Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who are WE again?

“Why is it that south Indian films never had a presence at the IIFA awards that are supposed to be about the India International brand, when most watchable Hindi films are remakes of Tamil, Telegu, or Malayalam blockbusters?”…
Asks Kala Krishnan Ramesh, a writer for ‘The Hindu’ in her article ‘South-pawed!’
(‘Friday Review’ page 3 dated July 7th 2006)

Please Read the above Article before going any further.

It came as a relief to me as I read the article, because it was for the first time I was hearing someone else address these issues, so wholeheartedly.
Kudos to Kala Krishnan Ramesh for being so bold in describing so much in so few words…

I personally have gone through the same mental trauma several times over. And I totally understand why she’s voiced so many issues in the same article.
India is the only country which can boast of being a ‘functioning’ democracy, and in the very same breath, of also being one of the largest societies to follow and almost completely accept a culturally racistic ideology, that has remained unquestioned for far too long.

The racism goes way back to when we became independent from the British. If any one of you’ll think that the British used Hindi while conversing with Indians in different parts of the country, god save you from your ignorance. The British were less culturally racist when it came to a language. All Indian languages were foreign tongues to them anyway, so they learnt the language of the area and spoke it, because you cannot administrate an area unless you speak in its native tongue.

Our founders however decided the country needed one language, when we became an independent country, because English was their (The British) language. It’s kind of funny that a country founded on the principles of ‘unity in diversity’, suddenly wanted a ‘unifying’ language. So in order to replace English, Hindi was put into use as the National Language. Now many people cite many reasons on why Hindi was chosen… Read on as one of the biggest conspiracies in India, make you totally disbelieve in the system.

The Reasons cited (and several of my Hindi-speaking friends will also cite them…) were…

# Hindi was the largest spoken language in the country at that time…
(The Biggest farce till date in the History of India)

FACTS: Hindi was not spoken by anyone, as a native language (those who spoke Hindi by then also had other native languages). Hindi was a mixture of several North-Indian Dialects spoken all along the Hindi belt. The only basis hence was then that it was a Sanskrit based language and so held importance. Everyone in the North could learn the language, because it was so similar to their native tongues from where it was borrowed. The language’s grammar had to be formulated after independence when it was made the National Language (weird that languages with grammars already intact such as Bengali, Manipuri, Assamese, Kannada and Tamizh, weren’t even considered!) .Even more, it was so new a Language that technical terms had to be formulated in it to describe most words in Science, Math and Physics. Yet people today claim of its prominence at that time as a Language?
In reality the largest spoken language then had to be Telegu and Bengali, and maybe Punjabi. Bengali and Punjabi however lost most of it speakers to Bangladesh and Pakistan after the Partition. So logically Telegu should have been the National Language. If any of you’ll have problems believing Telegu was the most spoken language, look at an India map. The state alone covers half of South India on its own, and till today Telegu native speakers exist in parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Tamizh Nadu. So you can just imagine how many people spoke the language then…

# Hindi was easy to learn… (Yeah! Like Whatever!)
I can’t believe people accepted this!!!

FACTS: Well yes… it would be easier to learn if it was based on your native tongue (?!) What about the other half of the country? Yes they all now can speak the language but that’s after fifty years of compulsory education in the language. Then, it was as hard for them to learn Hindi as it was earlier to learn English. And by chance if you even presume that well only the south had the problem…
Cut the crap!
The whole of the east, and the south had to now learn this weird foreign tongue. Yes Sanskrit based speakers could pick it up fast… But what about Non-Sankrit based speakers such as Manipuri, The Languages of Meghalaya, The Naga Languages, The Tribal Languages of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, Mizo, and Tamizh?
Yes Kannada, Telegu and Malayalam were Sanskrit based, but the Dravidic Influence was more prominent, it was Hard!
And if any of you have had the weird notion that Sanskrit is the mother of all languages, THINK AGAIN!
Dravidic languages are not Sanskrit based; in fact they contributed quite a bit to the ancient Sanskrit.
For that matter any language IMPOSED on a person will become easy to learn when it compulsory, and is in compulsion for over fifty years! Why if things went right we should have all been speaking Telegu now. (Too much to digest huh!).
And if you are even thinking of claiming that Hindi sounds easier to learn… well open your eyes little one! Any language once forced would have been easy…
THINK! Why weren’t the North-Indians asked to learn Telegu instead?

# Hindi was the Language of the Freedom Movement… (Ha-ha! Wake up!)

FACTS: I wonder where? In Punjab it was Punjabi, in the south each peoples own language, in the north east their own tongues, in Bihar for that matter itself it was in Bihari and Maithili, The Hill people of present Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, spoke their own dialects, and the others mostly spoke Urdu. So where does Hindi become the Language of the Freedom Movement?

These truths are not Half-truths. Any common sensed person with a yearning to learn Indian History should know these facts.

Fine! Now that the basis on why I will make the following statements, are clear to you, I will go on…

So Hindi was forced on everyone else when they didn’t want it, but were made to learn it because they were ‘Indian’ (What a pity that people had to learn a foreign language to be part of this country’s identity, the traces of Colonialism are just to in your face to ignore!)
North-India colonised the rest of the country, and well ‘India’, as it was envisioned by those cultural racists, was born. Now instead of re-fuelling burnt out coals, let me switch my topic to The Dravidian Movement.

When the people of Tamizh Nadu (The only state to protest, and be heard), began protesting against the National Language being Hindi, the rest of the now Hindi-ised country couldn’t help but consider them to be Barbaric (as a friend who by the way is a South- Indian himself referred to them), even worse Tamizhs who had been outside the state and now themselves Hindi-ised shunned their own people for asking for their cultural rights. The derogatory use of the term ‘Madrasees’ began right then.

The movement was successful and created one of the most powerful political forces in the country, the DMK (Dravida Munnetrra Kazhagam), which still rules as a party in that state even today. The people of the state soon however had to give up resistance and except the language.

We are a Democracy aren’t we?

This cultural racism now had to don a new Avataar, and that can be seen in what was discussed in the article mentioned.

The film industry, one of the most prosperous industry’s in India today (if I can call it one) is often seen to be Hindi Films alone. Bollywood or the Hindi film industry wants to represent Indian Cinema. It is very stupid to even assume it can when the BEST films ever produced in this country were in other regional languages. Even though the National Awards for Film Actors are usually given to such regional actors, Hindi films are still considered the best.

I being an ardent follower of regional cinema see no sense in this. Hindi Cinema is being noticed NOW. Regional cinema was noticed long ago! How many of you’ll even know that ‘Chemmeen’, a Malayalam movie was the first movie to win an International award, during the Black&White era? And that ‘Roja’, a recent Tamizh film is one of the most dubbed films in the world (Yes you have the film even dubbed into Japanese and, Turkish) or that ‘Kannathil Mutthamittaal’, a Tamizh movie had to win jury awards at Locarno and Toronto before it was even considered to be worthy of an award in India. The film was submitted as an entry the previous year and lost to Hindi multi-starrer ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham…’, it was however given a National Award a year later, when the International medias focus on it woke up Indian audiences in the north. Even worse is when Movies are made in two languages at the same time, and the one more closer to Hindi stands more chances of winning than the one in the other language (Like in the case of ‘Yuva’ and ‘Aayuthuh Ezhuthuh’)

I am not surprised therefore when Mammootty in that same article questions Bollywood asking The IIFA based in Bollywood city Mumbai, “How can this be called International Indian Awards when the competition is limited to Hindi Films?” or when he pointed out that “Indian Cinema is not just Bollywood, and Hindi is not the only language. Why should our (he being a south Indian) cinema be called South Indian Cinema, instead of being under the banner of Indian Films?” or when he suggested that Hindi Films face the competition from their other language counterparts, before calling itself International.

I am extremely proud of this actor’s courage to talk so openly about the issue. I have heard that another actor of Bengali Origin who worked in several south Indian films, including the already mentioned ‘Kannathil Mutthamittaal’, on asking a few directors and other film honchos in the north on why such disparity existed, was asked to keep quiet, as it was not her language that was being ignored, and that the language being ignored didn’t seem to mind.

The language did mind, but didn’t want to be persecuted again of being Anti-Indian like the last time it asked for its rights, and so chose to ignore.

I could write pages and pages on this, but don’t have the energy or the time to continue.
I would love to invite comments, and clarifications. You can either comment or mail me at the id on my profile.

This country I call my own has given me the right to speak, and I will use it to my best ability when it comes to setting things right!

P.S: If you find too many mistakes in the article, forgive me, I had no time to edit it, I wanted it on my Blog as soon as possible!