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ENGL 106 Spring 2013 The Usage of Urdu in Bollywood Songs To continuously use vocabulary in cinema which the

vast majority wont understand without a dictionary is peculiar indeed. Despite having the largest viewership of any film industry in the world, the Hindi film industry continues to use the heavily Persianized diction of the Urdu language in its songs and dialogues. This trend does not seem to be dwindling in any way despite having no apparent method of sustaining itself. Much of the vocabulary used in love songs comes straight from medieval, Indian-written Persian poetry which was meant solely for the entertainment of the aristocracy. However, today these words are commonplace in Bollywood mainstream films aimed at mostly those that will in no way understand them. In this paper, I will attempt to explore the cause of this seemingly bizarre use of language and discuss some existing theories behind this. Most Indians seldom give any thought to why song writers and dialogue writers continue to employ Persian words in their works. Yet, the contribution that Bollywood has made to the linguistic scene of independent India cannot be ignored. Most nonHindi speaking regions of India used words of purely Prakrit1 origin but now almost every marketplace in India uses many words of Persian origin which up till the 20th century were only seen in Hindi. This rapid change is what I believe makes the topic of this paper important to explore. It is easy to attribute this change to the spread of Bollywood but one mustnt stop at that. It is important to also consider why Bollywood is able to remain so popular to the extent that it is able to affect Indian languages despite using so many words that are alien to most Indians.

Group of indigenous, middle Indic languages.

The use of Persian words in mass media is by far a modern development. We know from Indias long history of ballads and dance-dramas that the only works that truly succeeded in becoming popular with the masses were those that employed language that could easily be understood by the common people. Those works written in the classical languages such as Sanskrit were meant only for the aristocracy and remained known only amongst them. If one was to tour the country before the advent of cinema, one would see many nautanki troupes in almost every village (Hansen). These troupes used language that was far from literary and they were immensely popular. To get a broader sense of why it ought to be suicidal to use literary language in mass media I would like to take an example from one of the biggest events in Indian history: the denunciation of Sanskrit and adoption of Pali by the Buddha. To have religious discourse in any language other than Sanskrit was unprecedented in Indian history but using the common mans language was one of the biggest contributing factors to the large-scale spread of Buddhism (Kogen). It is only strange to think that suddenly in the 1900s those words, which were only heard by princes and courtiers for most of history, were being pumped into mass media that was being viewed by the common people. The general explanation for this occurrence is the aesthetic appeal of Persian words. Urdu is simply considered more poetic. This is mostly because of the royal patronage it received under the Mughal Dynasty and the huge amount of literary works that resulted from it over a span of three centuries (Farooqi). The era of writing poetry in Indic languages (such as Braj and Awadhi) was gone and although many Urdu poets continued to write in these languages as well, they never considered these works to have any particular literary value. Another, albeit minor, reason for considering Urdu more appropriate for poetry is the fact that Urdu poets tend to take more liberties with modifying the pronunciation and sometimes spelling of the words to fit the meter of the

verse. As can be seen in Indias national song Saare Jahaan Se Achha2, many words are modified to fit the meter. Hindustan becomes Hindositan, gulistan becomes gulsitan and so on. I feel there are two major problems with this theory. Firstly, filmmakers that would rather use certain words for their artistic value already make what we call Art Films or parallel cinema. These films tend towards realism and employ a very artistic use of whichever language they are in. The songs in these films are often the exact Persian poems written in medieval times and are set to classical music. Due to the use of such artistic elements without regard for mass appeal, these films, although highly praised by critics, rarely fare well at the box office. This paper, on the other hand, deals specifically with the use of Persian words in mainstream masala films of Bollywood. These films have the largest viewership in the world and have the power to influence the mindset of more than a billion people. Thus, it holds that there must be some other reason than mere aesthetic value that prompts filmmakers to use Persian words in mainstream films. The second discrepancy in this theory is that it would simply be too risky to use words that people dont understand. As I have stated previously, the only way to gain mass appeal in India has been by adopting simple language. So, it would be absurd to think that a film maker would voluntarily spend millions of dollars on a film that uses difficult to understand words just for aesthetic purposes. I feel the use of Persian words in Bollywood serves a much deeper purpose than aesthetics. It is a highly evolved, India-specific rhetoric technique that works at the subconscious level of the viewer. The machinery behind this rhetoric is the historical influx of Persian words in India and the development of the new language called Urdu. It is widely accepted that
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See Appendix B: Saare Jahaan se Acha by Allama Iqbal

Urdu, a language that shared the grammatical basis of Indic languages but drew extensively from Persian vocabulary, emerged in the bazaars of Delhi which were ruled by Turks, Afghans, Uzbeks and Mughals over a period of six centuries (Farooqi). These peoples had Persian as the official language of their courts and patronized a large number of poets who wrote primarily in Persian. Not only this, but the Persian words they brought with them, trickled down to the lower levels of society and became part of the common language spoken in and around Delhi. Now this Indianized Persian language was spread far and wide throughout Northern India by the Sufis. The Persian language itself never expanded from the close circle of kings and courtiers but the advanced vocabulary spread quickly (Farooqi). There were two main consequences of this phenomenon. Firstly, there were now hundreds of thousands of works written by these poets which accounted for the majority of intellectual works written in India during these six hundred years. This caused the Persian language to be associated with all that was academic, literary, romantic, inspirational, etc. (Virdi). Due to the high emotional content of these poems and the fervor with which they were sung and recited, Urdu words and their Hindi counterparts have a marked difference in connotation which filmmakers employ extensively. Persian words are what drive the viewers thought in a particular direction whereas Hindi words tend to be dry and emotionless. Taking an example from Virdis book, The Cinematic ImagiNation, there are two commonly used words for blood; rakt (Hindi) and khoon (Persian) (Virdi). Khoon is a word a soldier would use in a speech or a song in a typical Bollywood movie. Rakt is something a doctor would use in a medical report. These differences come from the simple fact that Persian words were used in such a specific way for such a long time that they are stuck with artistic connotations.

These connotations I feel reside subconsciously in a viewers mind and can be used to create many effects, the most obvious being to elevate or exalt a mundane situation to a more philosophical level. Whenever an Indian hears Persian words in poetry, at the back of his mind he has images of courtiers sharing poetry in a court, or Sufis singing at a dargah. This immediately elevates the status of the speaker of these words. I would like to take an example from a very popular song called Chaiyya Chaiyya. This song featured 9th in BBCs top 10 songs of all time (BBC World Service). Interestingly, over half of the words in the song are ones that most Indians would not understand without a dictionary and over three fourths are Persian words that most Indians would not use on a daily basis3. The song shows the protagonist travelling on top4 of a train where usually the wandering poorer people sit. The setting calls for a folk song with simple melodies to match the people on the train and the countryside around it but instead we have a highly Persianized and beautifully worded song set to a chant like melody mimicking the chants of the Sufis. The song deals with divine love and the ever sublime state of a lovers mind. Considering the people on the train and the pastoral setting, one would expect a folk song in a local language with tacky, un-evolved melodies and sometimes very lewd lyrics. The film maker wanted to accentuate the free spirit embodied in the protagonist and give some philosophical meaning to the wandering people on the train by creating a sharp contrast in what one would expect a song to be like and what it actually is. This would not have been possible using commonplace Hindi words instead of Persian ones. Another example of exalting the characters can be the song Khalbali, where rebellious, drunk college students are compared to the power and chaos in a storm or in the waves of the ocean.
In all my life, I have never used or heard these words being used, unless someone was quoting a Bollywood song. 4 Yes, literally on top of the train.
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The second effect of using Persian words is the ability to stir strong emotions in the audience. This effect cannot be understated. Persian poetry was always sung with great fervor in medieval times and there are many epic love ballads in the language. So, of course the theme of love is almost always expressed with Persian words. The song Yeh Haseen Wadiya is an archetypical Bollywood love song and uses ample Persian vocabulary for the word lover. The Persian synonyms for lover used in this song are, saajna, jaan-e-jahaan, sajni, and sanam5. These are words taken directly from the Persian court poetry. Hindi words such as priyatam or premi can hardly match the emotions evoked by these Persian words because the Persian words rake up the rich heritage of love songs, which Hindi cannot. The Sanskritized Hindi words give a feel of an official government document or a religious text which the filmmaker is certainly not going for (Virdi). It is important to see here that out of Urdu and Hindi, it is Hindi and its Sanskritized vocabulary that is promoted officially by the government (Virdi). The back fire of this is that this Sanskritized Hindi is used only in official situations and therefore can never have connotations suitable for Bollywood songs. Hindi has behind it, religious texts, government documents and scientific treatise. Urdu has behind it, romantic court poetry, Sufi songs and epic love ballads. They are each specific to their own realms but in the realm of Bollywood songs, Urdu has the winning place. We can now see that by using the historical background behind these Persian words, song writers are able to use them in a very sophisticated way. These words in songs can express a range of themes very deeply. Thus, to reiterate, the usage of Persian words in Hindi cinema is not just an exercise in word-craft aimed only at increasing the artistic value of a work, but a highly sophisticated rhetorical device which the writer
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See Appendix B: Yeh Haseen Waadiyaan

uses to exalt the characters in the eyes of the viewer or to stir strong emotions in the viewer. ______________________________________________________________________________________

Works Cited
Secondary Texts Virdi, Jyotica. The Cinematic ImagiNation: Indian Popular Film as Social History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. Bose, Rupleena. "Writing 'Realism' in Bombay Cinema: Tracing the Figure of the 'Urdu Writer' through Khoya Khoya Chand." Economic and Political Weekly. 21 Nov. 2009: 61-66. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. Ganti, Tejaswini. Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema. New York: Routledge , 2004. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. Farooqi, Mehr Afshan. "The 'Hindi' of the 'Urdu'." Economic and Political Weekly. 43.9 (2008): 18-20. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. Hansen, Kathryn. Grounds for play: the Nauak theatre of North India. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992. Web. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.09209.0001.001> "The World's Top 10." BBC World Service n.d., n. pag. Web. 1 Mar. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/us/features/topten/profiles/index.shtml >. Mizuno, Kogen. Buddhist Sutras: Origin Development. Tokyo: Ksei Publishing Company, 1982. Print.

Appendix A Urdu and Hindi

Sanskrit Grammar Persian Vocalbulary Vocabulary


Hindi Urdu

Common

1. Both languages and everything in between is widely spoken in India. Extreme Sanskrit diction or extreme Persian diction is very difficult to understand by most. Urdu was the language of the elite, nobility and poets in the pre-colonial era. PostIndependence, Hindi was given importance to foster national identity. Hindi does not have much of a special significance in films but Urdu is often used when dealing with themes of romance, martyrdom, victory, freedom etc. 2. Films Mainstream films use Hindi where as many art and historical films tend to use urdu to give a more polished and elevated tone. Sanskritized Hindi is used only in films dealing with Ancient India and Hinduism. Songs most romantic songs take heavily from urdu. Some extreme cases such as the song Chhaiya Chhaiya use Persian and Arabic words that almost no one in the audience understands. Yet, these words are used and are expected to be used. 3. Effect of Sanskritized Hindi Used if anything is to be portrayed as official, historical, religious, philosophical 4. Effect of Urdu (Persian words) Used if anything is to be portrayed as romantic, elite, literary, incomprehensible, etc. 5. Sanskrit: Used by the upper classes for most of Indias history

Urdu/Persian: Promoted by Mughal dynasty as official language of the court and most literature, poetry and theatre written during this time was in Persian.

Appendix B Songs referred to in the paper I. Chaiyya Chaiyya Lyrics by Sampooran Singh Gulzar (Words in Bold are in Persian) Urdu Transliteration Jinke Sar Ho Ishq Ki Chaaon Paanv Ke Neeche Jannat Hogi Jinke Sar Ho Ishq Ki Chaaon Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya Chaiyya Chaiyya Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya Chaiyya Chaiyya Saare Ishq Ki Chaaon Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya Paanv Janat Chale Chal Chaiya Chaiya Woh Yaar Hai Jo Khusbhu Ki Tarah Jiski Zubaan Urdu Ki Tarah Meri Shamo-raat Meri Kaynaat Woh Yaar Mera Saiyyan Saiyyan Gulposh Kabhi Itraye Kahin, Mehke To Nazar Aa Jaye Kahin Taabeez Banaa Ke Pahnoo Use Aayat Ki Tarah Mil Jaaye Kahin Mera Nagma Wahi Mera Kalma Wahi Yaar Misaale Os Chale Panv Ke Tale Firdaus Chale Kabhi Daal Daal Kabhi Paat Paat Main Hawa Pe Dhoondho Uske Nishaan Woh Yar Hai Jo Khusbhu Ki Tarah Jiski Zuban Urdu Ki Tarah Meri Shamo-raat Meri Kayanat Woh Yar Mera Saiyan Saiyan II. Yeh Haseen Waadiyaan Lyrics by P. K. Mishra (Words in Bold are in Persian)

Yeh Haseen Waadiyaan Ye Khula Aasmaan Aa Gaye Hum Kahan Aye Mere Saajna In Bahaaron Mein Dil Ki Kali Khil Gayi Mujhko Tum Jo Mile Har Khushi Mil Gayi Tere Honthon Pe Hain Husn Ki Bijliyaan Tere Gaalon Pe Hain Zulf Ki Badliyaan Tere Baalon Ki Khushboo Se Mehke Chaman Sang-e-marmar Ke Jaisa Ye Tera Badan Meri Jaan-e-jahaan Ye Hai Teri Chaandni Chhed Do Tum Aaj Koi Pyaar Ki Raagini Ye Haseen Waadiyaan Ye Khula Aasmaan Aa Gaye Hum Kahan Ay Mere Saajna Yeh Bandhan Hai Pyaar Ka Dekho Toote Na Sajni Yeh Janmon Ka Saath Hai Dekho Chhoote Na Sajna Tere Aanchal Ki Chhaaon Ke Tale Meri Manzil Mujhe Mil Gayi Teri Palkhon Ki Chaaon Ke Tale Mohabbat Mujhe Mil Gayi Jee Karta Hai Saajna Dil Mein Tumko Bitha Loon Aa Masti Ki Raat Mein Apna Tumko Bana Loon Uthne Lage Hain Toofan Kyon Mere Seene Mein Ay Sanam Tumhein Chaahoonga Dil-o-Jaan Se Meri Jaan-e-jahaan Teri Kasam III. Sre Jah se Acch Written by Allama Iqbal (Words in Bold are in Persian) Sre jah se acch hindost hamr Ham bulbule hai us k vuh gulsitn hamr Ghurbat me ho agar ham, raht hai dil vatan me samjho vuh hame bh dil ho jah hamr Parbat vuh sab se ch, hamsyah sm k Vuh santar hamr, vuh psb hamr

God me khelt hai us k hazro nadiy Gulshan hai jin ke dam se rashk-e jan hamr Ay b-rd-e-gang! vuh din hai yd tujh ko? Utar tire kinre jab krav hamr Mahab nah sikht pas me bair rakhn Hind hai ham, vatan hai hindost hamr Ynn-o-mir-o-rum sab mi gae jah se Ab tak magar hai bq nm-o-nish hamr Kuchh bt hai kih hast mit nah hamr Sadiyo rah hai dushman daur-e zam hamr Iqbl! ko maram apn nah jah me Malm ky kis ko dard-e nih hamr!