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Karnataka Elections: Meet the Man Who Gave PM Narendra Modi a Voice in Kannada

This is the story of a BJP legislature, who got a call from his party on May 4 and was asked to live translate PM’s speech from Hindi to Kannada. A day before the event, the veteran RSS karyakarta was told to be on stage with Modi during the latter’s massive rally in Shimoga.

Abhishek Patni | CNN-News18Abhishek_Patni

Updated:May 15, 2018, 11:14 AM IST
Karnataka Elections: Meet the Man Who Gave PM Narendra Modi a Voice in Kannada
PM Narendra Modi's rally in Shimoga, where MLC BN Bhanuprakash was translating for him.
Bengaluru: To translate a live speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, arguably one of India’s finest political speakers, is arduous if not an impossible task.

This is the story of a BJP legislator who got a call from his party on May 4 and was asked to live translate PM’s speech from Hindi to Kannada. A day before the event, the veteran RSS worker was told to be on stage with Modi during his massive rally in Shimoga. To make matters worse, the exact transcript of Modi’s speech was delivered to the legislator just three hours before the rally.

BN Bhanuprakash is a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council and belongs to the central Karnataka district of Shimoga. He was busy campaigning when he got a call from the local party office that his name was being sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Bhanuprakash was being recommended for being Modi’s translator for the Shimoga rally.

“Initially, I did not believe it,” says Bhanuprakash but realisation soon dawned upon him that this was a blessing. The MLC had joined the RSS way back in 1975 and had worked his way up to become the party’s state vice-president, before falling out with BS Yeddyurappa.

MLC BN Bhanuprakash photographed standing behind PM Narendra Modi.

After finishing his commitments for the day, Bhanuprakash reached home around 9 pm and asked his son Yadava Krishna to show him Modi’s speeches on YouTube.

“My son speaks much better Hindi than me. He told me to listen to Modi ji’s speeches carefully. We both watched the PM’s speeches till 1 am, especially the one in Udupi. I carefully observed Modi ji’s body language, how he paused in between sentences and how he modulated his voice.”

“The idea was not just to translate what Modi ji was saying but to convey it in the same feeling.”

Despite being up from 6 in the morning, Bhanuprakash received PM Modi’s speech only three hours before the PM was to go on stage. Having received the speech via email, the MLC rushed to the party office to take a printout. It was a 20-page Hindi script, which only had salient features of the speech.

Just before the PM was to take the stage, Bhanuprakash was told that Modi would speak from the podium on the right, while the MLC would take the podium on the left. At the last moment, it was swapped due to security reasons.

“I studied Hindi as one of my subjects during graduation. I have watched Hindi films and as a Sangh karyakarta have heard innumerable Hindi speeches by RSS functionaries. Translating Modi’s speech, though, was altogether a different experience,” said Bhanuprakash.

“On stage, during the initial bit, I would translate the first few sentences and then look at Modi ji. I soon realised I could not continue this as the PM’s aura was distracting me.” The legislator then decided to only look at the crowd and carefully note down what Modi was saying without looking at the leader.

Bhanuprakash did not get to speak to PM Modi before the event. It was left to the MLC’s years of experience in public life to find a way to ensure that the Prime Minister’s message was delivered to the people in the proper intended manner.

“Hindi words are not difficult but speech modulation often becomes difficult,” explains Bhanu. Translation becomes doubly difficult as the PM uses puns quite often and sometimes speaks off script.

So, how does it feel to be a translator for the Prime Minister? “Modi ji uses simple language that connects with the people," says Bhanuprakash, comparing the PM’s language to late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan.

“Hindi spoken in Mumbai and Delhi is much easier to understand than that spoken by politicians from Bihar and UP. I hardly understood what Kalyan Singh said,” he quips.

The legislator did manage to speak to PM Modi after the rally and even invited the leader to his village — Mathor in Shimoga. “Modi ji did not say anything to me. He just looked at me, smiled and swiftly moved away as the PM had to go address another rally,” says Bhanuprakash.

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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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