Song Sunday – Give Me Some Sunshine

*Sniff* This song always gets to me. It probably helps that the chorus is in English.

PS – Stupid Saturday has been postponed to Monday. I just couldn’t finish posting about Dus in one sitting, it’s that bad.

What’s with the English?

When you try to introduce someone to Bollywood, one of their first questions will be “Why do they keep speaking English?” My first answer is “because they want to!” (additionally, one might point to a little thing called the British Raj, which may have some significance in the question at hand)

But regardless of the why, English is undeniably part of Hindi films. Like it or not, the film hero is going to say things like, “Hello, sexy!” to his grandmother, or other older women; it hardly seems worth wondering about. But truthfully it’s really very nice for the non-Hindi speaking among us to at least be able to pick up on a little of what’s going on without the subtitles. This occasionally has amusing results, when you realize that the subtitles are often only loosely related to what’s actually being said (“Mmm! brownies” becomes “Mmm! Yummy!” etc.) Of course, the subtitler’s job is never easy, Memsaab Story has a few examples of things that don’t translate well.

Aal Izz Well from 3 Idiots is a good example of of Hinglish, beginning with “Jab life ho out of control. . .” Hopefully you recognize some of those words. (The Bollywood Fan has a really good translation, if you want to find out what’s actually being said.

As well as Hinglish, where English and Hindi are mixed, the other thing to be aware of is even when they’re speaking in English it may not always be easy to understand because it is Indian English, which is a legitimate and distinct dialect of the English language.

I ran across a really interesting article on the subject of Indian English. Here are some basic points:

Indian English speakers often use reduplication as a way of emphasizing an action — I have been told before to “Come come! Sit sit!” Reduplication can also replace very for intensifying or extending something, as in hot, hot water and long, long hair. Such usage is common in spoken Hindi.

You’ll hear this kind of repetition in movies a lot, either in Hindi or in English “choti choti” (“small small” I belive) and “abhi abhi” (“now now”), to name just a couple common ones.

Something which Indian English has that is not found in other varieties of English is the use of only and itself to emphasize time and place. It comes from the Hindi word hi and produces sentences like “I was in Toledo only” and “Can we meet tomorrow itself?”

Subtitles often contain this sort of thing, and it no longer bothers me. If that’s the best way to translate the meaning, so be it.

And quickly, a list of Hindi words that get carried over into English conversations:

achchaa = good
arrai = hey
bahut = a lot
bus = that’s it
ek = one (as a number)
ghotu = one who reads a lot
hajar (hazar) = a ton (more than a lot)
ho gaya = done; finished
koi bat nahi = no problem
kya hall hai = how are you
lakh(s) = one-hundred thousand
lekhin = but
masala = risqué; spicy; hot (like a film)
muthlab = meaning
paka = pure
teek hai = okay (lit: it is right)
yaar = buddy; pal

I’ll leaved you with a video. I don’t know what movie it’s from, but since it says it’s South Indian, it probably isn’t actually Bollywood, but since it’s funny, I’ll let it pass.

Munnabhai MBBS

Okay, I lied. This was my first “real” Bollywood experience. I just didn’t know it. My mom checked it out from the library on a whim; I watched it on a whim, and enjoyed it immensely.

Starring Sanjay Dutt (and his dad, Sunil Dutt), Arshad Warsi, Gracy Singh, Boman Irani, and Jimmy Shergill.

I still consider it one of the best Hindi films I’ve watched. The story is simple enough: a Mumbai gunda (Sanjay) wants to become a doctor so his father (Sunil) will not be ashamed of him. Of course he’s willing to use unconventional methods to achieve his goal. In the process he throws the whole medical college into confusion because Munna does more with his “jadoo ki jhappi” (magic hugs) than than the rest of the highly impersonal and institutionalized can put together. A bit predictable, but not to the point of preachy. The tone is set pretty quickly in the opening scene and from then on the film is quirky, lighthearted and above all funny.

Sanjay plays a lovable goon or “bhai” (literally means brother, but you’ll run across it in this context in about half the Hindi movies you watch, so just get used to it), and I really don’t think enough can be said about how endearing he is here. Obviously the implication that Munna and gang pretty much only kidnap people who deserve it is a little unlikely, but who’s going to complain when it’s Sanjay with his big sad eyes and sweet smile? He also wears brightly colored shirts.

Okay, this one's from Lage Raho, Munnabhai but you get the idea

Arshad is the kind of comedian I like in Hindi films. Over the top, yes, but not Johnny Lever. He and Sanjay are delight together on screen. His line delivery is even funny, which something special because I can’t understand a word he’s saying.

Boman is quite good as the main “villian”. His slightly deranged laughter is pretty disturbing. Jimmy Shergill and Gracy Singh are not particularly memorable (although this is not always bad).

If I had more time I would go more in depth on this film, because I honestly think it deserves it, but I’m not so devoted to the blog as to lose too much sleep over it, so maybe another time.

It’s not surprising that Munnabhai was remade in Telegu, that it was followed with a (kind of) sequel Lage Raho, Munnabhai, or that there is a third installment on the way, Munnabhai Chale Amerika, or that Rajkumar Hirani made another enormous hit, 3 Idiots. I guess I’m not surprised by anything. I found an interview of Rajkumar Hirani talking about his three movies, and working with various actors. There’s a rumor going around that he’s going to cast Aamir as Munna in the next Munnabhai film, but since Sunil Shetty says Munnabhi is like an extension of Sanjay Dutt, that would be a wrong move. (as well as terribly unlikely; I’m sure it’s just a rumor.) On the other hand, I don’t know which would be worse, Aamirji as Munnabhai, or Shahrukh. The answer is, of course, Salman.

Music was by Anu Malik (who apparently had a hand in the music in Bride and Prejudice, which is greatly to his credit). This is not one of the really big musicals with fantastic dance numbers and all. The first song (M Bole To) is a long time in arriving. It’s fun enough, as is Apun Jaise, the only other song I remember is Chann Chann, which is pleasant but seemed kind of slow to me at the time, since I was watching a movie in a different language and wasn’t at that time particularly interested in it.