What Makes Movie Titles In Bhojpuri Funny?
Movie titles in Bhojpuri became social media’s #EpicLOL, but what does it say about our linguistic snobbery.
The onset of winter somehow brings to my mind fond memories about Jawaharlal Nehru University, my alma mater where I completed my Masters in Linguistics. There are a number of experiences I can recount that are replete with humor and insight.
For one, it is in JNU that I encountered students from all over India. Although at times accused to be an elite institution, the fact remains that students came to this university from far flung places and from very humble underprivileged backgrounds. It wasn’t unusual to find a person whose father was a seasonal single crop farmer in Bihar or the mother was a widow who earned livelihood by tailoring ladies’ garments in Punjab or the family was a subsistence pig rearing partner with a local NGO in the mountains of Nagaland.
Before I meander off, here I’m just remembering my association with Bhojpuri speaking boys and girls from Bihar, a rich experience in terms of culture and language. Although I tried speaking the dialect — I had earned a reputation of passing off as a “purabiya” in JNU — it is unlikely I succeeded.
One of our pastimes with friends from the Bhojpuri belt was to make fun of Bollywood actors trying to deliver dialogues in Bhojpuri. From Salman Khan onward the accents used to be mocked by my friends, while I pointed out that the older Amitabh Bacchhan always slipped out of the net by sticking to his Awadhi-ness. Also, on these occasions, I remembered how quite a few Bengali writers tried replicating “kaa ho babuaa” and “ab samjhalam” in their fiction aiming towards an ‘ethnic’ setting.
And specifically, winter afternoons and evenings grew merrier with more banter as we journeyed from Bhojpuri to other dialectal caprices.
The pioneering sociolinguist and Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich had said:
אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט
a shprach eez a deealekt mit an armee un flot
A language is a dialect with an army and navy.
What Weinreich is said to have meant is that “the difference between a language and a dialect was ultimately a political distinction and had little to do with linguistics per se”. Ergo, “German and Dutch are separate languages, while Mandarin and Meixian Chinese are supposed dialects”.
So the whiff of Bhojpuri came back again years later as I traversed my time on social media. This time, not actor’s dialogues, but these were Hollywood movie names rendered into the charmed dialect. Apparently, Facebook was agog with these “desi” titles. Memes and lists were flying fast and were being shared among ‘friends’, whether one had any knowledge of the diction or not.
Sample some here:
“Eee Naa Ho Payi Bhaiya”
“Hum Phir Se Kahi Ee Naa Ho Payi Bhaiya”
“Abey Kitni Baar Kahibey, Ee Naahi Ho Paai Babuaa”
“Ude Wala Aadmi”
Silence Of The Lambs
“Bakariyan Bolat Nahin”
“Maar Billwa Ke”
Kill Bill 2
“Dunali Se Maar Billwa Ke”
“Admi Makadjaal Bunat Raha”
“Sala Aadmi Phir Makadjaal Bunat Raha”
“Sala Ab To Kala Hoke Makadjaal Bunat Raha Be”
The Amazing Spiderman
“Ab Naya Admi Makadjaal Bunat Raha”
“Bilaayati Lalu Yadav”
“Lalu Ka Aadmi Log”
Needless to say, I saw these and got in touch with a few of my old friends for a good laugh, especially on the “Lalu” tags. What transpired is that apart from Bhojpuri, such movie or song titles existed in other languages too. A Bangladeshi friend of mine sent an email saying Jurassic Park is commonly touted as “Khaaise Dino Aaise” (literally, ‘oh no, the Dinosaur is after us’), but again, not in standard Bengali, but in one of its dialects.
Is it our age-old bad habit to guffaw — now gone viral on FB or Twitter — at anything that sounds so-called rustic.
With standard Hindi or “shuddhha” (pure) Sanskritized Hindi used for solemn purposes, or obscure ones such as filling up impenetrable government forms and questionnaires, a staunchly political act to many on both sides of the debate, dialects are usually recognized as the medium for entertainment and oral lore.
If it is the dialectal rendition that makes these titles sound funny, I don’t know. With my former linguistics background, it’s perhaps worth pondering if similar translations will convey similar humor in the standard vernacular, if we were to test Weinreich’s postulation. Or is it our age-old bad habit to guffaw — now gone viral on FB or Twitter — at anything that sounds so-called rustic.
Harking back to my JNU memories, I clearly remember that this “rustic” tongue provided us students — and continues to even today — the much-needed verve in our youth-propelled dreams in the unforgettable songs penned by the revolutionary Hindi poet Gorakh Pandey:
Gulamiyaa ab hum nahi bajaibo
Ajadiyaa humraa ke bhave re
(We won’t remain in bondage anymore. It is freedom that we crave for…)
Samajvaad babua dheere dheere aaye
Haathi par aaye, ghoda par aaye
Angreji baaja bajayee
(Socialism will come slow and steady. Through notes, through votes, by rocking the boats…)
Hillele jhakjhor duniya
Janta ke chale paltaniya
(When the masses rise, tremors shake the earth…)
Meanwhile, if Hollywood has got its share of attention, can Bollywood be far behind? So we have:
“Teen Tho Budbak”
“Takla Ke Badla”
I’m sure creative pursuits in this direction will continue.