Lingual Trends in HFM: English

The Hindi language has constantly been adopting English words since the British took over India, and HFM has been reflective of that. It may surprise some to hear Manna Dey singing Evening News with lyrics given by Sudarshan Faakir for Dooriyan (1979) or even C. Ramchandra singing Aana Meri Jaan Sunday Ke Sunday from Shehnai (1947) with lyrics by P. L. Santoshi, but the existence of English as a language that has invaded HFM lyrics is undeniable no matter what era we speak of (post colonization obviously). In fact, most listeners wouldn’t even realize that a few English words had been slipped in the lyrics by the 1990s and the 2000s as the very nature of Hindi was changing at that time with English being the prima lingua. However, this trend has exploded in recent times (post 2000 and more so after 2010) due to the growth of the Metros and subsequently the rise of Multiplex culture.

Now we find HFM incorporating not just a few English words or phrases but rather entire sentences and verses. I am not talking about Khwab Dekhe (also called Sexy Lady) from Race or the more recent Tu Mera Hero (Subah Hone Na De) from Desi Boyz, where an abundance of English words are thrown around. I am not even talking about You Maybe (Aaladin) or Mahiya (Awarapaan) where alternating lines are in English. What I am thinking of is Sajna Ve from Table 21: the song starts with 4 lines in English and if the listener were to stop listening after that, he or she would not be able to discern that the song was actually from a Hindi Film. Tune Mere Jaana (non-film affiliated but nonetheless a very popular song) as well as Tera Hone Laga Hoon (Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani) start off in the same fashion. One should not believe that such songs are only made for new comers or that A-list Superstars are not ready to have such songs in their movies. Shah Rukh Khan specially requested Akon to come perform Chamak Challo and Criminal for his movie Ra.One. Even Akshay Kumar tried his luck roping in Kylie Minogue for Chiggy Wiggy for Blue. Abhishek Bachchan has done this twice with Kya Maine Socha (the Indic version of One Love by Blue) for Rakht and Dhoom Dhoom with Tata Young for Dhoom. This was a trend possibly started by Jay Sean with his Mere Dil Vich hai Hum Tum from Hum Tum and the song did phenomenally well. All of these songs were well received (and Chamak Challo and Tera Hone Laga Hoon were chartbusters) so it seems that this infusion of English sits well with the audiences.

This is not a new discovery, since there is no song titled “Main Disco Mein Nachnewala Hoon” (My interpretation of a pure Hindi version of “I am a Disco Dancer” and yes, I don’t know the Hindi word for disco). However, something that is disturbing is the excessive usage of English words where there was no need for them to be used or where they even seem forced. We find that to be the case with Show Me the Money from Apna Sapna Money Money and Right Now Now from Housefull 2. In either case, the English words and phrases seem unnecessary and in case of Show Me the Money inappropriate considering the plot of the movie. The same is true of Hum Toh Hain Cappuccino and Volume High from Kyaa Super Kool Hai Hum where the rhyme schemes are set by English words which could have been replaced by any number of words (such as mixer, sixer, fixer, etc.) I think it was criminal of Vishal and Shekhar to make a song like Criminal. Slowly Slowly from Go Goa Gone could very easily have been titled Dheere Dheere but the incentive that the lyricists most probably got was to try and make the song a youth anthem (which a lot of the songs which wanton use of English words claim to be). This list includes the title song from Fatso, Ishq Wala Love from Student of the Year and Hey Ya from Karthik Calling Karthik (although to be fair the latter was a pretty decent song as compared to some of the others on this list).

My question is this: what justifies the use of English words in a Hindi song and where should a lyricist draw the line? I would hope that the answer would be a few verses before the entire song is in English because I believe there is something poetic about Hindi that is uniquely captured by HFM. I would hope that the diaspora will not end in English words wielded as hooks and key words to make the HFM songs a hit (already happening with Slowly Slowly from Go Goa Gone and Lonely from Khiladi 786) where the meaning revealed by the song is minimal. I fancy myself the occasional You Maybe or even Chamak Challo but I would like to listen to Hindi music that is still filled with Hindi words. Hindi is speedily being diluted to Hinglish but I don’t think Hindi Film Music has to go the same way.

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