Bollywood changes its tune with English lyrics

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The Independent Culture

First came offshore locations, then foreign special effects experts, fashion designers and movie titles.

Now the songs that drive Bollywood and the country's music industry have gone international.

What was once dismissed as a passing fad has now become the norm, with an increasing number of English lyrics being used in Hindi soundtracks, reflecting the lifestyles and aspirations of more worldly young Indians.

The latest hit song is "Tera Hone Laga Hoon" (I'm Falling For You), from the movie "Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani" ("An Amazing Story Of Strange Love"), starring Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor.

"Shining in the setting sun like a pearl upon the ocean. Come on, feel me. Girl, feel me," the song goes.

For Irshad Kamil, who wrote the words, using English is a natural progression given the increasingly outward-looking perspective of Bollywood, which is seeking newer, potentially more lucrative, audiences abroad.

Hollywood studios are also looking to tap into the 2.2-billion-dollar industry and its production expertise.

"Bollywood heroes are playing characters that have Western orientation and therefore such words have become essential to write in the lyrics," said Kamil.

"There is a demand for it in the script and therefore as a lyricist we have to give such one liners in Hindi songs and that has become quite popular."

Even in the mid-1990s, Hindi-language films still reflected traditional themes of chaste love, hard work and family values, with soberly dressed heroes and heroines overcoming social divides or poverty in stylised song and dance.

Now more contemporary themes are tackled, with plots and characters often owing more to Manhattan than Mumbai, and pulsing rap, hip-hop or rock music driving gyrating, scantily-clad dancers who would not look out of place on MTV.

For Kamil, the changes are inevitable given the outside influences on Indian society after the liberalisation of the country's economy from 1991 - with Western clothes, food and lifestyle now seen as status symbols.

Call centres and back office operations for Western companies employ thousands of Indians, with English - the common language of politics, academia, the judiciary and state administration - the everyday medium.

Even leading actress Katrina Kaif - Hong Kong-born but brought up in France, Hawaii and London - struggles with Hindi.

"Today, many of the Indian youth use English words in day to day usage," said Kamil.

"When they meet they say, 'What's up?' There is a huge import of English language of late and if you observe carefully, they have a mixture of Hindi and English in their language and therefore we have to write such lyrics.

"Earlier, youngsters used to understand Urdu and Hindi language in depth, but today's youth don't understand that much, so we have to simplify our language and also use English words depending on the character of the film."

Swanand Kirkire has written music for actor-producer-director Aamir Khan's new film "3 Idiots", based on Chetan Bhagat's best-selling novel "Five Point Someone".

"Indian society has changed drastically in recent years and therefore English words find their way into Bollywood," Kirkire said.

"Bollywood film titles are in English, like '3 Idiots', so logically songs will also have some English words. One of the songs in our film goes by the name 'All Is Well'.

"Society is evolving and so is our film industry. Earlier we had our hero and heroine dancing around trees. That was a common trend of every film, but now they dance at different places like pubs or studios.

"Things are changing, therefore language is changing too."

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