{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Omkara and Expletives

Disclaimer: Please don't read if you easily get offended.

There was a huge debate over the use of expletives in Omkara. Though very late, but here is my take on it. Just to clarify, I am from the land where the film is supposedly set and I am a big fan of all those expletives, this post is an effort to do justice to what they deserve.

Before we proceed let me have a code of referring to them. They are not meant to be written (especially not in English transliteration) so we are not going to write any one of them here. We are going to refer them by the first English letter in their transliteration. Also, most of the impact of the examples I quote will be lost, because they are written, not spoken. Call me prude but here we go.

To say the least, I hated the use of expletives in Omkara and the way the whole debate was hijacked by was it a right decision to use them or not. No one ever even bothered about how to use them, which was the whole point. Expletives are never used as exclamation marks. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, they become too obvious (which is bad for their ample use), secondly, exclamatory use make them a statement of sort, which they are not. If I say, "kinghe jaa raa, B" (where are you going, B), it doesn't make any sense. No one sensible will use them like this. The correct use is "abe kinghe jaa raa, B sunta hi na" (where are you going, B doesn't listen to me). It makes perfect sense. Here B doesn't qualify the person but his act of not listening. Note that there is a slight tinge of care for the person you use them for.

Let me make an parallel for the use of expletives. We have a sweet-dish up north, its called gur-gajar. In a small setup (its called a Kohlu) where gur (jaggery) is made, when gur is in the last stage of its making, we put some skinned carrots (cut them across the length such that they don't slice into two, like we do in green chilly pickle) into steamy hot gur, stir them for about 5 mins or so till they become soft and juicy, and then taken them out. After half an hour (just to cool down a bit, but still too hot to handle), they are picked out whole and put in mouths (this usually causes mouth ulcers for children, but who cares). Now there is no single entity, - no gur, no carrot, they are joined into holy matrimony of sweet love. As the carrot enters the mouth with juice dipping from chin to chest, it is an experience and sight to behold. Expletives are like carrots, and the language like gur to begin with. It is not to say that language sweetens the effect of expletives, but it is to say that it assimilates it, they are joined seamlessly. Any attempt to separate them is done in bad taste and stinks of vulgar sensationalism.

Experienced and well meaning people mostly use expletives in between the sentence and never raise their voice while speaking them. They go with the flow of the sentence, adding a more lyrical quality and liveliness (immediacy). There is no show off, they are lukewarm honey dropped from heaven in between the sentences, adding the warmth. No one notices them in the sentence, but every one know they are spoken. For Gods sake, please don't use them like the F word. First thing to note is they are not meant for abuse. They are not just fillers. They are the flavor. They should seep in effortlessly and slowly over time, like flavor in hot-soft muffins, not like an add-on of hard nuts. Its a lazy way to use them. If one watches closely, he/she will notice that most of the expletives are used for inanimate things, situations and life as such, not for people. Simple use of expletive comes with inanimate but personal things, which we love, for eg. scooters, "yaar, B, start ho jaa, G lega kya".

In Omkara, barring few occasions by Deepak Dobriyal, no one used them properly. It was one of the biggest reason why I didn't like the film much. You can call be names, but I get really sentimental about expletives. I see them as a part of culture. At last, after all this talking, I should give you an example of the correct use of expletives. In Khosla ka Ghosla, when Khoslaji (Anupam Kher) tells his friend, Sahni sa'ab (Vinod Nagpal) that his son doesn't like his name, he replies "Khosla saab.. aaj kal ke bachche bade mnc mijaaz ke hote hain...unhe ye kabootron waale naamon mein sharmindgi mehsoos hoti hai ...nayi ?.. unke saath ek baar compromise kar lo, saare budhape ki insurance ho jaati hai...ooo jee.. sach poocho to ye saara desh hi B compromise pe chal raha hai.. hai ji...". The honey dropped from heaven and it was a moment of pure bliss.
NB: This post would not be possible without the help of Vivek and Rajeev. Thanks !


vg said...

anyone who uses expletives in his language as often as I do is bound to enjoy this fun filled yet thoughtful blog... When you say "Note that there is a slight tinge of care for the person you use them for", I am sure not many people would be able to concieve the intent.. honestly, I feel one needs to live it to concieve it.. but yes.. :) but yes.. the ecstatic pleasure that one witnesses with an uncoscious use of expletives (supporting your thought.. the usage needs to be uncoscious.. not the one with an exclamatory mark.. but suble.. one that cant be noticed) is truly beyond words :) .... to sum up.. ye varnmaala ke wo moti hain jinke bina varnmaala adhoori hi nahi.. bahut besuri bhi sunaayi padti hai

anurag said...


Yes, you have hit directly at the point, the point of unconscious use.

and should it be varnmaala or shabdkosh :))

vg said...

honestly, i am not sure.. may be u r right.. but at the moment i dont feel like taking the pain to open wikipedia ;) but yes.. i truly enjoyed the blog!

Alok said...

good job. very well written :) My own facility with expletives verges on non-existent but i do like people who use it with care and love :)

km said...

Excellent post, Anurag.

Omkara's dialogue came as a bit of letdown to me too, though not for the reasons you have given.

It is one thing to use BC/MC gratuitously and in quotation marks (Omkara is not guilty of that, IMO.) But it is quite another thing to use them in the (proper) context of character and situation. They become so powerful. (When was the last time the f-word shocked us in a film?)

Given Omkara's story-setting, the dialogue could have been freer and looser, but there were probably commercial/censorship considerations (which people like Tarantino or Kevin Smith probably don't bother about.)

Anonymous said...

I come here on and off, but your film-loaded blog is not to my taste. This post surprized me. I hated Omkara because of the same reason. The very first line of the movie stinks of, to quote you, vulgar sensationalism

and this is awesome.

As the carrot enters the mouth with juice dipping from chin to chest...


Rajeev said...

Very well written. I do use a lot of expletives and I know how difficult it is to express yourself without them :)

Vg, very well said. "ye varnmaala ke wo moti hain jinke bina varnmaala adhoori hi nahi.. bahut besuri bhi sunaayi padti hai"

manish kumar said...

I agree on the points of expletives usage enhances the language. but i feel you have a learned angle to the usage:). I have seen villagers talking expletives in a manner that seemed rude to me, but thats the ground reality. If you picture Khosla ka ghosla, then the people involved are learned there, but for omkara i dont expect any holding back or sweetness in their language.
It all starts with kids who use these expletives as style or punch words to show off, but later it gets ingrained in their language.
well thats my side on it.

Adding to it, expletives are a great way to vent out anger especially while driving car, no body will hear that :), but you will feel relaxed. :)

Zero said...

While I don't agree (but, appreciate the passion!) with the "well-meaning" restriction you impose on the usage of expletives, I think Omkara had quite many instances of such usage too. And, not only from Deepak Dobriyal. In one of the scenes, Konkona character goes on to say, "Lo! Hum ch ki tarah phulka banaaya jaa rahe hain.."

Push. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Push. said...

Ajay got a complete haryanvi touch (manoj bajpai could make more justice the role… but seems like Vishal bhardwaj was more interested in getting big star power …and yes he should ..subject was sensible in terms of accent and abusing words used in dialogues..we all know the out come of Anurag kashyap movies…) and kareena was more looking like a desi bollywood doll...other thn deepak ..eventually..it was konkana ..who came out as per the expectations...
but i do think saif tried a lot....i know none of the characters of omakara was delivering the dialogues as per exactly the same accent of Western Up....
but still Vishal has made an honest attempt… far better than usual bollywood stuff.

antickpix said...


been a while since i've been here.

looked at your 2006 movie list. quite a drop-off from 2005, but funnily enough, i think we've both seen a few of the same older films (such as Godard's weekend) this year. heh.

anurag said...

Thanks Alok. Its a dying art.

km, thanks a lot. If I get it correctly, you are rightly pointing that most of the swear word used in the film are used sparingly (and thats why not freely) and thus end up like a prop, but not the 'flavor' of language used. In addition to it, I think even if they are used sparingly, a better judgment should have been used.

s, Thanks.

Rajeev, So now we can write a white paper ;)

Manish, Its not to do with sweetness or rudeness. Its like softness or hardness of water, differs from place to place, but not aloof from water (aloof, may be like dirt or pebbles). Also, its not the point of being learned or illiterate. Its difficult to pin-point, but there is fine line between the use (ingrained in language) and prostitution (like dirt in water) of expletives. Also, as far as I can remember (correct me if I am wrong), most of the expletives are used in the film are in frustrating or funny situations (which are most common situations for there use), not for any 'ground realities', and they are certainly not used during any brutalities etc too.

Zero, I didnt impose any restriction, really. :) What I meant is the proper usage, as it is used by the people you are portraying. and yes, I liked Konkana in the film, and especially that line, but we need to see that there are more common swear words that are used by women there. The whole exercise of using them looked like the verbal equivalent of posing that Ajay Devgan was doing in the whole film.

Push, Its the common argument in favor of the film that Vishal Bhardwaj did better effort than the usual bollywood stuff, but I feel that such relative standards should not be taken for judging the absolute greatness of a film.

antickpix, its a huge drop, more than 50%. will try to cover up this year.