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Assault of the mixed doubles


Whether it is the movies, TV or the media, pure Hindi is on the way out, replaced by Hinglish. Is there more to the trend than the natural evolution of a language?

Photo: M. Moorthy

A new register: References that make sense to an emerging new audience.

If the good things of life are all understated then the quiet arrival — and quieter departure — of Bhavna Talwar’s Hindi film “Dharm” has been in keeping. Elegant, quiet, still. And completely honest. Such was TalwarR 17;s film starring the underrated Pankaj Kapur in the role of a lifetime. Rich in shlokas, replete with chaste Hindi spoken with proper diction, the way they teach you at Allahabad University. There has not been a film like this for qu ite some time now. There is not likely to be one in the near future. It could well be the last in its genre. In its language. Such is the sorry phase that Hindi, the national language of India, is going through. Pure Hindi is all but dead in Hindustan.

Changing trends

Be it Hindi newspapers, magazines, news channels, FM radio, or even Hindi films, nobody converses or writes in Hindi anymore: Hindi newspapers use English liberally in their write-ups, in their editorials, in their headings, in the names of their columns. Hindi film script writers pen Hindi in Roman script, many playwrights do the same. Most radio jockeys do not speak correct Hindi on their shows: no just “p”s and “q”s, even the grammar is wrong. And news correspondents on Hindi channels use a mixture of Hindi and English in their despatches. Interestingly, all Hindi channels talk of “Breaking News” and headlines or “surkhiyan”! So much for Hindi!

Says Mani Shankar, director of films like “16 December” and “Tango Charlie” — the former, a Hindi film, was called “16 December”, not Solah Disamber, as would have been the case a few years ago — “I write Hindi in Roman script. The dialogues for Hindi films too are written in Roman script. Most of the actors do not understand Hindi in Devanagari script.”

Gradual transformation

Rahul Dholakia, who chose to record his path-breaking film on the Gujarat genocide, “Parzania” in English, says, “Ever since Amitabh Bachchan came into the industry, there has been a gradual transformation. Earlier it was Bambaiya Hindi. Now, it is Hinglish. Today, even actors and directors themselves cannot speak Hindi. I cannot do it either. With more convent-educated, city-bred people coming to the industry, Hinglish is inevitable. The new generation would find it difficult to connect with the Bachchan-Dilip Kumar generation Hindi.”

If Dholakia feels the new gen connects better with a new language — Hindi with more than a smattering of English — Shankar feels there are compulsions in the gradual fading of Hindi from the film map; and indeed from the literary and journalistic circuit. “We are heading towards international cinema. The audiences, including NRIs, are more aware of English. We even need to Westernise the characters today. NRIs have a rosy picture of our culture. Money comes from there, so we have to cater to them. There is no money in the rural market where Hindi might still be the link language.”

He believes Hindi cinema with its emphasis on the usage of spoken Hindi or Hindustani is seen by non-Hindi speaking people too. “There is a need to move towards Indian English or at least Hinglish.”

On a lesser level, the same phenomenon is beginning to take roots in theatre. It is early days though. Says veteran director Mohan Maharishi, “There have been some experiments at a smattering of English in Hindi theatre. But the old world Hindustani continues to be the language of theatre. However, theatre is not doing much to propagate pure Hindi.”

Meanwhile, the story is repeated in the world of radio, newspapers, theatre and advertising. Domino’s sells pizzas with the punch line “Hungry Kya”; Amul sells butter with the line “Give ji”, a take on Rajnikanth’s film “Sivaji”. Earlier of course, Pepsi married consumption with celebration with its campaign “Ye Dil Maange More”, a nice interpolation of Hindi and English. Or Britannia calls its product 5 0:50 which is Fifty-Fifty, not Pachas, pachas. Similarly, Coke sells in the villages of India with a punch line “Life ho to aisi”. Says R. Balki, ad guru who turned a filmmaker with “Cheeni Kum̶ 1;, “Pure Hindi is no longer spoken. Hinglish is the common spoken language. People speak that way, a few words of Hindi, then English.” In the negotiation between English and Hindi in ads, the latter has given way. No antagonism. Just smothering with affection. If Hindi belonged to babus, Hinglish belongs to upwardly mobile ad professionals.

Blurring boundaries

Satellite channels talk of crime, cinema, cricket. And in all three, English is but a constant. Lines between Hindi and English have blurred. Hindi channels have programmes like News at Nine! And the usual addresses like Mukhya Mantri for Chief Minister or Vitt Mantri for Finance Minister are no longer followed. Crime File and Red Alert are among the better known crime programmes on television. Film programmes on channels are often called Bollywood Buzz or Tinsel Town, far removed from the Chitrapat Sangeet of All India Radio many years ago; or even the good old Chitrahaar on Doordarshan. The so-called Hindi channels freely use the English equivalent of words readily and easily available in Hindi. Thus, it is not a surprise that a 24-hour Hindi news channel like Zee News is called so, not Zee Samachar. IBN-7 is not called “Saat” either. NDTV’s Hindi channel is NDTV India, not Bharat.

Similarly, the FM radio channels gaining popularity across the country are the worst culprits when it comes to mix and match of languages. Radio Mirchi tom toms “Mirchi sunnewale always khush” while Re d FM has programmes like ‘Four Play’, pun or no pun, whichever way you take it. Citi’s anchors talk in English to back up their Hindi. Listeners are no longer shrota, as in the good old days.

Meanwhile, mainstream papers like Dainik Jagran, Bhaskar, Punjab Kesari have columns with English names, including Cine Mazaa, Top Five, Jagran Shopping, Star Profile. Most advise readers on  220;How to learn English”. Targeted at the upwardly mobile middle class, the newspapers seem to have given the go-by to the ethics of the language.

No locking language

Routine? Yes, but only seems so because we have been immune to this assault of mixed doubles in the choice of words. In truth there are fewer better methods of killing a language than liberally using words of another: first it was Urdu — seasoned poet Gulzar says Hindi films use 70 per cent words of Urdu — then for a brief while it was Punjabi. Now, for a few years, it has been English.

Seasoned sociologist T.K. Oomen, however, does not find it all doom and gloom. “If we look at the history of a language, it has developed only because it has incorporated words from another language. Just compare the Oxford dictionaries of 1930 and 2006. Incorporation of words is necessary to make communication more intelligible. Some Hindi words are unintelligible, so people prefer English. For instance, if you say, ‘Vahan gati seema 40 km’ it won’t be easy to understand but everybody will understand ‘Speed limit 40 kms’.” Shankar strikes a placatory note. “Hinglish is uniting the country somewhere. Hindi alone was not a uniting factor. At least Hinglish is acting like a glue.” Welcome to the new age lingo of emerging India. As Amitabh Bachchan used to say on that popular show, “Lock kiya jaye!”

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