The Sexist Song Parade

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Bollywood's sexist song sequences seem to suggest that eve-teasing, groping and sexual harassment are everyday acts of flirting.

New year celebrations! A time for singing, dancing, celebration – you name it!

Actually, don’t name it. In Bangalore, large gangs of men decided the best way to celebrate was to grope, feel up and assault women in the presence of large gangs of police. They must have though what the heck – Sab Chalta Hai!

There was nothing new about this. Women have been describing such experiences in the city streets for years now. One such street is even called ‘grope street’.

Some time passed before Bangalore’s Home Minister realized a politician had yet to make a mockery of the situation.

“A large number of youngsters gathered — youngsters who are almost like westerners… they try to copy westerners not only in mindset, but even the dressing, so some disturbance, some girls are harassed, these kind of things do happen,” G. Parameshwara told Times Now.

Mr. Minister, I know you know that politicians receive a thrashing on social media for saying these things. Perhaps you felt this would help people remember your name. Congratulations, you are now a star. Enjoy your complimentary chappal.

But I would join in to correct you on one point – it is not the west we Indians are learning from. Harassing women is something people learned from our very own movies and songs – plain and simple.

Don’t believe me, you say? How can we blame our song and dance? After all, it’s just gaana, na? Nah.

How to use misogyny to get to the top

Rapper Honey Singh allegedly made his name through the early popularity of his songs – circulated on such noble platforms as Whatsapp, bat786, hellmaza and freshpagal. Once he got his Bollywood break, he tried to distance himself from early hits attributed to him, such as ‘Balatkari’ and ‘Choot Vol. 1’ (translating to ‘rapist’ and ‘vagina volume 1’).

The lyrics are as straightforward as its gets in the subtle world of Indian misogyny. ‘Mein hoon ek balatkari’, i.e. ‘I am a rapist’. In one song, that can’t really be translated here, he ‘allegedly’ raps of beating a woman with a shoe after sex.

Balatkaari got Singh dragged to court in 2013, where he testified before the High Court that it was not his song. Furthermore, he said that the FIR had made him ‘not able to concentrate on his work, which requires extensive mental attention and accuracy’.

Here’s an example of extensive mental attention and accuracy.

I swear! Chhoti dress mein bomb lagdi mainu
Bomb lagdi mainu, bomb lagdi mainu

He gave his voice sample in the same year to the Forensic laboratory in Chandigarh. The plan was to verify whether it was him who sang Balatkaari. Three years later, and the results have still to come out. Singh has since tried to get the videos under his name taken down from YouTube.

Who needs underground hits when you’re already famous, yaar?

Primers to Molest

This 1991 documentary about a man sexually harassing and molesting a woman should have served as an early warning for –

Oh wait – it’s not a documentary you say? I couldn’t tell, saar. It was very realistic. The entire song is her refusing consent for him to touch her. In most of the song, he is still touching her. Twice, he picks her up against her will and hurls her to the ground.

Or take this 1991 hit, where a large hall filled with scarily drunk men spend eight minutes leering at a cabaret dancer, before dousing her with water and forcing her to kiss the… ‘hero’.

This was romantic in 1991. That should tell us all we need to know about 1991.

Or one of 2013’s earworms, ‘Fevicol Se’.

Where an early verse translates to:

When I stretch my body in a huge huge way
I can hear wolf whistles from all corners
I walk in such a manner, It creates a storm
Even those in senses seem intoxicated

Or let’s return to India’s favourite movie, Sholay, and the memorable line delivered after the hero repeatedly grabs a woman from behind.

When a beautiful girl is angry at you, she becomes more beautiful.

Oh, but Indian cinema is so big, no? You have to search for sexist messaging to find it. Except that Googling for ‘sexist film songs’ often throws up results for ‘sexy films songs’ (the latter often more sexist than any sexist song compilation out there).

Besides, people just make movies. It’s up to you to watch this.  And so, a Kannada song from God only knows gets re-uploaded to YouTube with the title “Kannada hot grab wet song”.

The heroine is dancing in the rain, and is wet. The hero grabs her by the hips. They try to dance, but it is too wet. So they change into fresh clothes. At which point it’s no longer wet, so the video stops.

The top comment is “really good press.”

But cinema is a harmless thing, nah? All these public service announcements, feminist ads, government campaigns must be doing something. It’s not like 2.7 billion film tickets were sold in 2013 alone. Besides, they must all sing the national anthem now. That will inculcate values in them. Pukka.

This is the world our songs let people live in. Better to not live in it – just leave it, I say. Don’t go down this rabbit hole, of thinking what these songs are telling. Don’t count the number of times a heroine is assaulted on screen. Don’t question why we are like this only.

Instead, blame it on the west, like our dear minister.

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Views expressed are that of Eka Love Ya and do not represent that of Madras Courier.

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