LINGUISTIC LANDSCAPES OF CINEMA IN LAHORE: FROM LAKSHMI CHOWK TO THE VOGUE TOWERS SUPER CINEMA

Gwendolyn Kirk

Abstract


This paper draws on the burgeoning body of research on ‘linguistic landscapes’ to examine the interplay between multilingualism, orthographic shifts, the urban built environment, and cinema-going practices in Lahore, Pakistan. In Lahore, Urdu and to an even greater degree English are the languages of education and upward mobility, while Punjabi, despite being by and large the most common mother tongue in both the province and the nation, has remarkably low prestige and is generally looked down upon as a language of rustic crudity. This linguistic hierarchy is echoed in the way people consume and conceive of cinema; mirroring these attitudes, a higher proportion of English and Urdu films from India are shown in more elite and expensive spaces, such as the new multiplexes that have opened in the past few years, and a higher proportion of Punjabi films and local Urdu films are shown in older theaters and more working-class areas. Beyond these distribution trends, this paper looks in depth at language and orthography in these different spaces. Where do signs tend to be in Urdu, in Punjabi, in Romanized Urdu, in English, or in other languages? What kinds of information are conveyed in which languages, and why? By examining the connections between language and the built environment of the cinema, this paper seeks to understand how the public deployment of language reflects the affective resonances and aspirational attitudes related to cinema going--particularly in terms of the complex relationships between social mobility and ethnolinguistic identity--and explores the roles language plays in creating public spaces for socializing, consumption, and the enjoyment of film.


Keywords


pakistan cinema, pakistani cinema, cultural anthropology, movie theater, lahore, lakshmi chowk, capitol cinema

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