Kannada movie stars resist push for Hindi supremacy

They say ‘one nation one language’ robs the country of its diversity, and goes against its founding principles

The Kannada film fraternity is opposing Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s ‘one nation one language’ pitch.

When India was declared a republic every language was given equal importance and people were given states on the basis of language, says S A Chinne Gowda, former president of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC). “Even the British learnt our language to rule over us,” he says, implying that imposing one language on a diverse country is worse than foreign rule.

Thrusting Hindi destroys the very fabric of this nation, says actor, director and producer Upendra.

“The beauty of our country lies in its diversity.” Kannada films have much to offer in terms of history and culture, he says.

Language must bring about a sense of inclusivity, says director Jagan Shakti, whose debut Bollywood film ‘Mission Mangal’ is now showing across India. The one-language concept affects people who live in the villages. Language policies should not divide people, he says.

Huge numbers in India have grown up watching Hindi films and adoring its heroes, but cinemas in other languages should not be neglected either, he observes.

“Every regional language should be given importance. Those in the south are comfortable moving to other states because of Hindi movies. But Hindi should not be imposed at the cost of the primary language,” cautions Jagan.  

Actor and director Ramesh Aravind points out that India is proud of its diversity.

“We need all languages but a link language helps. I am all for learning other languages. For Karnataka, Kannada is primary. Double identity is possible in a country like ours,” says Ramesh.  

A senior actor in the Kannada film industry, who didn’t want to be named in this story, says ‘one nation, one law’ is acceptable, but not ‘one nation one language.’ 

“The imposition of one language on people may create a rift among communities and divide us all. Our languages must all be protected and preserved,” he says. He says Kannada is important to him and he is not willing to replace it with any other language. 

Rockline Venkatesh, producer of hit films in Kannada and Tamil, says Karnataka has its own traditions and customs and people will be loyal to their languages.\

Shah’s tweet
The Centre observes September 14 as Hindi Divas. Amit Shah tweeted to mark the occasion: “India is a country of many different languages and every language has its own significance. But it is extremely necessary to have one language for the whole country that will be India’s identity in the world. Today, if anyone language can do the job of holding the country together with the thread of unity, it is indeed the most widely spoken Hindi.”

Art is beyond language 
Actor Chetan Ahimsa, who has spearheaded many a campaign in support of the minority community, feels that the recent concept by Amit Shah of one nation, one language and the imposition of Hindi, is a fight not between north Indians an south Indians but a fight between those who believe in the diversity of the nation as well as the idea of India as a federation of states, identities and languages versus those who do not. "The latter believe in imposition and division. They believe in forced linguistic and monolithic identities. They are anti-national when it comes to linguistic diversity in our country," Chetan told Metrolife. 

And how does this affect the film industry? Chetan explains, "Hindi imposition will not necessarily affect the regional languages directly. It affects the educational structure, jobs, social media and perhaps the banking sector. What is important is that art rises beyond language. So whether it is Kannada, Tamil or Telugu, we are all fighting not as much for language as we are fighting for art." He further states that in this particular section, the language division is incidental. "It is art that connects us," he says. 

Speaking particularly in the context of how this would affect Karnataka, Chetan, says "When it comes to education, government and its policies like employment then it is important that Kannada is retained in Karnataka. We must also give respect and dignity to our minority languages in Karnataka which is Tulu, Kodava, Lambani, Hakki Pikki, Adivasi and Alemari languages. What Hindi has been doing to us for the last 72 years, we must not let it happen to the other minority languages of Karnataka. We must show what a language and how a language should behave itself and I think Kannadigas know how to do that." 

‘It is many vs one’

Actor Chetan Ahimsa sees it all not as a fight between north Indians and south Indians but one between ‘those who believe in the idea of India as a federation of states, identities and languages versus those who do not.”

“The latter believe in imposition and division. They believe in forced linguistic and monolithic identities. They are anti-national when it comes to linguistic diversity in our country,” he says. 

Hindi imposition affects education, jobs, and the banking sector, but art may yet survive, he suggests.

“What is important is that art rise beyond language,” Chetan says.

In education, administration and employment, it is important to give Kannada primacy in Karnataka, he says.

“We must also give respect and dignity to minority languages in Karnataka: Tulu, Kodava, Lambani, Hakki Pikki, Adivasi and Alemari. What Hindi has been doing to us for 72 years, we must not do to the minority languages of Karnataka. We must show how a language should behave and I think Kannadigas know how to do that,” he says.

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