In 90s when SP Balasubramanyam sang regularly for Salman Khan, my northie friends complained about his accent. I thought SPB was much more competent than many bollywood singers, but had to grudgingly agree on the accent bit. He wasn't bad, but didn't sound like a native speaker, that's all!
Big deal! these days, after listening to what Hindi singers are doing to Telugu songs, such a complaint sounds damned trivial to me.
Udit Narayan (Narayanan, if you go by Tamil CD covers!), Sukhwinder Singh and Shreya Ghoshal are now very popular in South India. Shreya is the better of the lot, but they all suck at pronouncing Telugu words. Part of the blame must also go to the lyricists and composers for not insisiting on స్వచ్ఛమైన ఉచ్ఛారణ (impeccable pronuciation) i guess.
I can't recollect a song where SPB changed the meaning of Hindi words by wrong pronunciation; on the other hand, i spot many cases where Udit et al do it in Telugu.
- Raadha! (రాధ, the Gopika) becomes Raada? (రాదా? won't she come?);
- KaLLu (కళ్ళు, eyes) become Kallu (కల్లు, toddy, a type of liquor) ;
- Bhoomi (భూమి, Earth) becomes Boomi (బూమి, no such word);
- Rendu (రెండు, two) becomes Randu (రండు, no such word); I can go on and on.
Funnily enough, for the Song "Radhe Govinda" the composer was forced to use a guest singer for some tough words. The song is credited to Udit Narayan, an uncredited Telugu singer comes to his rescue to say "Mridu vadana". Listen to the song here - pay attention to the second half of the pallavi (mukhda).
So, having a Hindi singer and Telugu composer is a surefire screw up recipe, right? What will happen if you had a Hindi music composer in the mix? Hilarious results?? Well, not necessarily. RD Burman's "జీవితం, సప్తసాగరగీతం" (Life, a song of seven seas..) sung by Asha Bhonsle - for the movie Chinni Krishnudu- is far less blemishless by the same standards. How did they achieve it, i wonder?
May be the recent crop of composers, singers and lyricists are too damned busy to focus on minor details like pronunciation.
Of course, the problem is not limited to singers, new actors and actresses join the bandwagon too - but again that's a separate crib story.