Veteran actress Sharmila Tagore said that Urdu has “become static” and has been restricted to minority communities.
The 72-year-old actress, who was speaking at the “Jab Filmein Urdu Bolti Thi” session at the ongoing Jashn-e-Rekhta, said the language today is being spoken by “perhaps Muslims” alone.
“Traditions are vital to understand our history and to visualise a well-informed and balanced future. But Urdu, which has been an integral part of Indian history, has somehow become static. It has become a minority language, spoken by only the Muslims perhaps,” Tagore said.
The language, which was once widely spoken in Delhi, bore the brunt of the Partition, which she said, “broke the literary tradition of the country”.
While it became Pakistan’s official language, in India it was left limited to mere corners of the country.
She went on to say that the language did not belong to any particular religion.
“It is not a language of Muslims only, or Pakistan’s language. It is our language...and we would like to keep it like that,” Tagore said.
Hailing from a Bengali family, the actress, who made her Bollywood debut with Shakti Samanta’s 1964 film, “Kashmir Ki Kali” found it difficult to speak the Hindi prevalent in the industry at the time, let alone the nuances of Urdu.
“My will was negating (me) to learn it. But, I imbibed it and now I feel culturally rich and enhanced,” she said.
But, it was her marriage to celebrated cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, who belonged to a traditional Urdu-speaking family that made her understand and learn the language better over the years.
Sharing an anecdote about her ignorance of Urdu literature during her early years in Bollywood, she recounted the instance when she told fellow actor Feroz Khan that her husband had penned a beautiful couplet for her, which was in fact written by Ghalib.
“I recited, ‘Dil-e-nadan tujhe hua kya hai, aakhir is dard ki dawa kya hai.’ Feroz said, ‘You idiot woman, this is Ghalib, for God’s sake’,” she said.
Talking about the use of Urdu in Bollywood, she said it was actually Hindustani - a combination of Hindi and Urdu - that was widely popular in films.
“The marriage of the sister languages, Hindi and Urdu made the 1940s and 1960s very, very memorable,” she said.
The actress was joined by legendary actor Prem Chopra and famous Hindi-Urdu screenwriter Javed Siddiqui on the panel.