Dakhani, loosely termed as “Hyderabadi Hindi” in the rest of the country, is a language that’s spoken widely but rarely taken as a serious literary form, despite its centuries old roots in Indian history.
But Mumbai-based Hyderabadi independent filmmaker Gautam Pemmaraju has been taking the language seriously, at least for the past five years. His upcoming documentary — A Tongue Untied tells the story of the language, right from its early beginnings in the 13th century to its modern day avatar. The documentary has a special focus on the mazihiya shayri (satire) form of the language.
Picking up on the idea while working on a grant-commissioned project from the India Foundation for the Arts in 2012, the 46-year-old says that the focus is on humour, because that’s what people relate most to the language today.
Gautam says, “The humour and satire traditions of the Deccan are very strong.”
“It’s a 70-year-old modern tradition, especially since the late ’30s. Even to this day, mushairas (poetry recitals) are held in Hyderabad; it’s something that’s a very strong part of Indian culture. My project is to look at all these people, and the way the language has been surviving,” explains Gautam, who was born and brought up in Hyderabad.
Speaking with experts and scholars in the language, Gautam — who studied filmmaking at New York’s Syracuse University before moving to Mumbai in 1996 to work as a filmmaker — says that while there was no dearth of research material on Dakhani, the language itself has been most affected over time.
“One of the experts in the language, Mustafa Kamal, says in the film that Dakhani is no longer a language, but just spoken vernacular. It used to be a language at one point, with texts, prose and poetry written in it, and affairs were conducted in Dakhani. I think that it’s a very important point,” he says.
Gautam also says that the most challenging part about filming the documentary, whose trailer has already been released, was getting a steady inflow of funds. “When I’d run out of money, the project would halt, and when I received funds, I’d start again. But that’s usually the case with projects of this sort, and much like how a research scholar would work,” he says, adding that he’s still putting the finishing touches on his documentary that will release in the next few weeks.
Gautam also says that the documentary has so far received good reviews from those who’ve been privy to the unedited cut, such as Hyderabadi film producer Elahe Hiptoola, who’s also one of the film’s backers.
“The initial reactions have been positive. Actor Ranvir Shorey watched it and had nice things to say about it, with Varun Grover also recently retweeting about the film,” says Gautam....