Devotion to one person only and monogamy in a traditional sense are something to swear by, in the Indian socio-legal context. Codified personal law establishes monogamy as a norm. From a sociological viewpoint, monogamy draws respect and praise in the cultural mosaic of India, whereas wayward love, and coveting a love interest, beyond a sanctified and institutionalised bond like that of marriage, draws exasperation and disapproval, to begin with.
Love outside marriage is simply frowned upon in normal day to day life. In this light, the super-fast success of the song, ‘Filhall’ (2019) provides an interesting peek into the evolving psyche of the Indian music audience. It has been reported that it is the fastest song to register 200 million-plus hits in recent times. The song has apparently registered 200 million-plus views on the ubiquitous streaming platform YouTube. It has been sung by singer BPraak and lyrics have been given by lyricist Jaani.
The song ‘Filhall’ celebrates coveting a long lost love, and pushes the envelope in depicting changing contours of relationships in society. It doesn’t mince words when it comes to expressing the yearning of a heart which is already tied in a worldly tie of marriage. Sample the lyrics:- “Kuchh aisa kar kamal ke tera ho jaon, main kisi aur ka hoon hoon fihall par tera ho jaon.” Translated from Devanagari script, it loosely means-“Do something magical, my love, so that I may remain with you forever, though I belong to someone else as of now”.
Love song phenomenon is nothing new to Bollywood or to the pop music industry. Songs routinely portray the love for a girlfriend or a boyfriend or would-be husband or plainly for husband or wife. We had instances of songs like the “Rozana jiyein, rozana mare,teri yaadon mein” featuring cine actor Amitabh Bachchan in movie Nishabd(2007) in recent past. Loosely translated, it means:-“I die every day and night in your memories”. In this film, actor Amitabh Bachchan was seen losing his heart for an uptown spunky girl. However, as per the storyline before the affair bloomed, Amitabh realised that it rocked his marriage boat. The movie was seen as a breaker of many stereotypes.
In contrast, the song ‘Filhall’, featuring popular movie actor Akshay Kumar, not only breaks away from the norm, of adopting suggestive lyrics, about love beyond the socially sanctified boundaries, but rather unabashedly celebrates love outside of marriage. The song is laced with a tinge of frustration and yearning. It takes care of the real world as well. In another stanza of the song, the singer, B Praak sings the lament of the protagonist that he is aware that such an affair will not be approved by the worldly ways. The song disrupts the free flow of routine love relationships in the entertainment industry.
Nursing a feeling of attachment for an individual outside the bond of marriage is a strict no-no as per tradition, but at the same time, folklore and ballads are not bereft of stories and tales expressing love for the “other” love interest. The ballad of Heer Ranjha is an epitome of this predicament. Heer apparently sent her lifetime yearning for Ranjha who couldn’t marry her because of his lowly socio-economic status.
The ‘Filhall’ song is revolutionary in the sense that it is tongue in cheek and the protagonist announces his love interest boldly. That is not all. The hero doesn’t stop only at crooning his love, but eggs on his darling love interest to do something about it, and rescue him from his writhing condition of pining.
Paradoxically, it is also a reality, that many marriages in the contemporary scenario, hit rock bottom, due to the existence of such affairs and love sagas. A booming market economy capitalising upon the loneliness and boredom of a married lot and rising number of divorce cases serve as evidence of this phenomenon. The modern Indian marriage is experiencing heavy siltation or should we say, refinement and in turn, is getting redefined.
Divorce is also not seen as a ‘dirty’ word anymore and the stigma surrounding it seems to be slowly melting away. Notably, the apex court in the case of Joseph Shine v. Union of India (WP (Cr.) 194/2017) in September 2018 decriminalised the adultery provision of Indian penal law. Justice Indu Malhotra had observed:- “The autonomy of an individual to make his or her choices with respect to his/her sexuality in the most intimate spaces of life should be protected from public censure.”Justice Chandrachud had remarked that “physicality is an individual choice.” He also voiced that-“Decriminalising adultery is not licensing adultery”.
The focus of newbie generation seems to be on compatibility, right from the start of marriage itself, and we also notice a distinct trend of the assertion of individualised wants within the intimate relationship of a husband and wife. Temperamental issues and clash of egos are emerging as a major cause of concern within marriages. The above-mentioned song depicts that the lead protagonist couldn’t marry a girl due to circumstances, but yearns quite openly for ‘true’ love. In this sense, the song pushes the boundaries of expression of hidden emotions.
It is worthwhile to recall that Section 497 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code, 1860) criminalised adulterous behaviour and punished the adulterer male. A woman was neither prosecuted nor did her view matter in legal terms. This led to the theoretical conceptualisation of the “victimisation” of the woman in an adulterous relationship in the sense that she was just being reduced to a mere chattel lacking any agency and a mind of her own. She was viewed as an object to be seduced and entire liability was fixed on the male. It was reported recently that adultery cases have increased in the recent past. Undeniably, the public, in general, panders about relationships falling outside the limits of the law. The grey zone between fidelity and infidelity is now being more openly acknowledged and discussed across media platforms.
Popular literature dwelling on advice format and counselling for lovelorn couples thrive and it runs into millions of rupees. One thing is settled for – a process of ‘normalisation’ of love marriages in society is gaining traction. A usual question which a married person encounters nowadays is that –”Was yours a love marriage or an arranged one?”
This is unlike the past when only arranged marriages were the norm, and one could not ask such a question without eyebrows being raised. Though we are still many light years away from the day when love across caste and class boundary shall prosper freely. It seems that as of now, only vestiges of old-world norms remain.
No more hush-hush talk is fast becoming a telltale sign of society. Could it then be said that society is now more openly embracing ideas of a different, wayward and hitherto distracting love? Is it a sign of changing times, that society is slowly becoming more open and acceptable to notions of love and longing? Will love really emerge victorious despite everything?
The song quite audaciously breaks away from the traditional mould of song designing and showcases the moorings of a wayward heart. Songs expressing forbidden love yearnings have been sung in the past but never have the lyrics been so explicit and plain.
The song, in fact, calls on the lover to do something unique and magical so that the worldly shackles are dismantled. Though the song reflects the transforming scenario of the film music industry, which has turned experimental with time, in form and character, it mirrors a flummoxing trend. The song simply turns the tables on the holier than thou attitude, brandished by the castle knights of orthodoxy. The pain and longing expressed in the song are novel, path-breaking, and a reflection of the changing outlook of society.
It is a paean to the distractions of the heart and seems to challenge the status quo and citadel-like grip of morals around yearnings of the heart. In any case, the song makers are laughing their way to the bank. Is the female version of the song next in the queue? Let’s wait and watch.