LANGUAGE OF A COMMENTARY
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
A commentator who wishes to be successful and become a model for greenhorns chooses the language of his commentary carefully. As for as we in India are concerned, we have a choice between Hindi and English to become a national commentator. Hindi has a wider reach and listeners of Hindi commentary outnumber listeners of English commentary. Of course, it goes without saying that men who matter, not forgetting women, prefer to tune in English commentary. No doubt soldiers, sailors and airmen guarding the borders of the country from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari tune in the stations broadcasting the Hindi commentary.
HINDI – LINGUA FRANCA
If one has Hindi as one’s mother tongue, there can be no two opinions about choosing Hindi as the vehicle of one’s thought and description of events for an effective commentary. I have had on many an occasion come across Hindi commentators of eminence whose mother tongue was not Hindi but they were domiciled in the Hindi speaking reason. Thus they not only understood the Hindi language but also practised speaking it fluently. Comprehension and appropriate use of the Hindi idiom was equally important. So was the pronunciation of difficult words and the accent. Indeed as Hindi has now spread its wings far and wide, speakers of Hindi from different regions do bring in accent of their respective region and it is not frowned upon by residents of the Hindi heartland. One may give the example of the English language that is spoken with an accent in different countries of the world. Not only that, the accent of spoken English differs from region to region within the geographical boundaries of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom comprises England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and wears the English language on its sleeves not caring for the regional accent.
The Hindi language is no more restricted to Uttar Pradesh, the Hindi heartland. Himachal Pradesh, Hariyana, parts of the Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telengana ( that has Telugu, Urdu and Hindi plus a mixed language) all speak Hindi in one form or the other. A commentator who hails from different regions that are not strictly speaking part of original Hindi heartland may become a fluent speaker of the Hindi language and may graduate to be a national commentator, notwithstanding the regional accent. Kerala has Malayalam as its lingua franca but produced a few men of letters professing Hindi as their second mother tongue. In the larger interest of the nation and the Hindi language, all those who live and work under the wider canopy of the Hindi heartland are accepted as First Class citizens.
Hindi commentators of the enlarged Hindi heartland are becoming popular as Hindi commentators far and wide beyond the borders of the original concept of the Hindi heartland.
PURITY OF LANGUAGE
There are two schools of thought on the subject. Adherents of Purity say that Hindi is Hindi and only original Hindi words should become the vehicle to convey a commentator’s thought and description of events. On the other hand, there are eminent commentators who subscribe to the theory of Fluency First. A good commentator who wishes to make a mark must maintain fluency of language to take his opinion based on facts to the viewers-listeners. A commentary sans fluency may put the target audience to sleep. Even if they take a deep breath to stop yawning to keep sleep at an arm’s length, the commentator may be graded as a Mediocre one. We need not emphasize the obvious and say that in the present day competitive world, one has to be a Winner. There is no room for the also-ran ones. The judges award a trophy to the outstanding commentator only. The runners up has no place under the Sun and may not survive.
One may say that the spoken language uses words that have been included in the vocabulary of Hindi language but do not really belong to the original Hindi lexicon. Never mind, since the words imported from other languages into Hindi are now a part of the language, therefore, their use in the commentary to lend it fluency will not be frowned upon. Subscribers to the Fluency School steal a march over the Purist school and the latter have been fighting a losing battle right from the word GO.
Nevertheless a word of warning must be sounded here and now. Hindi is Hindi and must be allowed to continue to sound like Hindi to the larger audience. The language of the commentator must sound like Hindi and be understandable to the Hindi speaker and listener. In other words, the idiom borrowed from other languages may not fit into the context and syntax and, therefore, may be shown the door. Thus Hindi will continue to be Hindi, notwithstanding inclusion of a few words borrowed from other languages that have now been brought in use in the day-today-life. Indeed a language keeps on growing and living when it is used by the common man in common parlance at home, on the streets, in schools and colleges and is never confined to closets of the privileged few. The privileged few take the language away from Man-in-Street and confine it to academicians in high brow seminars. That form of the language is certainly not the Commentator’s language because it will fail to reach the common man, will never touch his heart. Using the high flown language of the privileged few by a commentator on the mass media will defeat the purpose of commentary.
SUCCESS THROUGH LANGUAGE
We have touched on the topic of Language of a commentary becoming the main tool to convey the event in its entirety to the receiving men and women. Good use of the language leads a commentator to success. A slip-shod use of the language will lead to failure. Of course, the manner of use of a radio commentator will differ from the manner of use of a TV commentator. The topic has been dwelt upon earlier too but deserves a thorough discussion in the present chapter dealing with the Language of Commentary.
Besides the radio and TV, the Spot Commentary is also gaining importance day by day. In a grand national function like the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi and State level parades in metropolitan cities, the spot commentary is now gaining importance day by day. In the Fiftees and Sixtees the All India Radio used to assign two Hindi commentators for the VIP enclosures who showed light in darkness on the vehicular columns, the heavy tanks, marching contingents of the regular army and the para -military organisations. The tableaux, folk dancers and school children made a debut much later. If and when the Republic Day Parade was a longer one, they would get tired and ask for drinking water for sustenance. Sometimes the heavy military equipment foxed them and they preferred to describe the weather to avoid microphone going silent for that period. Here again the language of commentary played an important role and unless the commentator knew what the heavy equipment was , its use in war was beyond his comprehension. Silence was indeed Gold for the period when the weather played truant or the covered commentator’s box prevented a good view of the skies. The concept of cubicles of glass providing a three sixty degree view had not evolved. In any case the administrative wing found it hard to provide the new fangled thing and preferred to continue with the traditional wooden ones – a legacy of the entrenched bureaucracy.
The audience in the VIP enclosure whom the spot commentary was intended for, comprised diplomats of foreign countries, senior politicians including ministers, ladies who invariably used programme cards as hand fans to dissuade perspiration from putting in an appearance and so on; they knew little Hindi and relied solely on their eyes. In later years, perhaps eightees, an English commentator also made a debut.
The language of the Spot commentator was somewhat akin to that of the TV commentator but not exactly that. The lung power of the spot commentator made all the difference to rise above the din and tinkling of tracks of the heavy tanks rumbling past on the Rajpath.
The language of the TV commentator was rather soft and use of words was few and far between. It was the TV camera that did more than half of the job. Of course, it was the solemn duty of the commentator to add additional information to what was already being shown on the viewers screen. Over a period of time TV viewing reached a colossal number of people who did not show up at the Rajpath, and consequently importance of the TV commentator grew. Initially only the Doordarshan , the official media, had the sole rights to carry the Republic Day Parade from the Rajpath to citizens’ drawing rooms, nay, even bedrooms but over a period of time other channels, ZEE NEWS leading, borrowed the footage from the Doordarshan but employed their own commentators to do an effective commentary unshackled by the draconian regulations that killed the soul of a commentary. When the President of France was the Chief Guest of the Parade, his sweetheart, not legally married to him, had to be seated elsewhere. The free commentators made juicy comments but that was indeed not the privilege of the Doordarshan commentator. The language for the occasion made all the difference.
The radio commentator of the Republic Day Parade, once upon a time, used to be the King of the electronic media. He was the monarch of all he surveyed and the listener had no means to verify the truth of his statements. Leaving that aside, we come to the main point. A radio commentator makes a Word Picture for his listeners. Language plays an important role therein. Appropriate use of words to describe a battle tank or uniform of soldiers of a marching contingent, tribal dancers plumes, folk songs of Bastar or Jaunsar-Bawar tribals where a woman marrying more than one husband at a time still continues – these make the commentary lively or dull depending on the choice of words, delivery and emotion put in. Many a time the word picture made by a radio commentator worth his salt is more telling than the TV picture. The former scores a point on the latter and shows that human elements can still do wonders in the age of the electronics.
There is so much noise at times that the radio engineers are at their wits end to find the optimum level of human sound, the band music, the tribal war cry, the word of command of the contingent commanders but eventually succeeds by trial and success. The commentator is at times requested by the floor manager or the producer to raise or lower the pitch of his voice as the situation demands. Indeed it needs perfect coordination between the human beings and the electronic machines. The contingents, military bands, school boys and girls are free to act and sing as required by the theme and the ball remains in the engineers’ court to coordinate and produce the optimum level of final result.
LANGUAGE AND HISTORY
A commentator has to be well versed with history of the Republic Day Parade and background of the participating contingents. Many a time, a good commentator makes the event interesting by citing incidents from the past and why a particular contingent is dresses the way it is. It may be mentioned that the First Republic Day Parade was held in the National Stadium on 26th January 1960 in the afternoon. President Dr Rajendra Prasad had taken the salute and reviewed the Parade. Dr Sukarno, President of Indonesia was the Chief Guest of the Republic Day. By the way, Dr Rajendra Prasad had gone around Delhi’s areas like the Chandni Chowk, Red Fort in an open buggy drawn by six horses before coming to the Irwin Stadium to take the salute. A good commentator must use appropriate words to describe that august events and put his heart and soul into what made history.
Many a time, there are special attachments to the soldiers uniform that come into prominence during the march down the Rajpath and it is the Dharma of a commentator to enlighten the viewers and listeners about them. Knowledge of history and use of matching language make the commentary great.
There are indeed many important points that a commentator has to bear in mind and his language has to reflect it. It is hard work, patience, perseverance and desire to learn that help a commentator make a mark. The crowning achievement comes our way with Practice and Practice in the use of language and its perfect delivery with great self confidence. Practice makes a Man Perfect.