Of Ekushey February and Language ‘Distortion’

By Nazmus Saquib

Yes it’s once again that time of the year when we are reminded of our values through Ekushey February. Ekushey is a perennial reminder to us of the values we live by as a nation. These are values we had asserted heroically in February 1952 through our spirited defence of our language when it came under threat. Six decades after February 1952, it is time for us to sit back and ponder over the rampant ‘distortion’ of our mother tongue by some quarters. These ‘influential’ quarters claim that colloquial language is being used on our TV and film media in order to portray the true picture of language and the way it is practised by this generation, and that it has nothing to do with maligning the authentic and unadulterated form of Bangla (Promit Bangla).

However some cultural personalities vehemently protest their ‘ulterior’ motive to ‘demean’ Bangla language. While talking with this reporter, renowned tv director Chayanika Chowdhury said, “I believe these people do not have the right to distort the language that people fought for and gave their lives for. They are making a mockery of the language. Television is a medium viewed by all members of the family so people do not have any right to influence our children and teach them anything they want to.” Taking a swipe to those who back these filmmakers, Chayanika said, “Their use of language is alien to proper Bangla and it is weird for me when learned person with great intellectual level speak words like ‘khaisi’ ‘korsi’ ‘dhorsi’, etc. It never sounds good.”

Echoing Chayanika’s sentiments, veteran filmmaker Chashi Nazrul Islam said, “The distortion of language should not be allowed if we want to preserve the beauty of our mother tongue for the coming generations. If the use of ‘colloquial’ language could have served his purpose, Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury would have written ‘Amar Bhaiyer Rokte Vija Ekushey February, Ami Ki Vulte Pari?’ It would not have made any sense had he written the lines like these. So these filmmakers should understand that playing with the eloquence of a language like Bangla would not yield anything good for them or for the country. It would only destroy the language.”

Popular filmmaker Mostafa Sarwar Farooqi has often been blamed for incorporating colloquial language in most of his productions. However the director defends himself by saying that language is an evolving thing and that it should evolve with the passage of time. To quote him, “Language is like ‘Bohota Nodi’ or flowing river. Even Rabindranath Tagore was criticized by a section of people for using ‘improper’ language. I’ve read somewhere that once a teacher asked his students to find fault in a Rabindranath’s passage. Now you tell me, where is that teacher? And where is Rabindranath? So you see, those who criticized Tagore for the sake of criticism have no place in history. But Tagore is and will always be etched in our heart for his contributions to Bangla literature.”

FM radio stations have also created enough controversy when it comes to the Bangla accent of some of the RJs (Radio Jockeys). Critics often argue that these RJs talk in a mixture of Bangla and English (Banglish) language which does not sound good for the listeners. However wishing anonymity, a RJ of a popular radio station said, “The way we talk on our radio shows has had huge appeal among youngsters. It all started when a renowned mobile phone operator introduced their signature package for the teenagers seven years ago. The kind of language they used in the commercials to promote that package actually created a new trend in the way the RJs talk. Since young people relate to this language, so we have no option but to promote it.”

However ABC Radio FM89.2 is a refreshing change from this trend. All the RJs of ABC Radio talk in pure Bangla (Promit Bangla). Despite being ‘unconventional’ compared to the rest of the FM stations, this radio station has proved the fact a radio station can win the hearts of the listeners by only emphasising on ‘Suddho (Correct) Bangla.

One Response to Of Ekushey February and Language ‘Distortion’

  1. Promit Bangla — YES
    Banglish — NO>NEVER> NO
    Regional variations — YES
    Slang/distortion — No, except for dramatization/comic effect. But for commercial exploitation, most emphatic NO.
    Language is truly like a river. It does not flow in a straight line even in communist China.Changes are inevitable with the bends of time and space. English spoken by Chaucer is not the same today in the UK, Canada, the USA, Jamaica, Australia and New Zealand. Which one would you take, or all of them with local/current flavor?
    The example of “Amar bhai-er roktey rangano –” is non sequitur. There are such things as rhythm and poesy. Indeed, poets are also allowed poetic license, alas, not for us prosaic plebeians.