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Bollywood's English connection



From the early days of the Raj, the Indian version of English has been on a growth trajectory that has led to the evolution of what is, for all practical purposes, a language of its own. A hybrid form of English stalks the land, flaunting its illegitimacy, brashness and popularity.

The rise of Indian-English runs parallel to tectonic changes in social aspirations. There can be no social advancement without the glittering sword of English in your hands, says Binoo K John in his new book Entry From The Backside Only.

We present an exclusive excerpt from the book:


English was used to bridge the divide between the aspiring Indian and the 'BPL (below poverty line) types,' the real Indian for whom the Hindi movie is actually made. They are the most vulnerable, easily won over; they like the outrageous songs and they suspend disbelief easily. So cerebral directors who tried to reflect inner pain ad inner journeys saw their art-house efforts crash. Reality was too difficult to digest. Bring on the song and the dance and the love required in the foothills of the Himalayas.

So Amitabh Bachchan (who else?) it was who did one of the most memorable Indian-English takes we have seen in Bollywood. In Namak Halaal, he was the native who would confront the aspiring English-speaking 'other India' on his own terms, in his own English. He suddenly finds himself in front of a manager as a job applicant. Faced with the prospect of having to speak English, like millions of Indians every day, Bachchan launches forth into a mock cricket commentary which is again the average Indianís first introduction to English. Amitabh goes on a non-stop commentary about something happening between Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare. It is alliterative and rhyming as well. He, of course, lands a job as a waiter.

Excerpted with the publisher's permission from Entry From Backside Only: Hazaar Fundas of Indian-English by Binoo K John, Penguin India, Rs 95.

Image: In Namak Halaal, Amitabh Bachchan confronts the aspiring English-speaking 'other India' on his own terms, in his own English. Photographs: Rediff Archives.

Also read: 'There's an India waiting to shine'
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