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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Now, compared to most Indian-American girls my age, I know next to nothing about Bollywood. I admit I am somewhat biased against it, as I do not consider the tacky, pathetically plotless, mind-numbing musicals a form of entertainment. Especially not for three hours, with nothing but a dizzy samosa-gorging break called “intermission.”

(That’s not to say they are all bad. The last one I saw in theaters wasDevdas, which I thought had beautiful sets and costumes. Actually,Sarfarosh, Dil Chahta Hai, and Bhoot are all examples of interesting movies with actual plots and minimal use of six-minute-long songs to cover up the gaping plot holes. Regrettably, these movies make up less than 1 percent of the movies Bollywood excretes each year.)

The good news is, I’m rarely ever snared into watching these B-grade Bollywood movies, however, I am subjected to the soundtracks almost every day. Usually it’s in the car, where it is impossible to escape without smashing a window or putting family members in mortal danger.

It’s not really the music that irritates me; it’s the lyrics. Specifically, the ones in English. In fact, I’m not even sure they can be called lyrics, because they are typically just words and phrases, usually thrown together for no apparent reason.

Back in the 1990s, things were good. I grew up with those cute songs from movies like 1942: A Love Story, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, and Dil To Pagal Hai. I would even take the shrill, aged voices that dominated the 1980s and 1990s over some of the nonsense we get today.

Here is an actual lyric you may recognize from a movie made in 2005: “balle balle on a Sunday Sunday.”

That’s right. Why Sunday? And, perhaps more importantly, why balle? I wonder if Punjabis are just as annoyed at the random insertions of words like “balle,” and “shava.” Not only are they ripping off Punjabi language (which might be excusable since it’s at least Indian), but lately even Jamaican accents have found their way into Hindi songs through sad little passages of imitation reggae.

One of the lamest excuses I’ve been given is, “This is how Bombayites [their word, not mine] really talk.” I almost lost faith in my entire race when I heard this one, but decided to investigate. After watching an entire episode of Namaste America, I came to a simple conclusion: no, they don’t. I mean really, who would be purposely incoherent and annoying?

Don’t answer that.

When I pursued the topic, I was accused of being pretentious. A particularly defensive auntie told me that I don’t choose how the English language works. Obviously not, otherwise this wouldn’t be happening, would it?

But in all seriousness, there are people who do use English everyday—and as one of them, I find this utterly stupid.

Another classic example of ridiculous use of English is the phrase, “What’s up?” As most of you are well aware, what’s up has nothing to do with dancing, balle-ing or whatever the song is actually about.

I suspect that this insertion of English words has little to do with the way “Bombayites” really talk, but more to do with the general Bollywood consensus with imitating Americans or the English. But much like the excessively skimpy clothing, it was a total failure. Young Americans do not identify more with Kareena Kapoor because they, too, wear sparkly silver midriff-baring blouses while it’s Raining Men. (You might remember, K3G, Kareena Kapoor, and a rather embarrassing scene in which she gets “dressed” for school.)

The truth is, Bollywood has begun to fall back on phrases like, “that’s right,” “one, two, three go,” “yeaaaw” (translation: “yeah”), “get down,” and possibly the most notorious of them all—“baby!” When inspiration is low, lyricists will rhyme Hindi words with English ones: “It’s the time to disco/ koi mile dekho kisco,” or nonsensical English words with more nonsensical English words, “around, around, around, around …” (Not a joke. This phrase was repeated close to a frillion times in the background of a real Bollywood song.) Hey, why not, right?

Even rap sounds like poetry next to some of these gems: “I’ve got a girl and I don’t want her anymore” (at least, that’s what it sounds like, on the Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham soundtrack … No, that’s not a typo. After extensive research, I found that the two Kabhies are actaully spelt differently for no logical reason.); “yeh vuruld hai, naa vuruld” (it took me a good five minutes to work out that this meant world); “dance with me, dance with me, this is my philosophy,” and countless others.

Perhaps the worst part of the phenomenon is the Indian accent. One would think it would help the phrases meld into the song, making them mercifully easier to ignore. Instead, music directors choose to highlight foreign terms, often having the playback singers shriek the words totally out of rhythm. I admire the confidence with which these singers yelp, “NO ENTRÉE,” have it recorded, and subsequently distributed around the world. Kudos to them, but most American-born listeners can’t help but cringe at the mutilation and the frank idiocy. “No entry to where?” I ask myself. “If anything, this woman seems to be inviting someone closer.”

No matter what I say, each year Bollywood movies and even their soundtracks will still make enough money to support a small nation. Alas, my only option remains to get my own driver’s license … and avoid any public Indian gatherings. Which is a shame, because I really like samosas.


Supriya Limaye will be a senior at Saratoga High School this fall.

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 36-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...