Monday, July 25, 2011

For the love of my ancestors:

I can’t remember the last time I noticed film credits roll in Devnagri. In fact, I too have switched to the Roman script when writing in Hindustani. And perhaps it’s better this way. Perhaps it doesn’t matter because all civilisations move from one script to another, one dialect to another. That’s how Urdu got made, a language that came striding in from the battlefield into bazaars, used first by rough-tongued soldiers and then by ferociously refined writers.

But film writers no longer write in Urdu. Film posters no longer advertise themselves in Urdu. Credits certainly do not roll in either Devnagri or Nastalik.

But what of audiences who have not made a smooth transition to Romanised Hindustani? Is there an automatic assumption that these people are illiterate — and therefore cannot read the credits anyway — or that they are uninterested in films?

Watching Paromita Vohra’s Partners in Crime, the English title also appearing in Nastalik, I was briefly distracted by thoughts of my grandmother. I remember watching films with her, late at night on TV. She wasn’t illiterate. But if she sat down to watch one now, she wouldn’t be able to read a single word on the screen — not even the title.
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Jaky said...

You have been writing since 2004???? That is should publish a book or something!!!

Annie Zaidi said...

haha very funny. look here:

Aneela Z said...

What if they do (write a movie title in Urdu) and confuse us more. Case in point Break Ke Baad, which was spelled Bay-Alif-Dal (which means wind)...your grandmother must have been left wondering Wind after the Break? why would someone make a movie about Breaking Wind. Is this a precursor to Delhi Belly?

editor said...

Urdu remains alive in lower-middle class homes. As people grow financially stronger and make a leap to middle class or upper class, poor Urdu is lost somewhere.

But the poor who study in madarsas and learn Urdu, study Khatoon Mashriq, Inquilab and Pakiza Anchal.

It is not that Upper class don't read. Just that, they live in areas where Urdu book shops are faraway and the chances of sharing books with Muslim homes is less.

In mid-60s, a leading Urdu poet said that no one below 25 in his family could write Urdu.

But almost fifty years later, the situation isn't as bad. So it is all about perception and the kind of group and people we interact with.

A friend went to Hyderabad and moved in circles where no one was interested in Urdu. He came back disillusioned.

Then on a visit a few years later, he found so much Urdu that he was ecstatic. Clearly, the language has survived and will survive.

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