Irrfan Khan and Arjun Kapoor are not quite the bummy-chummy comrades of Indian cinema. Irrfan is a stalwart. Arjun is relatively new fresh and eager to learn. But they share a common trait. They both speak fluent Hindi, and are proud of it.
Irrfan, whose new film Hindi Medium, directed by Saket Choudhary deals with the thorny issue of the obsession with educating one’s children in English medium schools, thinks that the slavish fascination with English is a huge impediment to making national progress. “I am not saying speaking in English is wrong. By all means, we should speak English. It is our language as much as Hindi. But, we must also learn to be equally proud of Hindi. Hota hai yeh ki hum Hindi bolne waalon ko chhota samjhte hain (it so happens that we don’t give respect to those who speak in Hindi). This is wrong,” says Irrfan Khan passionately.
The entire campaign to promote Hindi Medium was undertaken in Hindi. The actors were instructed to interact as much as possible in the ‘Rashtra Bhasha’.
This week’s other major Hindi release Half Girlfriend also addresses itself to the national pride for Hindi. Arjun Kapoor who plays the film’s Bihar-born ‘vernacular hero’ Madhav Jha, says he has always been fluent in both English and Hindi, and proudly so.
He refrains from commenting on his colleagues who take pride in not speaking in Hindi even after years in the film industry, or boast about ‘thinking’ in English. “Without commenting on anyone else, I’d like to say that thinking and speaking in Hindi comes naturally to me. It should be the same for most of us in this film industry,” says Arjun.
The fervent sales pitch for Hindi in the two films this week, has gone down well with the government at the centre.
Speaking enthusiastically on what he hopes would be a trend, BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha says, “When I began acting, we were told that mastering fluent Hindi was a must. Today, the youngsters mug their Hindi lines written in English. I think these films that show a pride in the national language are well worth encouraging.”