We geared up for our second session of Mehfil @prithvi making sure the loose ends were all tied up. Our intention was to take a journey through the vintage back alleys of Bombay and to understand how the language of Urdu, which has no roots in the city, has become such an inherent part of it.
The discussion started with a riveting and mesmerising song clip from the film CID (1956) ‘yeh hai bombay meri jaan’ setting the mood for the evening discussion. The song is shot on the city streets and in one shot you can also even see a tram in front of the Gateway of India, from yesteryear Bombay .
Salim Arif Saab explained how Urdu penetrated into the city through the onset of Parsi theatre. This was explained in conjunction with a riveting clip of the film Yahudi ki Ladki (1957) starring Dilip Kumar where the use of language was explained.
Javed Siddiqui Saab continued the conversation taking us through the history of the language in the city. Bombay had many immigrants back in the day, who came from various states in India to work in the textile mills, especially as ‘bunkars’ (weavers) and when they came they brought their language and its culture with them. And to cater to their tastes and needs, Urdu started gaining prominence in theatre and films as well.
Another pivotal period in Urdu literature was the Progressive Writers’ movement and the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) movement, which had a prominence in Bombay where writer’s wrote with a potent pen. Salma Siddiqui (wife of renowned writer Krishan Chander), gave us a brief understanding of the atmosphere during this period and the evolution of the language.
The Indian film industry has its hometown as Bombay, which required eloquent dialogue writers and lyricists, thus many prolific writers moved to Bombay lock stock and barrel.
Languages evolve as humans do, explained Javed Siddiqui Saab, and Bombay has an uncanny way of absorbing everything and making it, its own. It is impossible to eradicate Urdu from our lives. Urdu will be spoken, though in a contrived manner with the helping hands of English words, but will never leave us.
We ended the evening with a song from the film Gaman (1978) called ‘Seene mein jalan’ written by Poet Shahryar. The song clip embodies Bombay in spirit in that period.
The video clips were interspersed with black and white photos of Bombay which aided (if only for sometime) to take us back to the yesteryears of our favourite city.
➢ Read: Anthems of Resistance by Ali Husain Mir and Raza Mir – for a deeper understanding of the Progressive Writers’ Movement
➢ Watch: Yahudi ki Ladki (1957) – to understand Parsi theatre influence on Indian Cinema.
➢ Listen: The songs listed below give a feeling of Bombay and Urdu.
1. Yeh hai bombay meri jaan – CID (1957)
2. Sene mein jalan- GAMAN(1978)
3. Do dewane sheher mein –GHARONDA(1977)