popular culture

With ‘Udta Punjab’ there’s more code-mixing in Bollywood

Indrani Medhi Thies, Microsoft Research India

Saare Gabru toh sooiyan lagake tight hai madam, Ab Ladies ko hi kuch karna padega na”, says Assistant Sub-Inspector Sartaj to Dr. Preet Sahni in ‘Udta Punjab’.

(English: ‘All the young hunks are wasted from injecting needles, so it’s the women who’ll have to do something”.)

‘Udta Punjab’ is Bollywood’s attempt at creating awareness about the drug menace of Punjab. In recent years drugs have crippled the youth of this state and things are only getting worse. Udta Punjab looks at the drug problem from the perspective of three intertwining stories of its four protagonists. The stories have one connection, how drugs are affecting lives across the socio-economic strata and how people are fighting back in their own way. However, another connection that you can’t help noticing is the use of code-mixed language across these stories, of Punjabi, Hindi, Bhojpuri, and English.

In Udta Punjab Sartaj’s (Diljit Dosanjh) teenaged brother Balli has turned an addict and the family has no idea about his situation. Sartaj gets sensitized about the drug problem with the help of the beautiful, strong, independent Dr. Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor), a crusader against drugs. Together Sartaj and Preet carry out a series of sting operations that will expose the drug racket to the entire nation.

And it’s not just teenaged boys like Balli, but the London-born Punjabi rockstar Tommy Singh, (Shahid Kapoor) is also a drug addict. Known by his fans as ‘Gabru’, he’s a youth icon. He has composed music about drugs:

Enough is enough

Kutte se bhi tough

Life ho jaaye toh maaro 10 puff

Match fix lagega toh pitch khodenge

Hoke besharam bandi rich khojenge

Emo-panti apne ko to suit na kare

Gabru hi kya jo hip se shoot na kare

(English: Enough is enough

Tougher than a dog

When life gets to you, then take in 10 puffs

If we think that a match is fixed, we will dig up the pitch

We’ll be shameless, we will search for a rich girl

Being emotional doesn’t suit us

One who doesn’t shoot from his hip isn’t a young man)

Powder ki line’o ka rakhega kaun hisaab…

Haan ud-daa Punjab

(English: Who’ll keep track of the lines of powder [cocaine]…

Yes, Punjab’s flying).

Tommy’s street-smart ‘Tayaji’ (Uncle, Satish Kaushik) has used every opportunity to make money off Tommy’s popularity, but is also very loyal and supportive. He speaks in a chaste Punjabi accent,

Puttar, Honda hai cocaine chaddo toh withdrawal symptom hote hain“.

(English: Son, it happens, when you stop using cocaine, you experience withdrawal symptoms).

The third story is of migrant Bihari labourer (name not revealed till the end, Alia Bhatt) who gets dragged into drug peddling by accident, and lands into the worst situation amongst all of the film’s protagonists. It’s only later revealed that she’s a district-level hockey champion who is forced to give up her dream to work as a labourer in the fields in Punjab so she can support her family. Tommy and she meet in the most unusual of circumstances. Tommy tells her:

Agar tujhe koi bole jo nikal gaya woh teri life ka sabse accha time tha….Maal khatam…Party over. Go Home“.

(English: If someone were to tell you, what’s past was the best time of your life… Stuff’s over (now), party over, go home).

Alia’s character doesn’t do much code-mixing; there’s just one English word or two in her utterances:

“Kaise na aya acha time re, sala acha time khojte khojte toh ye hal ho gya…”

(English: How will good times not come, idiot, see what situation searching for good times has landed me in…).

‘Udta Punjab’ exposes its audience to gut-wrenching reality about the drug problem in Punjab. Time is running out and something needs to be done soon. The situation is bleak, but a ray of hope flickers. Udta Punjab is also a great instantiation of how code-mixing is becoming increasingly commonplace in films. So if you’re interested in some realistic cinema, or just curious how code-mixing overlaps with Bollywood,

Go, aglaa show book karo, jaldi, if you haven’t already!


Code-mixing in Music

Royal Sequiera, Microsoft Research India

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Bollywood songs, as we know them, are replete with code mixed text. But, what about songs in other multilingual communities? Let us investigate this curious phenomenon in one of our favourite songs, The Ketchup Song:

Friday night it’s party time
feeling ready looking fine,
viene diego rumbeando,
with the magic in his eyes
checking every girl in sight,
grooving like he does the mambo
he’s the man allí en la disco,
playing sexy feeling hotter,
he’s the king bailando el ritmo ragatanga,
and the DJ that he knows well,
on the spot always around twelve,
plays the mix that diego mezcla con la salsa,
y la baila and he dances y la canta
many think it’s brujeria,
how he comes and disappears,
every move will hypnotize you,
some will call it chuleria,
others say that it’s the real,
rastafari afrogitano

The song is Spanish-English code-mixed and the first two stanzas of the song are as shown above. As you might have already observed, the English and Spanish part of the song are written in green and red font respectively. The frequent alternation of languages as in the line, “y la baila and he dances y la canta” adds a speech-like flavour to the song and makes it sound more natural. Perhaps, if the song were monolingual, it wouldn’t have been as catchy as the current one.

Here are other language pairs that have been mixed in popular songs.

Spanish – English:

Tengo Tu Love, Sie7e – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaShyjYClD8
Feliz Navidad, José Feliciano – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTtc2pM1boE
La Isla Bonita, Madonna – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YzW1nMB9fk
Las Ketchup – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMT698ArSfQ
Cha Cha, Chelo – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4XViIs3CnQ
Living La Vida Loca, Ricky Martin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p47fEXGabaY
Macarena, Los Del Rio – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiBYM6g8Tck
The cup of life, Ricky Martin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP2D-km89pA
Before the Next Teardrop Falls, Freddy Fender – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay5ciplY4Pg

French – English:

Que sera sera, Doris Day – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZbKHDPPrrc
Aicha, Outlandish –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0nFTdKlKLw
Lady marmalade, LaBelle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4LWIP7SAjY
Michelle, Beatles – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnuQMsEV8dA
Eyes Without a Face, Billy Idol – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OFpfTd0EIs
Hold on Tight, EOL – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkekqVPIc2M
Ma Belle Amie, The Tee Set – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bioah3q7JOk

Italian – English:

Underwater love, Smoke City – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuLjsW8XhY4
Volare, Bobby Rydell – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MprNWH625aw

German – English:

Sailor, Lolita – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62muVcjv2a8
Wooden heart – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hlbu6SsjlSE

Portuguese – English:

Corcovado, Stan Getz / Astrud Gilberto – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMX6E68qJAg

Arabic – English:

Desert Rose, Sting – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3lWwBslWqg

Do you remember the song Circle of Life from the movie Lion King? Did you know that the song is actually code-mixed and that the first stanza of the song is not some gibberish intended to confuse you! Now then, here’s a challenge for you: can you guess the language used in the first stanza of the song?

I hope you enjoyed listening to our “mixed” songs, and that, by now have picked one of them as your favorites! Do you know of any other code-mixed songs that you would like to share with us? Why wait then — please post them in the comment section below!

Hinglish conversational chemistry and Bollywood

Indrani Medhi Thies, Microsoft Research India

These days Bollywood songs, as we know, have gone international. There’s an increasing number of English phrases being used in these songs. From Shahrukh’s “You are my Chammak Challo” in Ra.One, to Aamir’s “Love is a waste of time, pyaar vyaar waste of time” in PK, many leading men are mouthing code-mixed Hinglish songs to woo their women. If the older superstars are doing it, can the younger brigade be far behind? Remember Shahid Kapoor’s “Saree ke fall sa kabhi match kiya re, Kabhi chhod diya dil kabhi catch kiya re” in R…Rajkumar?

They say art imitates life. As the numbers of young, aspirational, upwardly mobile, movie goers steadily rise, Bollywood film makers are leaving no stone unturned to make their music and movies contemporary. And one the most effective way of making things relatable for the young crowds seems to be by having the protagonists speak and sing in code-mixed Hinglish.

One of the best recent examples of this is the warm, fuzzy and fresh ‘Jab We Met’ starring Shahid Kapoor as Aditya, and Kareena Kapoor as Geet. Aditya is a depressed young man getting through a miserable breakup when he meets an extremely vivacious, and talkative Geet on a Delhi-bound train. The story is the usual boy meets girl, headed to different destinations, and eventually falling in love. But the treatment of the story is so fantastic, the screenplay so refreshing, that you want to watch the movie over and over again. The characters are very easy to relate to, they look and talk (in Hinglish) like you and me. Initially the dejected Aditya gets irritated by Geet’s overenthusiasm. But as their long, eventful journey progresses, Aditya starts opening up and eventually falls in love with Geet thereby redeeming himself. And as the credits roll you’re left wondering, “I’ve travelled by train so many times. Wish my journey was as exciting and I met someone as interesting”.

What ‘Jab We Met’ has really going for it, is its everyday conversations-inspired Hinglish dialogue.  Sample this, where the vivacious, self-loving Geet, who’s dating another guy, Anshuman, acknowledges her chemistry with Aditya…

[Geet] Tum us type ke ho ki – dekho, meri shaadi Anshuman se hone waali hain and all that. But vo agar meri life mein nahin hota, toh you never know, shayad main bhi tumse pat jaati. Just imagine.

(English translation: [Geet] You’re the type who…see, I’m about to be married to Anshuman and all that. But if Anshuman was not in my life, then you never know, even I could have fallen for you. Just imagine.)

[Aditya] Tum apne aap ko bahut pasand karti ho na?

(You like yourself a lot, don’t you?)

[Geet] Bahut… Main apni favourite hoon.

(A lot…I’m my own favourite.)

 Or the times when the dejected Aditya is starting to open up to Geet and her ways…

[Aditya] Tu original piece hai

(You are an original piece)

[Aditya] Tum hamesha aise hi bakwas karti ho ya aaj koi special occasion hain?

(Do you always talk nonsense like this or is today some special occasion?)

Kareena, as Geet, and Shahid, as Aditya, are excellent in their performances, but the real hero(ine) of the film is the conversational chemistry between the two. And that is made possible by their natural, believable exchanges. Geet and Aditya talk like you and me, the many Hinglish speakers, who generously mix English words in our Hindi speech and vice versa, in everyday lives. We may not realize it, but like Geet and Aditya, we do it almost all the time.

If you’re interested in anything even remotely related to code-mixing or are just looking for something to uplift your spirits, go watch ‘Jab We Met’!  Kyonki kya pata, even if you don’t run into your own Geet, you might feel inspired to take an exciting journey, jo shayad zindagi bhar yaad rahe.

(Because who knows, even if you don’t run into your own Geet, you might feel inspired to take an exciting journey, which will remain with you for a lifetime).