H-Pop: The Secretive World Of Hindutva Pop Stars By Kunal Purohit – Book Review

Journalist Kunal Purohit’s latest offering, Hindutva Pop Stars, intricately weaves together the threads of music, identity, and ideology.

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Hindu devotees hold the idol of Lord Ram while taking part in the Ram Navami rally. Photo: Getty Images

H-Pop: The Secretive World Of Hindutva Pop Stars by Kunal Purohit

Published by Harper Collins, 2023

In the ever-evolving tapestry of India's cultural landscape, the convergence of art, politics, and societal values is a terrain ripe for exploration. Journalist Kunal Purohit’s latest offering, Hindutva Pop Stars, intricately weaves together the threads of music, identity, and ideology. Set against the backdrop of a nation grappling with shifting narratives, this book ventures into the lives and careers of musicians who navigate the intricate space where artistic expression intersects with the realm of Hindutva ideology.

Purohit’s narrative invites readers on a  compelling journey through the pulsating rhythms of the Indian music scene, uncovering the multifaceted relationships between artists, their craft, and the socio-political currents shaping contemporary India. As we embark on this review, we embark on an exploration of the book’s resonance, its portrayal of the cultural zeitgeist, and its illumination of the intricate dance between artistic freedom and ideological undercurrents in today’s India. 

Kunal Purohit's "Hindutva Pop Stars" presents a captivating exploration into the intricate relationship between Hindutva ideology and the realm of popular culture. Through meticulous research and insightful analysis, Purohit unveils a compelling narrative that delves into the significant influence of pop stars within the Hindutva movement. The book navigates through the historical evolution of Hindutva and skillfully dissects how it has permeated various facets of society, including the entertainment industry. Purohit artfully illustrates the symbiotic relationship between influential pop icons and the propagation of Hindutva ideology, unraveling the ways in which these figures have either consciously or inadvertently contributed to shaping societal perceptions.

The book is divided into three major parts. Part one is titled "Killer Beats, Poison-Laced Words: Kavi Singh". Kavi is a Hindutva pop star blazing her way through the country, creating songs that echo some of the core beliefs of Hindu nationalism. Kavi is convinced that the country's Muslim population is conspiring to execute a slow, silent coup against Hindus. In the second part, Purohit presents a chilling account of the Weaponisation of poetry by Hindutva pop stars to streamline the Hindutva ecosystem to a larger audience. In "Hum Sab Bhajapai", a narrative asserting that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the sole savior of Hindus in India is being propagated. The third part of the book focusing on Hindus engaging in a cultural war delves into a terrain fraught with complexities, where perceptions of identity, tradition, and modernity intersect. The cultural war within the Hindu community often revolves around the delicate balance between preserving age-old traditions and embracing evolving societal norms.

One of the book's strengths lies in its ability to provide a balanced perspective. Purohit doesn't merely paint a broad stroke but carefully dissects the nuances, acknowledging the complexities within this dynamic. He expertly weaves together anecdotes, interviews, and cultural references, offering readers a nuanced understanding of this intersection. The author's lucid writing style makes this complex subject accessible to a wide audience. He presents intricate ideas in a clear and engaging manner, ensuring readers, irrespective of their prior knowledge of the topic, can grasp the significance of these cultural dynamics. What sets "Hindutva Pop Stars" apart is its relevance in today's socio-political landscape. Purohit skillfully demonstrates how examining the roles of pop stars within Hindutva aids in comprehending the broader societal shifts and their impact on contemporary discourse.

However, one minor critique might be the book's focus, as some readers might expect a more expansive exploration of certain cultural aspects or specific personalities. Nevertheless, Purohit's comprehensive research compensates by providing a robust overview of the subject matter.

Hindu cultural chauvinism, often intertwined with the larger framework of Hindutva ideology, poses a significant challenge to India's pluralistic ethos. At its core, this stance propagates an exclusivist narrative that seeks to establish a hegemonic cultural identity, disregarding the rich diversity and multiplicity inherent in India's societal fabric. This chauvinistic approach tends to undermine the fundamental principles of inclusivity and tolerance that have historically been the bedrock of Indian civilization. The interweaving of ideology and popular culture, particularly in the realm of music, to propagate Hindutva poses multifaceted challenges in a country as diverse as India, which prides itself on its secular and multicultural identity.

Music, as a universal language, holds immense power to influence and shape societal narratives. When utilised as a tool to propagate a singular ideology such as Hindutva, it risks subverting the rich tapestry of India’s pluralistic ethos. By aligning popular culture, especially music, with a specific ideological agenda, it marginalises alternative expressions, silences dissenting voices, and undermines the very essence of India's diversity.  Purohit's scrutiny unveils the intricate power dynamics at play when ideology permeates popular culture, specifically through music. By dissecting the ways in which Hindutva ideology is embedded within pop music, he sheds light on the intentional molding of cultural expressions to serve political ends. This critique lays bare the manipulation of a widely consumed and influential medium, revealing how it can be harnessed to shape public perception and societal norms. 

His analysis challenges the often glossed-over narrative of cultural expression, urging readers to critically examine the underlying messages conveyed through seemingly innocuous forms of entertainment. By questioning the mixing of ideology and popular culture, Purohit prompts a re-evaluation of the narratives that seep into everyday life through music, highlighting the need for a discerning eye when consuming media that may carry ideological undercurrents. 

Beautifully crafted and delicately drawn characters, "Hindutva Pop Stars" is a thought-provoking and meticulously researched piece of work that sheds light on an often-overlooked facet of the Hindutva movement. Kunal Purohit's astute observations and in-depth analysis make this book a valuable addition to the discourse surrounding the confluence of ideology and popular culture.


The author is a researcher and a literary critic.