The minute someone goofs up in pronunciation or spelling, the phrase ‘English is a funny language’ is blurted out almost involuntarily! Any fan/follower of Hindi movies would know this inimitable monologue of Amitabh Bachchan (from Namak Halaal, 1982). And while many agree with this, Delhi-based teacher-turned-author Ritu Soni Bhagat takes a step further to simplify it, through her first book, English Hinglish.
“Generations of students have turned to Wren & Martin for vocabulary and grammar, but for the Indian audience it can become rather dry and impersonal. With this book, anyone can find contemporary references that are powerful, colourful and interesting,” says the 53-year-old, adding, “All of the stories are replete with nuances that one can relate to from what they already know about. It’s basically learning English through Hindi movies. There are illustrations to drive the point home and this book is my magnum opus.”
“The idea was to make the language accessible in the most entertaining manner possible. But since it’s aimed at youngsters wanting to learn the language or those prepping for competitive exams, I wanted there to be a lesson too,” says Bhagat, adding that the part about actor Nimrat Kaur appearing for 82 auditions before getting to play her first role, or Janhvi Kapoor rising from the despair after her mother’s demise are all aimed at encouraging the reader to reach for the stars. She adds: “Stories are what people remember, without them, language lacks a certain flavour.”
Be it Ranveer Singh’s role of an unscrupulous cop in Simmba (2018) or Rajkummar Rao’s depiction of a teacher with a devil-may-care attitude in Chhalaang (2020), Bhagat explores it all while working on the book that combines her passion for teaching the English language with her “prolific reading of entertainment news and film reviews over eight years”. “I even watched AK vs AK (2020) especially to write the chapter on Anil Kapoor’s character becoming a fly on the wall to a fly in the ointment as he foils the devious plans of Anurag Kashyap’s characters in the film.”
The author has also weaved in her own life experiences. The reason? “I wanted this book to have something of myself in it too… There are so many motivational stories that come out in the papers, but not all can be read by everyone. Today’s news becomes tomorrow’s trash. However, in my book, with the use of grammar, idioms, and proverbs, I narrate stories that deserve to be told,” she signs off.