ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Tracing the Trajectory of Dominant Language in Bollywood


Jayakar Ritu


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


 Indian cinema is one of the most popular medium among the South Asian masses. Skeptical may dismiss it as a kitschy cultural artifact, but the increasing viewership of Hindi movies tells a different story. The movie songs remain the most downloaded items on personal devices of Indians. Hindi movie songs played in Russian parties, Turkish cafes and Korean dance studios show the soft power of Bollywood. In the last three decades Indian diaspora has become another influential player in popularizing the Bollywood in each continent of the world. This broad appeal of cinema makes it a worthy topic of academic discourse of global cultural studies.

This paper will explore the trajectory of dominant and other languages (including the Hindi variant) used in Hindi movies over the years. Urdu-influenced-Hindustani language was preferred during the Hindi cinema’s infancy stage which is now shrunk to the occasional courtroom and character actor’s language giving way to Marathi, Punjabi and English.

There has been a change in both the dominant language of choice and non-dominant language spoken by the character-acters.  It has multiple roles to play like perpetuated the stereo types – Bhopali, Punjabi or South Indian; portrayed the ‘outsiders’ of the Bollywood moral universe including the villains; and provide comic relief. This presentation will explore the main linguistic changes and the socio-political hegemonic factors which influenced the choice of language in Indian cinema.