A Case Study: How Hindi as a language was played about through Telivison in 90’s and the politics behind

Maitri Dwivedi
6 min readAug 15, 2018


If we agree, that we exist in the way we are spoken about, It would be interesting to question “How” India was spoken about after Independence and by “Whom”?

Referring back to freedom movement and the subsequently achieved Independence, we can say that the persona of India was constructed in contrast with so called formation of its brother nation Pakistan. Pakistan in its origin was formed based on identity of its citizen, which was pre decided in lingual, religion aspect.

In India, the question of nationality was dealt at two level. First, at the level of “State.” Second, at the level of “Nation.” At the level of State, locals could easily identify oneself with another because of the existential intersection, at the level of language and culture. But the same was missing at Nation’s intercultural level.

Obstruction faced

The 1st obstruction faced by the policy makers was to make its people feel at home. India with its multicultural, multilingual, multicommunal branches didn’t have one common link that would have made its people come together. On the other hand, its freedom struggle against British was one force that brought its territories together.

Problem Solved

The difference was eliminated through constructing a pan-indian cultural identity through its Language. Hence, “Sanskritized Hindi” was constructed. The language was played and replayed through different medium for people to subconsciously absorb it and to associate their history and origin with the language.


Through News, Entertainment, Bollywood, Devotional programs, including music video in the 90s.

Hindi, its Dialects & their Representation in Doordarshan in late 90's

Different sects of Hindi language were used for the representation of different myths for the imagined audience. The audience imagined was devoid of their regional, cultural, communal and lingual barrier. But had one identity, “Indian.”

Doordarshan was initiated on experimental telecast on 15 September 1959 in Delhi. It was later extended to other cities and became a National broadcaster.

Television as mass media became a tool in giving birth to a common pan Indian identity. Keeping aside the cultural, lingual and communal differences of people. Government rendered this identity by playing with the subconscious of its citizen.

Especially, in case of television where the moving images came into existence. The narration in a particular language eased the intellect of spectator, this language became the Language of Imagination for constructing a past. Television in another aspect became an aspect of consciousness.

Before, with the invention of radio, the subject of delivering information was public at large. With the coming of telivision, the subject was individual. The shift from public to individul was a sign, that coming of telivision made an individual percieved as intellectual being who is capable of reason.

I am not saying this intellectual being didn’t exist before but with the coming of audio visual media and the way things were represented as cause and effect it made people more conscious and reasonable of world around.

Devotional Programs & the Langugage of Distant Past

Ramanand Sagar’s Mahabharta , Ramayana and Sri Krishna were rendered to a huge audience. These devotional shows were based on ancient hindu scriptures were encrypted in “Sanskritized Hindi.”

Depiction of God and Goddesses made it a thing of distant past. It was necessary to give them the tongue which has ancient unfamiliarity, but at the same time it had to be interpretable where people could easily get the sense of what is being said.

Second major element behind choosing “Sanskritized Hindi” was to introduced ‘Time travel’ which is a crucial element of storytelling. As the audience was taken back to the idealized India where the Mugal and British invasion NEVER happened. In this way a different idea of history of language and Indian past was rendered which was received unconsciously disguised in glittery clothes and moving images.

Another idea that interests me is how the idea of specific past for multi cultural society was composed and put into the imagination, overlooking the diversity of composition.

News & its Sandardized Sanskritized-Hindi bias

National news was broadcasted in Sanskritized Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit and English.

Very cleverly, the standard of good hindi was establish. Hindi as it is understood to have originated from Sanskrit, so, the pure from of hindi would be where one could see the traces of this long forgotten language.

This representation was directed at the subconscious of the people that the prevaleny spoken Hindi is actually an impure one and they should put efforts in learning this pure standardized Hindi.

Second implication was, as Sanskrit was considered tongue of intellectuals and of the court in the ancient India (pre-foreign invasion India.) Here, restoring the Golden age of India that of Maurya period was also attempted.

The shown dramatic reluctance of government to make Hindi as the official language after the Anti-Hindi protest in South India in 1965, was a diplomatic stand. As, the standardized Sanskrit-Hindi was anyway used/(still being used) by the government in as many ways possible and the traces of which was seen in Doodarshan.

Historical Drama & the Construction of Indian History in “Sanskritized Hindi”

“Bharat Ek Khoj,” a popular Historical Drama based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Discovery Of India” (1946,) was one of the popular show telecasted on Doordarshan.

It starts with a speech by Nehru himself explaining the idea of “Bharat Mata.” His speech is in “Sanskritized Hindi” which he is rendering to a group of villagers. It is interesting to see how the spectator is made to imaging the history and tracing his lineage in a particular language that was not even his own.

The historical dramas played a crucial role in creating the pan Indian identity where all Indians were brothers and sisters, since they had one history, which was the Constructed History of Nation.

Entertainment (Daily Soap) & the “Mother Tongue Influenced Hindi”

“Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne” as the name suggests is about the struggle of a common man.

The characters are all common people who use different dialects of Hindi and some have their mother tongue influence on the spoken Hindi.

This representation of a common man with mother tongue influenced hindi gives us a hint, that the ideology at power is aware of the position of the receptor. It never assumed the spectator to be understanding encrypted language (Sanskritized Hindi) of administration but anyway they imposed it to maintain the ambiguity in communication, which was manipulated accordingly.

Another aspect of the representation is the narrator of the story who is not the part of narrative, is outside and has detailed knowledge of proceedings. We can call him an intellectual being. This narrator uses sanskritized Hindi which could be seen as a fact that “sanskritized Hindi” was understood and portrayed to be the language of intellectuals.

Bollywood, “Bollywood Hindi” & the Music Albums of late 90's on Doordarshan

The in-between slots were either given to advertisements or patriotic music videos. Two videos in particular, A R Rehman’s “Maa Tujhe Salam” and “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” written by Piyush Pathik were played very often.

A R Rehman’s “Maa Tujhe Salam” is about the idea of nation as mother, and its children (people of different cultural groups) expressing their gratitude by hosting national flag. The idea behind the representation nullifies the difference among different cultural sects, rather induces the identity as the children of “bharat maa.”

It is important to see how this representation was sang about, the Hindi lyrics are neither standardized nor the dialect but was rather somewhere in between which was later termed “Bollywood Hindi.” It had both Urdu and Hindi influence and was even seen as the Language of Romance.

It is interesting to see how “Bollywood Hindi” was an important instrument in propagating pan Indian identity.

Second song “mile sur mera tumhara” or “ek sur” which means “One Language” is a song on national integration. The song propogates the idea of coming together of different cultures.

The lyrics is composed in 14 different languages spoken in India, It depicts the diversity in language. At the same time the language which is called “ek sur” is “Bollywood hindi” and not sanskrit-hindi.

The lyric in Bollywood Hindi is being sung by bollywood actors and playback singers. Here bollywood is been depicted as a one Cosmopolitan Community which has one language.


If we consider the language and its distinct representation as organs of one organic idea we could decipher the politics of language being played right under the nose of spectator. The spectator is getting involved without their awareness and is accepting the imposition of “Sankritized Hindi” as the standard to achieve, that was as distant to the generation of 90s as English. The different forms of Hindi were used to disguise the main motive. At the same time, representation of Bollywood as a model of emerging cosmopolitan community served the intention well.



Maitri Dwivedi

I put words to ideas, interested in functional products, consumer psychology, forms of human articulation, design, and art.