Jaya Bachchan probably doesn't watch Bollywood fare these days. If she did, she'd realise that her recent jibe ("Hum UP waalen hain, Hindi mein baat karenge") was off the mark in more ways than one. For, paradoxically enough, the one element that's fast vanishing from the Hindi film industry is Hindi itself. A mere glance at the most conspicuous part of a movie—the title—makes it clear which way the wind is blowing. Take your pick from recent titles: Singh Is Kinng , A Wednesday , Rock On , Jab We Met , Bheja Fry , Welcome , No Entry , Heyy Baby ; so much so that even the venerable Shyam Benegal's new film, despite its solidly rural setting, goes by the incongruous title of Welcome To Sajjanpur . Perhaps the only place where Hindi is visible in Bollywood's shifting sands is in the censor certificates. "Hindi titles now seem obsolete. To sell a film, you have to first sell its title," declares director Anees Bazmee whose last three films are titled Singh Is Kinng , Welcome and No Entry . Bazmee believes Hindi is fast losing ground as urban Indian society gets increasingly anglicised. "Tell me how many people would have watched my films if I had called them Swagat instead of Welcome or Parwesh Nishedh in place of No Entry?" he laughs, pleased with his own humour. If Bazmee, as son-of-the-soil as you can get, roots for English, can anything be expected from the anglicised new crop of actors and directors? Vijay Akela, who penned Ek pal ka jeena for Kaho Naa Pyar Hai a few years ago, recalls singer Lucky Ali's problem with the word aas (hope) during the song's recording. "He kept pronouncing ' aas ' as 'ass'. He would not understand that a word like ' aas ' existed," says Akela. As for actors, it is no secret that most demand scripts in Roman, as they cannot read Devnagri. With the new phenomenon of targeting films at the multiplex crowd, a species that marketers read as a generation with a severely limited Hindi vocabulary, the charm of the language has been drowned out. The multiplex syndrome is so powerful that film-makers don't want to risk offending their potential metro audiences even if the film's story has nothing to do with a big city. Benegal's Welcome To Sajjanpur , based in rustic Bundelkhand, is officially registered as Mahadev Ka Sajjanpur and got its censor certificate with the same name. But when it came to selling the film, Benegal says, the marketing people got cold feet. "They debated many titles. Welcome To Sajjanpur seemed more welcoming to them," he laughs, adding that the vanishing of Hindi from cinema is "a process of evolution". If this is evolution, it's certainly taking place at an astronomical speed. Lyrics are getting increasingly peppered with English, as is dialogue. All-powerful actors, short on language sense, even get their lines tailored to suit their convenience, and lyricists and scriptwriters are only too willing to give in to their demands. " Yeh nahin chahiye to yeh le lo (If you don't like this, take this)," is how Shah Rukh Khan once recalled lyricist Javed Akhtar's to dish out whatever was required. The national language is not just getting ignored in Bollywood, it's often ridiculed as well. So when Aamir Khan wanted to depict a Hindi teacher in Taare Zameen Par , he plumped for a bespectacled buffoon with hair sprouting from his ears. When Fardeen Khan tried to teach 'shuddh' Hindi to Vidya Balan in Heyy Baby , he actually made fun of the language. "It is not funny. It is actually an insult," says trade analyst Amod Mehra. A song in Farhan Akhtar-produced Rock On goes: Meri laundry ka ek bill/ Ek aadhi padhi novel/ Ek ladki ka phone number/ Mere kaam ka ek paper . Perhaps this is what Nandy means when he says, "We all speak versions and dialects of bastardised street lingo." Goodbye, Hindi!
7 months ago