Bollywood doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation in term of a balanced portrayal of women and its songs absolutely don’t help either. From the literal objectification of women to blatantly asserting that women are property to asserting a right over their bodies, Bollywood hasn’t really left any stone unturned. In fact, this problem is so infamous that just last month, AIB even created a video pointing this out.
Cast your eye over some examples of putrefying quality:
Translation: “This is her style, no on her lips but yes in her heart.”
Translation: “Whether you say yes or no, you are mine, Kiran.”
Translation: “I have a right over you, you are my delight. I’ll block your way, don’t be surprised.”
Um, what? Seriously who lets these people write and have they ever talked to a living, breathing woman and, I dunno, maybe asked her opinion? Seems unlikely.
The problem with these lyrics isn’t just the fact that they’re one dimensional and reduce women to sexual objects, it also normalises this kind of view. So, much like how Bollywood has also okayed stalking and harassment, it also makes people think it’s okay to think you can ‘own’ a woman, that women are ‘made’ just for them, that harassing a girl until she says yes actually works. (Newsflash: It doesn’t.)
In the face of this, kickass feminists are taking matters into their own hands. Mumbai-based organisation Akshara Centre has launched a national campaign, “Gaana Rewrite: Pen Uthao Gaana Ghumao”, to rewrite the sexist lyrics of Bollywood songs to something empowering. The campaign has already gained some momentum, with students from numerous colleges participating in it. Many organisations across India, like ‘Eksath’, ‘Girls Count’ and ‘One Billion Rising’ have joined the campaign and are helping in spreading the message.
So far, their efforts have yielded some fruit with gems like:
Translation: “I will now talk dirty with you.” to “Now there will be no more dirty talk!”
Translation: “Munni was ruined, because of you.” to “Munni was ruined, because of societal pressure!”
The point is that representation matters. Though we may take these songs lightly, we tend to remember and recall the lyrics. And we are not even conscious of how it affects our behaviour and thinking. What we see on the silver screen does translate to real life, as we’ve seen with Bollywood’s infamous problem of portraying stalking as ‘love’. Bollywood has a responsibility of speaking up, of acknowledging how it portrays women in much of its music and lyrics. And it’s time we call them out on it.
If you could rewrite sexist Bollywood songs, how would you do it?
Let’s change how we think – one lyric at a time.