Firstpost Show Funny Face Off

Talented, smart, beautiful and funny, the entire star cast of the upcoming movie Happy Bhag Jayegi: Abhay Deol, Diana Penty, Ali Fazal and Jimmy Shergill was on The Firstpost Show were they spoke about fun facts they found about each other during the course of the making of the movie, advice they received while entering the industry and played a few rounds of The Firstpost Show funny face off.

Happy Bhag Jayegi

Here are a few snippets from the show:

Tell us a fun fact that you found about the person sitting next to you during the course of the making of the movie:

Abhay Deol about Diana Penty: “She’s more like me than I imagined. We are very similar and that was a very pleasant surprise.”

Diana Penty about Ali Fazal: “I found out fairly recently that he plays the guitar, he sings and he dances really well.”

Ali Fazal about Jimmy Shergill: “He’s a lovely singer, closet singer.”

After discussing fun facts about each other, they went on to tell us the most fun advice they received while entering the industry and played super fun rounds of The Firstpost Show Face Off. To know what are the advices each one of them got and to find out how they performed in Funny Face Off, watch the full episode right here.

Irrfan Khan feels he is not talented enough to play Gabbar Singh.

His talent is something the industry and the audience vouch for. Irrfan has time and again proved how he can play the most challenging roles with such ease and finesse. The way he played Paan Singh Tomar in a biopic titled by the same name will remain in the history for decades to come.

So recently, at a popular chat show hosted by Anupam Kher, when Irrfan was asked which character he would love to portray if given an opportunity to be a part of the Sholay remake, he, instead of saying Gabbar Singh, said that he would prefer to play Jai that was played by Amitabh Bachchan in the 1975 classic.

It comes as a big surprise because firstly, every actor in the original wanted to play the dreaded dacoit and secondly because, Gabbar Singh happens to be one of Irrfan’s most favourite on-screen characters. When asked why he wouldn’t want to reprise Gabbar Singh’s role in the remake, pat came the reply, “I am not talented enough to play that role. I would love to play Jai that Amitji had played in the original.” That coming from such an incredible actor only proves that even though Irrfan has an image and reputation of an arrogant guy, he is one of the humblest actors around.

When further asked who he misses the most in his life today, a visibly emotional Irrfan took his father’s name and said he will never forget the way his father used to move his hand over his head with unparalleled love, care and affection. That is something he will cherish for this lifetime. No wonder, Irrfan has achieved such great heights of success even in international cinema.  After all, his father’s blessings and prayers seems to have been answered.