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Arun Sadhu

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A Journalist by profession and a renowned author, Arun Sadhu, works with the same passion in both the fields. The precision and convincing power of his reports; alluring yet captivating power of his stories and novels; both are equally enthralling. His news are unbiased while the characters of his novels are real life and absorbing.
Starting a career as a school teacher in a small village of Maharashtra, Arun Sadhu has worked with many news paper from the Times of India, The Statesman and finally as the Editor of the Free Press Journal in Mumbai. At the same time he wrote many novels in Marathi language, Short stories, plays and Biographies, varying on range of subjects from Politics to science fictions and human relationships to history.

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Window on India
August 09, 2006

News Bullets

The Indian lingua franca - By Mr. Arun Sadhu

The importance of the Mumbai film industry, fondly labeled 'Bollywood', lies not in its proliferation, nor in its profligacy; not even in its capacity to churn money and create hundreds of super-rich stars. The fact is over the years it has proved to be the most effective integrating force for the Indian sub-continent. It is not for nothing that in recent years it has created new domains of fandom across the seas, in the immediate neighborhoods and in most of West Asia and South-East Asia. Be it war-torn Lebanon or fractious Afghanistan, Indonesia or Sri Lanka, the vivacious melodies of the Hindi film songs are heard there on the lips of people on the street not infrequently.

But that is not the point. The point is these songs are heard even in the southern Indian backwaters of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the eastern states of Assam or Nagaland or in the hills of Kashmir and violence-prone lanes and by-lanes of Srinagar. Such is the power and charisma of the Hindi film music that the most linguistic sectarian groups too easily fall prey to its charms. And not surprisingly, the Hindi of the films, or one may call it the Bollywood dialect, surfs on the wings of these melodies to every nook and corner of India. A proud Tamilian , who might otherwise resent official Hindi, is comfortable with the Bollywood slang. And a Naga or a Mizo of the sunrise states is equally moved by the lilting notes as an Afghani or a Pakistani is.

The Indian language scenario is only one aspect of the country's diversity. There is a multitude of fully developed languages in India – 22 in fact and over 200 dialects of which more than a score claim established literature and grammar. The Press in India is one of the most robust and plural one in the world. The Registrar of Newspapers of India records in March 2005 that India publishes 60,413 newspapers (periodicals including dailies) in over 100 different languages! India's freedom fighters and Constitution makers were wary of this linguistic plurality and some, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, feared the creation of linguistic states might jeopardize the nation's unity. Reorganization of provincial states on linguistic lines did create some turbulence between 1956 and 1960. Linguistic sectarian political parties sprang up all over.

Amid this seething cauldron of conflicting language identities, there arose a soothing lingua franqua easily acceptable to the people of most tongues in the sub-continent – the typical Bollywood Hindi. Nobody manufactured it; no official agency promoted it, not even the film industry was aware of what it was creating. It is not the Hindi of the official kind which the Northern government officials had filled with Sanskrit to the brim so that the Hindi news broadcasts were often difficult to understand even for those living in the Hindi heartland. It is a dialect of Hindi which sprang from the melting pot of all languages that is Mumbai. Mumbai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world and so is the Hindi film industry.

The chief languages spoken by the local people of Mumbai are Marathi and Gujarati. Most people in South Mumbai's corporate offices speak English. So do half the people driving cars, riding buses or suburban trains. People from all corners of India have settled in Mumbai for generations. They speak Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, Urdu, Punkabi, Assaamese.... you name any Indian language and there are people in thousands who speak that tongue in Mumbai. Most of them are represented in the film industry.

As the industry is based in Mumbai and most of its artisans as also the artistes were Marathi speaking in the initial period, Marathi had a great impact on the filmi Hindi. Till late 80's many films had not overcome the impact of V.Shantaram's typical style of delivering Hindi dialogues. Shantaram hailed from the Marathi heartland of Kolhapur. So is Lata Mangeshkar and her sister. The Marathi dialect of Konkan, particularly, the typical Marathi spoken by the Konkani Mussalmans, has also given some flavour to the Bollywood dialect.

And of course the Gujarati slang, since Gujaratis are a leading business community in Mumbai. English? Unquestionably. The early Bengali artistes had difficulty in pronouncing the then Hindi-Urdu mixture of dialogues. They did bestow some spice of Bengali pronunciations. So did the Punjabis who proliferated as producers, actors and music directors. Tamil, Telugu, Kannada groups also made their contribution. The outcome is a Hindi flavored with nuances, usages, idioms, grammatical innovations, pronunciations and lilt and toning of all these languages. It is not the chaste Hindi of Agra or Lucknow or Varanasi. Some deprecate it as the 'tapori boli' of Mumbai streets. But it is the language the Bengali bhadralok can understand, a Tamil scientist can speak and a Marathi academicians can hold forth in. It is the quintessential Indian language.

Aren't languages born like this? Spontaneously, in the bazaars and on the streets, in fish markets and on the docks – and in film studios.