Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Pull Of The Mother Tongue - The Impact Of Technology

This is the eleventh article in the culture series

Recently, I walked into the Inox Theatre at Kalyan for a movie - Bhatukali {Marathi} starring Ajinkya Deo, Shilpa Pulaskar and Kiran Karmarkar. This experience - the mere unlikely fact of me as a person watching a Marathi film in a theater set of a chain of thoughts, leading to what I feel might be a defining change being wrought by Technology and awakening, alongside the spread of economic growth, a change that is seeping into India

It has been a strange journey for me so far; when I look back today, it is indeed a strange conversion for a totally anglicized man such as myself, a man who was known for linguistic skills in English, a man who loved watching Santa Barbara & The Bold And The Beautiful, Different Strokes, Small Wonder, Yes Prime Minister, Home Alone 1&2, Die Hard, Terminator 1,2&3, Independence Day etc...; a man who loved listening to Michael Jackson & BoneyM

If I look at myself today, I am doing something I would not have believed possible; my list of favourite artists on Nokia Lumia MixRadio lists artists like Swapnil Bandodkar, Mandar Apte, Vaishali Made, Salil Kulkarni, Sonu Nigam, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi! My most watched TV serial is Eka Lagnaa Chi Dusri Goshte in Marathi,  followed by Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai; and the movies I love the most list LOC-Kargil, Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai in Marathi... the conversion seems complete; the turnaround nearly 360-degrees. 

How did this happen? I am not too conversant in pure Marathi - while I am perfectly fluent in my mother tongue - I still run into words that I cannot understand while listening to the music; and yet, the music just grows on me, it has an almost ethereal quality and hypnotic pull for my mind. Even if I cannot understand a word, I can get at the gist by reference to the context; the rest is easily done by the simple expedient of asking a friend the meaning! 

The earliest I can identify the change is through my better half, who watched Marathi TV Serials and Movies. Me, I would avoid them like the plague, ensuring my absence from home even, at times. Then one day, Mee Shivajirao Bhosle Boltoye happened; the plot as my wife described it sounded appealing; net result is I liked the movie. This was followed by an awakening of interest through constant exposure on TV of serials like Asambhav, Uncha Mazhaa Zhokaa and Eka Lagna Chyi Dusri Goshte. The power of the Media, and its increasing reach manifested itself...

The other aspect is my exposure through a totally unlikely medium - Nokia Lumia MixRadio, and Youtube. I would watch Eka Lagnaa Chyi Dusri Goshte  regularly on YouTube; one fine day, I noticed an interesting song on it - Devaa Tujhyaa Gabharyaalaa Umbarach Naahi; clicked on it, loved it - and proceeded to watch several other classic pieces on YouTube on Lumia. I am a regular on Nokia MixRadio, so this time I went to Marathi songs - and discovered a melodious world of lovely songs which were intuitively appealing, and very, very contemporary indeed. 

When I look back - I can spot a clear trend - the impact of Technology, and the rekindling of mother tongue-based serials and movies through the spread of cable television and the proliferation of channels. Suddenly, an entire people - away from their culture, but still very much attuned to it, and "with" it - like my better half - had access to entertainment in their mother tongue. 

These early adopters provided the interest in the people with greater resistance - yes, like me - while the spread of technology through mobiles and reduced data rates, alongside a superb and complete repertoire of endless programming on channels like Nokia Lumia MixRadio and YouTube reduced access barriers and obstacles, rekindling and expanding the love for the mother tongue as the tongue of preference even for entertainment. This is the power, the incredible power of the media. 

The greater availability of channels {means} for contact with the mother tongue- Television, Online Music, Websites has dramatically improved the chances for experimentation - like I did - while simultaneously reducing the access cost for the same. Would I have walked into Inox to watch Bhatukali had I not been exposed to Marathi programming over the past 2 years through Television and Mobile? Very likely not. 

This is going hand-in-hand with the contemporary and modern music and media programming - modern in technology terms, with digital recording and excellent reproduction, alongside digital mastering techniques, and musical implements that make for a lovely and rewarding viewing and listening experience. This, in the case of Marathi, is combined with music that sounds by and large traditional, without excessive western influence {my opinion only - and you all know how much of an expert I am ;) }

Thus, it is an interesting "battle" for the Indian Mind that is now underway; the same channels that are beaming western influences into our homes are also faithfully beaming traditional themes as well; this is devoid of fundamentalism in any way, as the traditional programming is based on music, or TV Soaps, or other such benign programming. And, judging from my personal experience, it is no way certain that western values or language shall overrun us; as a backlash has been created by a back-to-my-culture sequence, fuelled not by fundamentalist anti-west rhetoric, but by an interest in and a craving for the culture. 

It is still early days - but technology is working its wonderful way in more ways than one... doing its bit in  creating a better integrated and more modern India in areas spanning right from the critical Meteorology to the daily routine of Culture, an India that already has come to terms with its diversity, an India that has learnt to use its internal forces to modulate its diverse population and culture!

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