India’s National Language Row: What Celebrities Have To Say
National Language Row: How Celebrity Claims Match Up Against The Indian Constitution

The actual definition of ‘national language’ remains vague and imprecise, even outside a strongly multilingual nation like India

After earning over Rs 900 cr in the span of two weeks, Kannada film KGF: Chapter 2‘s success has certainly transcended global borders. However, one of the film’s launch events sparked a considerable bit of controversy online, and it was pertaining to India’s national language.


When asked at this event regarding KGF’s ‘pan-India’ success, actor Sudeep replied:

“You said that a pan-India film was made in Kannada. I’d like to make a small correction. Hindi is no more a national language. They (Bollywood) are doing pan-India films today. They are struggling (to find success) by dubbing in Telugu and Tamil, but it’s not happening. Today, we are making films that are going everywhere.”

Sudeep’s point stands even stronger today, as global film analysts and journalists take note of S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR, which has now crossed the Rs. 1,000 Crore mark. However, the statement drew the ire of several Twitter users, especially that of Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn.

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Devgn, who’s entire reply was written in devanagari script, replied with the following:


“Kiccha Sudeep, my brother, according to you, if Hindi is not our national language then why do you release your native language [mother tongue] films by dubbing them in Hindi? Hindi was, is and always will be our mother tongue and national language. Jan Gan Man:” Ajay’s tweet read, when translated into English.

Sudeep then began to de-escalate the situation, but not before pointing out the hypocrisy of Devgn’s use of Hindi versus his potential use of Kannada.

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The issue also boiled over in Punjab, where Devgn’s ancestral roots lie. Ludhiana-based MS Sekhon (72), who runs an organisation ‘Maan Matta Punjabi’ for the promotion of Punjabi language, said: “Ajay Devgn’s father Veeru Devgan was from Amritsar and even after shifting to Mumbai, he used to speak Punjabi with pride. Ajay Devgn’s mother-tongue is Punjabi going by his family’s roots but it is his choice that which language he wants to speak. However, he cannot give factually incorrect statements such as Hindi being the national language of the country,” said Sekhon.


Even though the two actors buried the hatchet, other personalities began to get involved, predominantly ex-Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, who took several shots at Devgn in a detailed seven-part tweet:

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Meanwhile, musicians AR Rahman and Sonu Nigam called for communal harmony, with the latter strongly defending the #StopHindiImposition cause:


“Do we have no problems in this country that we are looking for more? Look at our neighbours… and we are creating divisions in India by saying ‘you are Tamilian… you speak Hindi. Why? Why would they speak Hindi?” asked Nigam at a recent private event.

Kangana Ranaut unsurprisingly coordinated things her own way, arguing that the national language should be Sanskrit.

What Does The Constitution Say?

The issue of Hindi and national identity goes back dozens of years, and are closely tied to the histories of many Indian political parties, especially those in the South.

That said, the actual definition of ‘national language’ remains vague and imprecise, even outside a strongly multilingual nation like India. The general understanding is that a ‘national’ language reflects the cultural and social background of a country, while an ‘official’ language focuses on the governmental apparatus.

The Indian Constitution explicitly avoids any mention of a ‘national language’ and, in Article 343(1), has designated Hindi as an ‘official language’, alongside English. India, as an extremely diverse country with 453 recognized languages spoken, benefits from avoiding the ‘national language’ moniker, instead choosing to give equal cultural importance to its entire range of spoken tongues.

So, while the likes of Devgn and Ranaut can continue making populist language arguments, they cannot deny India its diversity. What is your opinion on the matter? Let us know in the comments section.

(Featured Image Credits: @ajaydevgn, @kanganaranaut, @kichchasudeepa/Instagram)

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