“India is equal. We differentiate between no one.” Words like these flow off the tongues of Indian politicians. But is it really true?
Irrfan Khan takes to the big screen once again to provide the audience with a thought-stirring movie which this time questions the equality we take for granted.
English in India is not just a language; it is a symbol of power, of superiority. It is this view that Irrfan attempts to portray through his film Hindi Medium, where he plays a Hindi-speaking man married to Saba Qamar, fluent in English.
The couple desperately tries to fit in with the influential Anglophonic world where an education sans English is as good as no education at all.
The film reminds us of the urban vs rural, Hindi vs English, Bharat vs India divide that exists even today. Those unable to speak English are dubbed ‘uneducated’ and ‘illiterate’ and denied accessibility to top jobs. It calls our attention to this inequality and warns us about the pressing need to address the situation.
Hindi Medium is not the only film that seeks to address this issue. Half Girlfriend starring Shraddha Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor, releasing a week later, is the story about a Hindi-speaking Bihari boy who can barely frame an English sentence, studying in Delhi’s top college St. Stephens and desperately trying to fit in.
In 2012, Sridevi made her comeback with English Vinglish, where she takes English course to prevent her own family from mocking at her for her unfamiliarity with the language. It implies that the ability to speak English has a direct relationship with your self-esteem and worth.
In 2014’s Happy New Year, Deepika Padukone is portrayed as a lowly and subordinate character who must listen to her senior only because he is able to speak fluent English, a trait she finds immensely attractive.
The 2016 blockbuster Sultan also addresses the importance of being able to speak English. One of the first conversations that Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma have has Anushka making fun of Salman’s ability to speak English and Salman too states that a girl gets more attracted to English speakers.
As we wait for May 19 to see who trumps in this battle of Hindi vs English in Irrfan’s movie, we must remember that movies can only raise awareness. In the end, it is up to us to change our mindset and we must remember one thing: English or Hindi, the medium doesn’t matter, the person does.
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