ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Hindi, Urdu Language Diversity and Cultural Space in “Muhafiz”


KÖVES Margit - Delhi University, Department. of Slavonic and Finno-Ugrian Studies, Delhi, India


32 – Dynamics of Language Diversity, Multilingual Identities and Linguistic Nationalism in South Asia


 A  large number of Bombay films  play with language diversity. Film comedy is always linked  to languages, playing on puns, making fun of accents and change of languages. This is something, which always puzzles the monolingual speaker from European countries  even though  most European countries have a multilingual tradition.

The so called national language in Europe was usually an expression of political power and hegemony. This  is specially  true of Hungarian language, which has many parallels with Hindi. The Hungarian movement  of language renewal  in the nineteenth and  twentieth centuries  has many parallels with Hindi. 

The  film  Muhafiz   focuses on the issue  of language  even more  than  Anita Desai’s novel In Custody where  the problems  of middle  class survival  are  brought  more  to   the  centre than in the novel.  Deven, a college teacher  is  one of  „Midnight’s children”, he is a representative of  Hindu middle class  who inherited  post-Independence, post-Partition India.  Urdu  and its cultural  world   is  the  main motivation and a source  of nostalgia and longing in Deven’s  life.  Urdu indeed  marks  cultural wholeness for Indians and  its  vacuum fills  a large portion  of Hindi speaking middle  class  with nostalgia. The visual realization of the film reflects  the  vacuum that  Urdu language and culture left behind.