Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ishqiya and Language

In years to come, Ishqiya may prove to be an extremely earthy quantum leap, both in terms of authentic dialogue writing and Censor Board permissiveness. I have never heard a fairly mainstream Bollywood movie curse as loudly and inventively as this one (Dev D recently did the same in English, but Hindi is obviously another matter). And the fact that the censor board let it all hang out is a great sign.

"Ped tale padenge aur nadiya kinare hagenge" Nasseruddin Shah tells a beaming Arshad Warsi. This is after everyone in the movie has called each other 'ch*****' (including the heroine, which is almost certainly without precendent, unless you include arthouse fare) and a pizza delivery guy has gone 'be*******d'. All this comes courtesy scriptwriter Vishal Bharadwaj, whose small-town thugs in Omkara cursed in a similar vein, but with less frequency. When Saif said 'ch******' in that movie it caused a seismic wave of shock and amusement and dissproval. Half the people wanted to ban it, the other half said that it was that one line which made the movie for them. It also demonstrated the dangers of having one single potent curse in an entire movie. The curse, as we saw so clearly with Omkara, became the talking point. Which would serve no purpose, because any new kid on the block can shock your pants off with a judiciously placed expletive. What's difficult is blending these expletives so thoroughly into the grammar of the protagonists that they do not stick out. The day someone in a Hindi film curses and no one notices (like Sahni saab on the bus in Khosla) - that day we would have made some real progress.

The only way our films will sound authentic is if they embrace the grammar of their protagonists. Nearly all the better films of the last decade or so have tried to move towards more accurate speech patterns, from the uber-cool retorts of Dil Chahta Hai to the authentic gangster argot in Satya to the middle-class Punjabi family in Khosla ka Ghosla. Ishqiya, with the first clearly enunciated 'be*******d' in living memory, may just have kicked open a very important door.

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