Good poets society
Through poems, stories and internet memes, a play explores the simultaneous death of dialects and the birth of a new, homogenised language
When everything is “awesome” or “lit”, where is the room for words like marvellous and splendid, let alone umda, behtareen and chokha? When words fall into disuse, the journey to the archaic section of the dictionary is only a matter of time. And when that happens collectively to a language, it’s perhaps lost forever. It was this concern for her own dialect of Khari Boli that drove Roorkee-born Akriti Singh to direct Bol, a play that addresses both, our dying languages and a new language emerging thanks to the Internet.
“I realised that when I speak Hindi, I don’t use the same words as my nani would. And moving to another city only means that you move further away from your language because more often than not, we are scared of owning up to our roots. But we think in a certain language, and if we don’t have the words, how are we going to think?” says Singh about the premise of the play she co-wrote with Shaurya Agrawal. It will be staged this Wednesday with a cast that includes Arshad Mumtaz, Pratik Rajen Kothari, Rigved Singh Maurya, Sriparna Chatterjee and Singh.
“The production is a play within a play, where languages have been personified. While the newfangled Internet lingo is represented by a teen, an older lady represents our dying dialects like Maithili, Khari Boli and Brij,” informs Singh, who has learnt Italian and Persian, and can speak Bengali, too. The plot takes the reader through a mélange of stories and poems interspersed with memes. “We start with Khusrau, Quli Qutub Shah, Mir, Ghalib and move on to Faiz. For verses in Maithili, we read from Vidyapati, who had a huge influence on Hindi and Nepali poetry. The script also includes poetry by Kavi Bhushan, who mainly wrote in Brajbhasha and was a poet in the court of Chhatrapati Shivaji,” she adds.
While several dialects are slowly slipping away, what does she make of the revival of interest in Urdu among Mumbaikars, we ask Singh. “For a language to thrive, we need poets. And Urdu has no dearth of them, which is why the play features some of them. Good poets make society richer,” she says, referring to how beautifully worded verses with deep meaning continue to be quoted centuries after they were written.
Did the experience of directing Bol change her relationship with Khari Boli? “Definitely. When I write my own poems, I dip into my grandmother’s vocabulary and use ‘kivaad’ instead of ‘darwaza’ and ‘tadke’ in place of ‘subah’,” Singh shares. A chokha development, if you ask us.
On: May 15, 7 pm
At: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com
Entry: Rs 250
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli