Love by Other Names

My deep discovery of Guru Dutt has led me to find out more about his collaborators (such as Sahir Ludhianvi) and his peers and contemporaries (right from Meena Kumari to Dara Singh). One thing, one aspect of language I noticed in movies of those times (I just finished reading the biography on Sahir by Akshay Manwani) is that the Indic word for love (romantic love) in usage was mohabbat. In today’s movies, pyaar is used most often and to some extent ishq, including film and song titles. Prem is used in even fewer movies, unless they have a Hindi heartland setting or are a Salman Khan movie.

The words, to the best of my knowledge, all mean the same, just the language or dialect differs. So, prem is a pure Hindi word, I trust, with its roots in Sanskrit. Pyaar sounds like a touch of Urdu in Hindi, or Hindustani as it’s called. Ishq sounds Arabic, and mohabbat sounds pure Urdu. Which is perfect for those times (50s and 60s), when Urdu was used a lot in those movies.

So, why and where did mohabbat lose currency? Because Urdu is used less in Hindi movies these days, and there are definitely no Muslim socials happening now? Because pyaar sounds the softest of the lot? Or because mohabbat sounds so big and long? After all, where do people have time – or care – for big, long romantic love these days?

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