Don’t tell it to anybody that I know English

Today on the occasion of Hindi Day (14th September), I am posting the review of a movie which debates on the utility of English in India. The debate of Hindi (with the other vernaculars) vs. English is more than a century old. And it got heated up with the independence of our country from the British rule and the promulgation of the Indian constitution declaring India as a sovereign republic on 26th January, 1950. However the English educated Indian politicians preferred English over the vernaculars in their public life for long until Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then foreign minister of India delivered his speech in Hindi in the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1977. Mr. Vajpayee did it again after a quarter of a century in the year 2002 when he represented India at the UN as her prime minister this time.

However the debate continued and still continues mainly because India is a multilingual country with different languages being spoken in different regions. Since the Hindi speaking (and understanding) people form the biggest part of the population, Hindi was declared as the National Language of India but the fear of its overpowering the regional languages ensured that English continues to supersede Hindi (and other vernaculars too) in our country. And presently, despite the Hindi Day celebrations and the propagation of Hindi, it’s English only which reigns in India.

Director Hrishikesh Mukherjee had made a classic comedy in the form of Chupke Chupke (1975) presenting the Hindi vs. English debate amidst a laugh-riot for the audience. After a few years, he again dealt with this theme with a different story, focusing on English this time (Chupke Chupke focussed on Hindi). This movie which is also a comedy, is Kissi Se Na Kehna (1983) starring the red hot pair of that time – Farooq Sheikh and Deepti Naval in lead roles with Utpal Dutt being at the center of the story.Kissi Se Na Kehna (don’t tell it to anybody) is the story of a widower – Kailashnaath (Utpal Dutt) who is searching for a bride for his grown-up son – Ramesh (Farooq Sheikh). Since he finds certain English educated girls as totally Westernized in their outlook, life-style and behaviour; he decides to marry his son to a girl who does not know English. This decision of his puts Ramesh into trouble because he is in love with a medico – Dr. Ramola (Deepti Naval). His father’s friend – Laalaji (Saeed Jaffrey) helps him by presenting Ramola as a totally naive and modestly educated village girl who has no knowledge of English and the love-birds get happily married.

But as the story progresses with hilarious incidents in the family of Kailashnaath involving his interactions with his daughter-in-law, Ramola starts feeling guilty because she is a lady who believes in truth and it hurts her conscience that she is lying to her father-in-law (who also believes as much in truth only and hates lie in similar quantum). She wants to reveal the truth to Kailashnaath but Ramesh stops her for the sake of the family bliss. However the day comes when Kailashnaath needs medical aid and with no alternative around, Ramola only attends him in her professional capacity of a doctor. After some emotional tension, the story concludes on a happy note.

Kissi Se Na Kehna is not a laugh-riot as Chupke Chupke but it entertains the audience throughout its duration. Set in a simple milieu, this low budget and neat ‘n’ clean movie tickles the funny bone of the viewers for most of its duration and generates smile on their lips. Though, in my view, the script of this movie is not as strong as it should have been considering the theme; nevertheless it is an appreciable movie which can be watched with complete family. The seasoned director has done his job well despite the not-so-strong script.

The points raised by Kailashnaath are genuine and valid. He is not against English as a language because in his opinion (and in my opinion too), every language is divine. He is against the imposition of English, relegating our own cultural and lingual heritage. When several nations could progress by relying on their own languages instead of English, why can’t India ? The imposition of English as a medium of Education as well as a language of public dealings is nothing but a sign of our mental slavery to the Western culture.

However the director has very wisely shown Kailashnaath as realizing his error of discarding English and English-literate females altogether because despite being a highly qualified and English-educated lady, Ramola has proved to be a perfect daughter-in-law for his family, giving utmost respect to the elders and soaking herself in the Indian cultural values. Her guilt-complex of lying to her father-in-law itself is a sign of her inner piety. And that’s the point which needs to be understood to bring about the required balance in our outlook and behaviour with respect to the issue of English vis-a-vis our mother-tongue (Hindi in this movie).

Technically, the movie is all right because it is a simple movie devoid of lavishness. Length is perfect. Music composed by Bappi Lahiri is another weak point of this movie.The title of this movie has been taken from a song of another Farooq-Deepti starrer Saath-Saath (1982). Farooq and Deepti made a lovely on-screen pair and presented some memorable movies during the early eighties. In Kissi Se Na Kehna too, their on-screen chemistry is perfect. The story revolves around Deepti and she has delivered another admirable performance. Farooq as a man caught between his wife and his father is not far behind. Saeed Jaffrey and other supporting cast members are perfectly in place. The best performer is, undoubtedly, the seasoned actor Utpal Dutt who is all pervasive in the movie.

On the occasion of Hindi Day, I reiterate the viewpoint of Kailashnaath that every language is divine and respectable. However let’s not forget that it’s our mother tongue in which we learn to speak, listen, understand and interact, may it be Hindi or Bengali or Oriya or Tamil or Telugu or Kannada or Malayalam or Marathi or Assamese or the likewise. And therefore, it deserves more respect than English which though necessary for life, is ultimately a foreign language only. And mother tongue is just like mother to a human-being. Despite loving, respecting and giving importance to his wife very much, a married man cannot allow her to supersede his mother. That’s my view.

I recommend Kissi Se Na Kehna wholeheartedly to all the movie buffs.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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10 Responses to Don’t tell it to anybody that I know English

  1. Rekha Sahay says:

    very interesting review.

  2. Vartikaforu says:

    Coincidentally I watched this movie last week. Loved the movie and the artist linked with it. Nice post

  3. Rajeev Moothedath says:

    Had seen this movie recently and of course liked it given the fact that I like the director’s treatment (of all his movies) and his choice of the cast.

  4. Jyoti says:

    बहुत बढ़िया समीक्षा।

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