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Stereotypical South Asian English

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By the grace of Vishnu, we are describing Stereotypical South Asian English here!

This is a National Stereotype trope that is becoming a Discredited Trope.

As immigration from South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to the United States increased in the latter half of the 20th century, their presence in media started to increase as well. But early on, there weren't many South Asian actors or writers in Hollywood to correctly emulate Indian English, so Stereotypical South Asian English was born.

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It has to be noted here that the USA was late to the party with regards to Asian immigration. The first trickle of immigrants into Britain from the Indian subcontinent can be traced back to the late 1700's, and curry afficionados need to be reminded that the very first dedicated Indian restaurant opened in London in the 1870's. note  Therefore, the British relationship with its former colonial possession goes back a long way further, and "Indian" stereotypes have been part of British media for a long, long, time. Mass immigration into Britain from Asia began in the 1950's, the time when radio and TV were the dominant media, and up to eleven depictions happened almost immediately.

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Common features include:

  • An exaggeration of the high-pitched sounding, sing-song tone of the accent. This can seem like Self-Parody when an actor of South Asian heritage is directed to do this, but the actor in question will probably regard it as an Old Shame if they had to do it early in their career.
  • As with Asian Speekee Engrish, expect the speaker to be extremely polite.
  • Constant mention of Hindu gods, ignoring the fact that not all South Asians are Hindus.
  • Unlike most examples of stereotypical English dialects, you won't find much terms Real Life Indian English has, such as "crore" for ten million. This is because Indian English terms haven't had as much Pop-Cultural Osmosis in America as British or Australian terms have. Instead, expect Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness from the speaker, especially if they're the Bollywood Nerd.
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  • Use of the present participle instead of the simple present tense (such as "I am wanting that" instead of "I want that").

While this trope is not entirely unrealistic, good luck finding a South Asian (in the Indian subcontinent or otherwise) who has all of these traits.

The Operator from India will often have this accent. The Asian Store-Owner will have this accent if they are South Asian, and the Bollywood Nerd will talk like this if they are a recent immigrant.

Compare Asian Speekee Engrish and Tonto Talk, which is when Native Americans speak in stereotypical dialect. See Indian Languages for a list of actual phrases used in Indian English.

Examples:

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    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Chirag Gupta speaks in a heavily-exaggerated Indian accent, which is a major difference from his book counterpart, who is a minor character whose name is the only indicator of his ethnicity. His actor, Karan Brar, had to work with a dialect coach to get the accent right despite being South Asian.
  • In Short Circuit, Fisher Stevens played a Bollywood Nerd scientist named Ben Jabituya in the first film, and Ben Jahveri in the sequel. Part of the joke is that the character speaks with such an exaggerated accent despite being born and raised in the US to American-born parents. Stevens researched the role quite extensively, hiring a dialect coach and even traveling to India to get the accent right, but today considers the role something of an Old Shame.
  • Peter Sellers used an exaggerated Indian accent in two of his films, The Millionairess and The Party; the creators of Goodness Gracious Me originally wanted to call the series "Peter Sellers Is Dead" but decided not to because they respected Sellers' other works and felt that despite his use of brownface and exaggerated accent in The Millionairess, his character (a doctor) was portrayed as competent, caring, and professional.
  • Averted in Mystery Men, in which "The Blue Rajah", despite having an Indian-influenced name and costume, speaks with a British accent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock parodies this a few times:
    • At the start of Season 2, the catchphrase "Me Want Food" becomes popular, and a South Asian food vendor still renders this simplistic caveman-English as "I Am Wanting The Foods".
    • In an attempt to make NBC seem more "diverse" for a visiting congresswoman, Jack makes Jonathan (Maulik Pancholy's character) talk in this exaggerated manner.
    • Jack revisits his old microwave company at one point, and finds it staffed by completely different Indian engineers than the ones he remembers. This trope is largely downplayed for them, but they do have difficulty with phrases like "swear to God" ("which one?") and "you'll wish you'll never been born" ("which time?").
  • Karan Brar, the same actor who played Chirag in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, also played Ravi on Jessie. Ravi's speech patterns are this trope full stop, as his accent is exaggerated and he says things such as "Great Ganesh!" and "You have aroused my ire!"
  • The Big Bang Theory: Raj at times expresses annoyance at Howard for the latter's depiction of Indian-accented English. In "The Grasshopper Experiment", he mentions displeasure that Howard's impression of him made him sound like a character from The Simpsons.
  • The cast of Goodness Gracious Me are Asian-British and their sketches teeter on the brink of being full-on self-parody; the series sends up White British perceptions of Asians and sometimes the exaggerated accent is used to make a point concerning the ignorant British.
  • Babu Bhatt in Seinfeld, a Pakistani immigrant who ends up going out of business and getting deported because of Jerry and Elaine's bad advice and mistakes, is played by Brian George (who is an Israeli-British actor of Iraqi Jewish descent), speaks with an exaggerated singsong tone of voice, says "very" a lot, and also wags his index finger back and forth when speaking. Brian George would later on play Indian characters in The Big Bang Theory and Bubble Boy.
  • Spike Milligan's short-lived comedy series Curry And Chips was pretty much an attempt to give one of his Goon Show characters a TV face. Unfortunately in the twenty years since the Goons, social attitudes were changing; even in The '70s, a white comedian in brownface playing a turbanned Pakistani adjusting to life in England, with an up to eleven comedy accent to match, made people squirm rather than laugh. The show did not last past the first seven episodes.
  • However, a surreal gag Milligan devised for his sketch comedy show Q was so far off the sanity curve that nobody found it racist. Parodying Doctor Who, Milligan came up with the idea of Pakistani Daleks - Daleks in turbans, speaking through the voice-distorters in exaggerated Pakistani accents.
  • Comedy series It Ain't Half Hot, Mum was set in the last days of WW 2 in India and Burma, following the antics of a British Army services' entertainment troupe who were soldiers only by necessity and accident. At their base camp, there are two Asian civilians employed to work around the barracks; one is played by a genuine Pakistani actor, the other is a British actor in brownface, and both gleefully play the most up to eleven Asian stereotypes you could ever hope to see. note 

    Radio 
  • Back in The '50s, pioneering BBC radio ensemble comedy The Goon Show featured two up to eleven comedy Asians called Lalkutta and Gupta. These characters were played by Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, two comics who had either grown up in India or spent long enough living there to pick up some spoken Hindi. Radio audiences, many of whom would have been familiar with India when it was a British colony, appreciated the parody accents and the lapses into spoken Hindi.

    Video Games 
  • The civilians, police and HARM members in the India levels of No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way speak with this accent.
  • In Worms Armageddon, one of the voices you can select for your worms is "The Raj", in which the worms speak with an exaggerated South Asian accent. Features of this voice set include the singsong cadence of speech, use of the present participle, and a somewhat verbose vocabulary (for example, when other voice sets would respond to a missed shot with lines like "Missed me!" or "Bad Shot!", The Raj's line is "You are having bad eyesight!").

    Web Animation 
  • Dr. Crapindra Poomoji from the "Medimoji" series by ZDoggMD has this accent. He is a caricature of the other Dr. Damania, ZDoggMD's father.

    Western Animation 
  • Apu from The Simpsons, an Indian immigrant who owns the Kwik-E-Mart, is voiced by white actor Hank Azaria. His accent is exaggerated, he occasionally mentions Hindu gods, and his speech can be verbose.
  • Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb peppers his speech with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and often references Indian culture in his exaggerated Indian accent. His voice actor, Maulik Pancholy, is of South Asian heritage, but has not expressed any approval or regret about the role.
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