I am a hypocrite. I’ll confess that at the beginning itself before you judge me later on in the essay. I’ll be writing about all that is wrong with Bollywood songs. But later in the day, I’ll be chilling off to some good old Bollywood masala numbers. But why should Hindi film songs, which are just for entertainment purposes only, affect so much of our lives? It all begins with the magical qualities of music.
Bollywood “item numbers” are often built around objectifying women or glorifying stalking.
After hearing the song ‘Love You Zindagi’ from the much-acclaimed movie ‘Dear Zindagi’, have you noticed the flow of good hormones through your body? That is the magic of music I am talking about here. The music reflects the socio-cultural aspects of society. In fact, there are proven mental and psychological effects of music on the human mind and body! So how do you see how important it is to curate that thoughtful playlist on Spotify?
Music and songs are not only art forms but they often mirror the activities of society. So when songs like ‘Gandi Baat’ are a rage, what will happen to the women of that particular society? Something to think about isn’t it? And this song is just a drop in a bucket.
Feminist and gender studies have seriously bought Bollywood under the radar for its rampant presentation of sexist, misogynist, and stereotypical representation of women in its films and more specifically in its songs. The male gaze is as harsh and harmful on the reel as it is on real. Who is influenced by whom, it’s difficult to say? But there is no doubt that all this produces atrocious consequences on society at large.
As per shocking statistical data, there is one stalking case every 55 minutes in India. Not to mention the growing number of acid attack cases, often because the girl did not pay heed to the guy’s ‘true love’. Not to mention unaccountable cases of eve-teasing, which I think every Indian woman has faced at least once in their lives, to say the least. Does not matter if you are in a burkha or shorts, “Tu ha kar yah nah kar, Tu hai Meri Kiran (Whether you say yes or no, you are mine)’ right?
Still, some may ask why these lyrics are so significant in defining human behaviour. Why don’t we just dance off to these numbers and forget all about it? To analyze how deep the misogynistic Bollywood lingo has penetrated the minds of the youth, just interact with some college-going guys, be it in the urban or semi-rural landscape.
Words like ‘maal’, ‘item’, and ‘pataka’ are more than often used to describe girls. While Bollywood glorifies all such forms of stalking and eve-teasing, in real life it is truly an ordeal. In this context, one of my favorite dance numbers tops the list without any doubt. The 1994 hit starring the gorgeous Raveena Tandan, whose scintillating yellow sari soaked in rain is enough to arouse even girls who subtly bought the word ‘cheez’ into our daily lingo.
Bollywood’s obsession for the ‘gori’ or fair-skinned heroine is as old as the industry itself. But even brown skin is not spared. Trust rapper Honey Singh to bring discrimination based on color to the forefront. You must have guessed that I am talking about the 2011 release ‘Brown Rang’. The song no doubt tickled the toxic masculine bones of the youth of those times. The concept that all colors are beautiful goes for an absolute toss with the lyrics, ‘But white chicks, nah I don’t like them anymore‘. What happened to love both the brown and the white and everyone in between?
Another very dangerous aspect of the Bollywood Gandi Baat is the idea of zero consent. This aspect has been so widely glorified in most Bollywood lyrics, that the real-life Romeo’s takes the girls for granted. The moment a man falls in love with a woman, he immediately reserves all kinds of rights on her. One such number among many is the Shahid Kapoor starrer song ‘Tu Meri Aagal Bagal Mein’. The lyrics, ‘Haan Tujhpe Right Mera; Tu Hai Delight Mera (You are my right, you are my delight)’ pretty much explain it all.
The video clearly has the heroine exhausted from the tireless stalking. Yet her consent is completely neglected as evident from the treatment of the song. And there are thousands like this. Despite hidden gems like Lucky Ali and Coke Studio compositions, such songs continue to be a rage. No gathering, marriage, or Diwali party is ever complete without a Bollywood sexist cringe-fest.
From objectification of a woman’s body to harassment, Hindi masala songs will provide you with all the ingredients of a toxic masculine mind. Why is everyone so concerned with ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’? Isn’t her puberty an extremely normal affair? Also, who are they to decide the dress size of a woman? From the lyrics of the famous Badshah number ‘Buzz’, “Jaha se hona chaiye tha, Wohi se hai Tu Thick (you are thick in the right places)” it seems otherwise. The effect? Talk to young girls who join the gym to lose weight because their boyfriend told them to, and not for their own fitness.
As I close the article, I know that the production of such songs which fuel this patriarchal society will not stop anytime soon. Like I mentioned in the very beginning, even I will groove to some of them the next time I dance my heart out at a wedding function or some party. But this ‘Gandi Baat‘ seriously needs to be checked to control the atrocities going on in society. With easy and budget internet services, access to such harmful lyrics is not an issue these days.
Now affordable internet cannot be done away with right? So it’s imperative that the source of it all needs to redefine its goals. Not saying that dear old Bollywood is the source of all things patriarchal and toxic, but it sure plays a big part in fuelling it.