Naseeruddin Shah says bubble of Hindi films is about to burst: ‘They lack substance, are made for only one reason’

Ratna Pathak Shah feels that the comedy and humor in Indian pop culture today is completely off-track. The actor spoke at Jashn-e-Rekhta 2022 with husband Naseeruddin Shah as one of the speakers. The pair discussed the Urdu language and how it has changed in the context of cinema.

Moderator, author and literary critic Saif Mahmood mentioned how humor has changed over time and is now more about vulgarity, sexism and misogyny. As he asked Ratna Pathak Shah how comedy should be, she laughed to tell, “There is no recipe for literary work. But it certainly shouldn’t be the way it is today.”

The Kapoor and Sons actor went on to share that humor in theatre, film, television and even stand-up shows takes the least amount of hard work and effort. She added that it is the hardest genre to crack and requires proper training, good writing and an open atmosphere where you have the freedom to speak your mind.

“We had it in the past. The folk theater in every corner of India had the element of local humor where jibs were taken at powerful people. And they would not only hear it, accept it, but also understand it. It was such an important element of society .Nowadays people are so easily offended and by wrong things. They are not offended by bad jokes and that is what worries me. I think even in Hindi films, except for a few, there is a kind of very low level humour. It’s talentless and witless. You can do it even while keeping it real because even in Mumbaiya language you can be really funny,” she said in Urdu.


Ratna Pathak Shah was in no mood to spare mediocrity as she also discussed how the younger generation of actors lack fluency. She said that while growing up, she realized that language and pronunciation were an important part of an actor’s life, they can distort their dialect as needed for a role. But when you already have a distorted ‘zubaan’, you will find it difficult to correct it as needed.

“When I work with younger actors now, especially in films, to keep it real, they have a very different pattern. It’s unclear and one-note. They eat their words, don’t finish them. It makes me so sick to see that. And when you ask them to be clear, they’ll speak with pauses. They can’t do it smoothly,” she shared.

Naseeruddin Shah to break into the conversation, saying that everything in film has changed, and for the worse. When asked how the syntax of the language, especially Urdu, has changed in cinema, he replied, “Satyanash hogaya hai. But Hindi films mein kuch bhi kahan behtar huyi hai (nothing has changed for good in Hindi films).” As the audience applauded his comments, he went on to say, “Today we don’t hear Urdu in our films. Earlier, when the censor board certificate would come, it had mentioned Urdu as the language. It was because the lyrics and shayaris were in that language, and even the writers came from Farsi (Persian) theatre. That change can be seen today, there is no use of Urdu words. Ab to behuda alfaaz hote hai (everything is frivolous today). No one even cares about the title of the movie as most of them are taken from old songs.” He also said that Hindi cinema has stereotyped almost every community. “They have made fun of Sikhs, Christians, Parsis… The Muslim man was always the hero’s best friend who died saving him in the end. But he died nonetheless,” he said while talking about stereotypes in Hindi cinema.

He went on to add, “We can’t laugh at ourselves, but we don’t mind laughing at other people’s problems. Our films have consciously and consistently encouraged this. We’ve been making films for 100 years, we celebrate and talk about this, but we’re not talking about how we make the same movie for 100 years. And that’s a 100-year-old tradition.”

Asked whether the belief that India makes the best films, Naseeruddin cited the example of Korean and Thai films. “The bubble of Hindi films is bursting because they lack substance. We keep claiming that our films are watched all over the world, just like Indian food is eaten globally. Indian food is eaten because it has stupidity, it has substance. There is only one reason these films are made, and everyone knows what it is.”

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