Language in the Theatre

Mint Lounge did a story about using profanity in plays. This is what I had to say.

It’s more than just nostalgia. It’s about getting the parlance right. “Theatre requires that we write how we speak,” points out the writer for both stage and screen, Anuvab Pal. Yes, but what happens when you write in the Oxbridge you speak for a far-removed call centre employee whom you don’t quite get? “We slip easily back into what I like to call the Victorian hangover,” quips Tibrewallah. Those of us comfortable speaking Hinglish, still write textbook.
“You don’t write for an audience. You write for your character. We are the audience, so our language is not better or worse than theirs. You have to tell a good story, your language eventually won’t matter if your story is rubbish,” points out Pal. Pal’s character of the stockbroker in The President Is Coming, for instance, only related to people through the language of stocks, and was played by Anand Tiwari, who carefully deconstructed his own pedigree of English to arrive at a preposition-less dialogue. But even Pal confesses that in 1-888 Dial India, “I did not get the workings of that set of people entirely and it showed.” As a playwright, your verdict is immediate, he says. “While the call centre scenes drew laughs, one just knew that the dialogue of the home scenes had missed the mark.” Unless you are writing a play that is plotty, like a murder mystery, he says, getting the language right is crucial. A recent adaptation of a foreign play that changed the circumstance, but kept the profanity in the new context, came across as quite untrue to its changed character, points out Pal. “If you use profanity for the sake of it, or merely to shock, or appear ‘cool’, it will show. The honesty of your character will show through. And part of it, is writing dialogue true to him.”
Read the entire article here.

 

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