Dastangoi artiste Murtaza Danish Hussain, who is active in both the theatre and film worlds, says that in the old days, Urdu was spoken by all, irrespective of their religion, but the fact that it is now being politicised and being related to a specific religion, is wrong.
At the LIFFT India Filmotsav 2017 here earlier this month, Danish was entertaining the audience with his superb knack of storytelling with a mix of Urdu, Hindi and English. If there were some audience members who were mesmerised by his use of Urdu, there were also those who didn't seem to understand what he was saying.
Does he get such reactions often?
"Yes, because the language is lost now. In the last 200 years, the language has started losing its importance. Where other languages can be saved... there is another kind of mentality killing it. Homogeneity is being forced on you and diversity is being ignored. This is adding to the diminishing factor," Danish told IANS here on the sidelines of the festival.
"This language does not belong to any religion, it was born on a land where that era had so many people speaking different languages. This needs to be understood... the diversity, the treasure that we have, should not be lost. If you do, you will regret some way or the other at some point of time eventually," he added.
Danish pointed out the importance of knowing different languages.
"We are a country of many languages. In the 18h century, Hindustanis would not speak less than 5 to 6 different languages. Today people know maximum 2-3 languages. We should not lose our languages. Yes, it is true that the language is fading away but that does not mean that we (storytellers) stop doing our job. A language is not lost so easily," added Danish, who will next be seen on screen in Hindi film "Newton".
Known for his acting prowess in movies like "Dhobi Ghat", "Peepli Live", "Ankhon Dekhi" and "Welcome 2 Karachi", Danish says a language does not belong to just one person, and that it is a confluence of several languages and cultures itself.
"Urdu language is an issue. From 1857, the politics after that... the language has been associated with a religion since then. But by associating a language with that particular religion, the language got politicised," said Danish.
"The prejudice led to that language being neglected, shunned or not being accepted by the state or a majority of the people, because they started seeing it as language of hatred. In this process, the language got affected.
"The people who were living in Hindustan in that era spoke this language. No matter the religion -- be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh. There were different people coming to India and each had their own influence, culture... So different languages came in as well.
"Turkish, Pashto, Afghan, Hindustani were already here. So, Urdu is a mix of Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Hindi and khariboli -- this confluence made Urdu. Who can compete with its richness," he questioned.
Asked if storytelling is going to fade considering everything is going digital, Danish said: "Storytelling can never end. Till the time a person has a tongue, the day a mode of communication comes out where you don't need words, that day storytelling would end."
(The writer's trip was at the invitation of LIFFT India Filmotsav 2017. Kishori Sud can be contacted at email@example.com)
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