Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 20:3 March 2020
ISSN 1930-2940

         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
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         Soibam Rebika Devi, M.Sc., Ph.D.

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Favored Variety and Cultural Othering:
Semantic Enclave in Hindi Cinema

J.A.H. Khatri, Ph.D.



Hindi cinema has a wide market across the world, and hence it affects the use of Hindi language to a large extent. But what is officially known as Hindi cinema also includes the movies in regional varieties of Hindi language without any acknowledgement of the variety. Varieties of signs are involved in generating a text of cinema, and hence it turns out to be a Semantic Enclave. The cinema develops a kind of Creole that is more or less understood by the standard Hindi language users. Present paper investigates the codes developed in three films based on regional milieu. The way the standard codes are modified, and newer text-specific metaphors are generated are the thrust of this investigation. The unavailability of standard Hindi subtitles is also significant. The fourth film, which acts as a counter example, implies the selection of regional variety which is to do with the dichotomy of rural and urban. The films also question the mainstream propaganda of development and how the reality is alienated from the audience at large.

Keywords: Hindi cinema, Semantic enclave, regional codes, metaphors, micronarratives, intention, Cultural Othering.


India is a multilingual and multicultural space. Multilingualism is a norm and not an exception. Under such circumstances, the biggest and richest film industry of the country, Bollywood, is basically a Hindi film industry. And more interesting fact is that the centre of Hindi film industry is in a non-Hindi dominated state, i.e. Maharashtra. The official language of the state is Marathi. Bollywood produces more than 350 films a year and it represents 43% of Indian net box-office revenue. The Hindi films are released all over India, including the non-Hindi speaking states and all other major countries of the world. Thus, Bollywood is one of the most powerful instruments of spreading Hindi language in the world.

Indian education system has accepted three-language formula: the state language, Hindi and English. So the children whose native variety is not accepted by the state have to learn all three languages at the school level without any prior exposure to these languages. The children are exposed to Hindi cinema to some extent and normally TV or films are their first encounter to standardized Hindi or English. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan are the states where Hindi is accepted as an official language. But all these states have multiple varieties of Hindi language spoken in different regions of the states. When I say, Bollywood is a powerful instrument of spreading Hindi language; I am talking about the ‘standardized’ variety of Hindi. I prefer the term ‘standardized’ instead of ‘standard’ because “standardization” is a deliberate and artificial process; ‘Standard Hindi’ or ‘Standard Language’ implies “naturally” standard, which is not the case.

For our present purpose, I have selected four recent movies, each situated in one of the “Hindi” states. Any work of art is significant if it has some universal appeal. The selected films are categorized as per their themes. Feminism is one such theme that appeals across the borders. The films ‘Anarkali of Aarah’ and ‘Parched’ have this theme. And the other two films, ‘Guddu-Rangeela’ and ‘Talvar’ have the theme of crime, especially, honor killing. The themes have an appeal to all the classes and types of audience. But, out of these four, three films are in regional varieties of Hindi language which are quite difficult for the audience to comprehend. 1. ‘Parched’, released in 2015 the film is a story about four female friends and their day-to-day struggle of survival and sexuality in the state of Rajasthan. The state of Rajasthan has accepted Hindi and English as its official languages. 2. ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’, released in 2017, the film is a story of a female dancer from Aarah, a small town in the state of Bihar. Bihar accepts Hindi and Urdu as official languages. 3. ‘Talvar’, released in 2015, the film is based on murder mystery situated in Noida of Uttar Pradesh. The state of Uttar Pradesh also accepts Hindi and Urdu as its official languages. 4. ‘Guddu Rangeela’, released in 2015, the film is based on caste-ism and Khaap Panchayat of the state of Haryana in which Hindi and Punjabi are accepted as official languages. Though the themes have universal appeal, the audience doesn’t have the direct connection with the issues raised in the films. How will the audience connect and comprehend the cinematic texts? Will the linguistic variety used in the movies be hindrance to the comprehensibility? Except ‘Guddu Rangeela’, the rest of the films are considered multiplex-movies, i.e., they target the upper-class, upper-middle class, while ‘Guddu Rangeela’ is for the audience of single-screen theatres, more popular in nature than the other three. Does the urban-multiplex-audience interpret the themes correctly, or they enjoy it in terms of “otherness” of the characters? What is the impact of linguistic variety used? How different is the used variety from the standardized variety? Isn’t it a risk to make a cinema in a single language in the multilingual market?


Dr Javed Khatri

J.A.H. Khatri, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Liberal Studies & Education
Navrachana University, Vadodara (Gujarat)

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