Thursday, November 18, 2010

Language Timothy!

Language Timothy!
If that catch phrase made you smile and you recognise it from a reasonably awful BBC tele series called Sorry! you belong to my generation. And this blog post will make a lot of sense to you. So what, you may ask, does an 80s TV series have to do with being forty something? Actually a lot.

I must confess that no matter where I stand chronologically, I am seldom at a loss for words in any situation or age group. But of late, my usual gift of the gab seems to be deserting me. In other words, I, ahem, don't understand the lingo that I often hear around me.Sample this: a younger colleague mailed me this liner: "Tis tru...da distans hav increasd....bud dats soooo sad na....1s v ver der n delhi 2gether 4 a couple f dez...thoz ver gud tymz..."

I mailed back asking her to translate into English and she called to explain. You see, it seems my kind of language is simply no longer cool. What I once thought was sms-lingo is now the common stuff for people in their 20s...and I am not even talking about the strange dialect that teenagers talk. Recently Emma Thompson attracted widespread reactions -- both favourable and otherwise -- when she asked school children to please speak entire words and sentences. Emma had a point -- it may be cool to speak your own lingo and it also has the added advantage of making no sense to people like me (the parent trap that is ) but the danger is you could grow up spouting no language other than gibberish. My best friend Reshmi has a catch phrase which I use liberally simply because it is quite evocative -- young people these days are inarticulate in multiple languages. One young man, cool dude former colleague, fits that bill completely -- he speaks English, Hindi and Bengali and is completely incomprehensible in all three! Ask him to explain something and he will flit from language to language leaving you both exhausted and exasperated. Phew!

The West's problem of teenagers taking a word and turning it into something quite different or liberally sprinkling 'like', 'awesome' etc in their speech is a little different from our language limbo. Reason: English as we speak it is a little bit different from the way Brits or Americans do. Remember the opening chapter in Yann Martel's Booker Prize winning Life of Pi? India, he wrote, is a curious place where railway booking clerks will demand that you don't bamboozle them into anything.....Martel has a an Indian journalist writing in English I often use words which would be more comfortable in Jane Austen's Victorian England than in 21st century India. Words like bemused and leery are seldom if ever found in newspapers in the West...the English language in UK and the US is much more casual compared to our more formal usage.

Nor is this peculiar to English alone. My friend Prasanto Roy, who just came back from a trip to Quebec, noted not without irony that the French speaking people of that region don't feel comfortable talking to snooty Parisians in French! If they do, they get a reply in English. Parisians are notoriously accent conscious -- not unlike Bengalis who turn up their noses at the cockney Bangal that migrants from east Bengal tend to speak -- and any non-Parisian accent is non kosher. But the problem with the outpost lingo is that it's stuck in a time warp and often sound quaint and outdated to the mother country. For instance, Prasanto informed me, the Spanish say parking but Mexico has continued with estacionamiento....

Language, unless we're talking Sanskrit or Latin, is an evolving species. So it's okay to let it transform, include new words and phrases, even new trends -- remember Bangalored! -- but the trouble with my generation is that we're still used to complete words and sentences. The curse of cursive English? U bettr bliv it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

At the risk of sounding repetitive I am returning to my Bollywood theme once again. For the last time. My list of rom flicks drew a whole flurry of responses and one of them, from my friend Moupia, got me thinking. In an effort to add to my list, Mops essentially drew up a roster of memorable romantic scenes! I realised that although the scenes sometimes made the film often the magic lasted only for those few minutes. So don't be surprised if this list does not entirely match the rom flick roster. Here's my pick of romantic scenes  (somewhat hobbled by the availability of pictures on the net). I'll kick off with one that makes the grade either way -- Dilip Kumar feather caressing magical Madhubala in Mughal - e-Azam. Divine. 
 It's Madhubala again with crazy Kishore Kumar who croons 'ek ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si'....cute, teasing and sexy in black and white. The chemistry is there for all to see and the scene transforms Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi from a laugh riot to something more profound.......
 Like Madhubala, Rekha is my all time favourite when it comes to smouldering passion. Third on the list of memorable romantic scenes is Rekha's Justojoo Jiski Thi number from Umrao Jaan. Heart-breakingly beautiful and a perfect blend of poetry and passion, Rekha sparkles in this one as indeed she does right through the film. Asha Bhonsle's voice captures and pain hauntingly.
Kabhi Kisi ko mukkamal jahan nahi milta...kabhi zameen nahi milti, kabhi asmaan nahi and longing in Silsila, the crackling chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha make this a classic but this scene towards the end, where they realise the futility of their passion in snow clad Simla is brilliant.
Almost matching that is Dev Anand's loving and losing act in Guide....the far from perfect lover and his far from ideal muse make a sizzling pair...particularly in this scene when Dev seeks redemption in Waheeda Rehman's arms....Awesome....

 At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I will admit I don't much like Raj Kapoor. But this scene from Barsaat, later immortalised in the RK Films logo, is something else. There's everything here -- pain, passion, complete surrender, heart break and chemistry.....
You may well ask why I included this moonlight sonata from Chaudavin Ka Chand in my list of mushy scenes but it's sheer poetry. The old world shayiri, the Muslim social backdrop, the brilliant music and of course Waheeda's magic....I don't belong to that era but I still cant help crooning 'Chaudavin Ka Chand Ho..."
This one is so well-beloved I dont need to explain why I have included it. But look closely -- this aint the mustard field scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge. This is the scene where Shah Rukh takes a break from his tomfoolery to ask Kajol what happens if she falls in love before she gets married to someone she's never met.... Suddenly the fun and games melt to make way for matters of the heart....not to mention the now famous 'palat palat palat' scene.... Just as moving is the rain-drenched waltz between SRK and Kajol in  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. No music. No great bods. No fancy costumes. But it's heart felt and it works.

Okay I know most of you will groan when you see this one. Maine Pyar Kiya was so cheesy that its hero was later compelled to do a spoof called Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya. The costumes were terrible. The dialogues cheesy and the plot improbable. But for our generation it was defining romantic flick.So much so that SRK had to spoof the "Dosti mein no sorry no thank you' line in Om Shanti Om.
Puppy love aside lets return to another all time favourite...Kabhie Kabhie...this scene in snow clad Kashmir with a dewy Rakhee and a mooning Amitabh is great stuff...particularly since it's juxtaposed with the wedding night scene between Rakhee and Shashi Kapoor with the same number playing in the background. Good stuff.
This one is Rekha and Amitabh again in Mukaddar Ka Sikander. The two sizzled  so much that the original romantic track between love lorn Amitabh and shrewish Rakhee seemed improbable. The Salame Ishq number is an all time favourite as the duo teased and sparkled on screen.Finally, this heart-breaking scene from Bazaar is my all time favourite. It's haunting. It's passionate and it's perfect. Farrukh Sheikh and a gamine Supriya Pathak look young, vulnerable and oh so beautiful. The score is just as haunting. Always makes me cry.