By our cultural correspondent Mohamed Rizwan.
Never thought we’d say this but turns out we have much to thank Bollywood for.
Last week, The Economist ran a piece reporting the declining popularity of Arabic in the Middle East. Apart from being considered unfashionable by the elite classes, young Arabs, it said, didn’t see Arabic as a language that can help them progress in life. The vast difference between academic and spoken Arabic made the idea of learning Arabic even more redundant.
So what does all of this have to do with us? Not long ago Hindi too faced a somewhat similar prospect (amongst the urban classes, of course. Rural areas around the world never abandon their local languages). As The Bold and The Beautiful and Friends seeped into our lives, slowly but surely so did Angreziyat. We became intoxicated with American culture, thought nothing of our own and Hindi soon became a cultural casualty.
But thanks largely to MTV and Channel V, being Indian, and with it Hindi, became cool again. Here were two channels celebrating our quirks in all its glory and making unrepentant, confident statements like We are like this only.
But neither could do what they did without Bollywood. It was almost as if both saved each other. After hitting some lean patches in the mid 90s, Bollywood found its new, nuanced image, along with a keenly developed business acumen (step forward Yash Chopra) and continued to grow up to the point of it going absolutely international.
Throughout, one part of the Bollywood formula remained constant – the language.
Recognizing that Hindi was our language, Bollywood, stayed true to its roots. And when Bollywood, the biggest cultural influence in the country stays true to its roots, so do we – no matter how posh our neighbourhood or how many children we have in the ‘States’ or ‘UK’.
Thanks to Bollywood, Hindi will never lose its popularity. Single handedly and almost accidentally, Bollywood has preserved the language of masses urban and rural. And one suspects, will continue to do so long into the future.
Long live Hindi.