Love in translation

Meenakshi SheddeDid you know that when a Maharashtrian wants to say, ‘I love you’, he says, ‘ekshe trechalees’? I had no idea. Of the many unromantic ways of letting a girl know you love her, this mathematical mouthful-143 — struck me as a particularly bus-numbery approach to love.

Marathi movie 'Timepass'
In the Marathi blockbuster, 'Timepass', the young male protagonist spends quite a lot of time in finding the right words

Now, my Marathi is decent, though my mother tongue is Konkani. I pride myself on subtitling films from any Indian language into English, using a special technique, and my work includes two Marathi films, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal and Bal Gandharva. Once, when I was finished, the film producer was amazed--he said he hadn’t realised all these nuances in his own film. So I was embarrassed that I didn’t know about this 1-4-3 business, despite living in Mumbai all my life. This neutral number code is designed to coolly pass through the security systems of parents and assorted pyaar ke dushman. For those who came in late, like me, it refers to the number of English alphabets in ‘I love you’. Perfect Minglish. Now, if a Maharashtrian wants to say ‘I love you’ — ‘Mazha tujhyavar prem ahe’ — in the official rajya bhasha, he would have to say, “Ahem ahem, paach hazaar naushe trechalees” for 5-9-4-3. Sounds like the wrong
bus anyhow.

In Timepass, Ravi Jadhav’s very charming record-breaking Marathi hit film, the girl’s parents disapprove of her suitor’s love notes: “Ekshe trechalees kai? Pappi kai? Badam kai?” (Pappi for kisses and badam, almonds, for hearts). But Maharashtrians can also be more mod than you’d suspect. I attended a wedding in Melbourne, of a Maharashtrian couple from Mumbai, and the moment they took their vows at the civil wedding registry, their gang of Mumbai friends in attendance, yelled, “Pappi ghe! Pappi ghe!” (Kiss her!) to the hesitant groom. No parents were lurking around: the Hindu chukker would happen later in Mumbai. And I, true blue Bambaiyya, egged them on with a “Gheoon tak!” and they enthusiastically obliged.

It’s wonderful how lively the Marathi language is, in life and in film, soaking up influences from everywhere. Toh lai maskari karto (he’s teasing, joking). Toh lai tight ho-oon aala (he came very drunk). Ti kai cheez aahe! (she’s quite an item). Tyani ticha fielding lavli aahe (he’s got a plan to catch/patao her). Tyachi setting zhali aahe (he’s got her now). Tyacha number ka aala? (how come he got lucky with the girl?). Ho-oon zaoo de! (Go for it!). Hawa yeoo dya! (Get lost! Move aside). If you watch Marathi films these days, you will hear Minglish (Marathi+English), Mindi (Marathi+Hindi) and Murdu (Marathi+Urdu), and even enjoy Mawwalis (Marathi qawwalis) and Mumris (Marathi thumris) — a rich legacy of the influence on Marathi of Mughal and Deccani rule; Hindi, English, Bambaiyya and more. I’m sure the purists are on a short fuse about this, but languages are unstoppable. They are like living oceans, influenced by the shores, fish, plants, currents, air and sun. No point wagging your finger at any of them. If you ask me what I think of all these developments, I’d say lai bhari!

Meenakshi Shedde is India Consultant to the Berlin and Dubai Film Festivals, an award-winning critic, and curator to festivals worldwide. She can be reached at

  • swati gavkar02-Apr-2014


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