The recent anti-rape protests in Delhi are a good enough reason to introspect on the prevalent mindset around women. Films and music play a very important role in shaping this mindset. It is in this context that I read the news item today that along with Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, Yo Yo Honey Singh was the most searched name online in 2012.
Best known for his song Angrezi Beat Te from Cocktail, Yo Yo Honey Singh has come a long way from being a mere rapper to become one of India’s biggest musical acts. Yo Yo Honey Singh has also been lauded as a Youth Icon on a public platform as seen from this video. But what’s still hidden from a majority of people is just how morally depraved the lyrics of some of his earlier songs are. One of his biggest hits is a song called Ch**t Vol. 1 (Vagina Vol. 1) which has over a million hits on YouTube. Hearing a few lines from this song was enough to make me sick but I braved myself to have a look at the lyrics in order to try and understand just how anyone could allow, and, in some cases, even justify their association with a mind that came out with such depraved and misogynist lyrics, but couldn’t come up with an answer. The lyrics are far too degenerate to even repeat here but can be freely accessed on the Internet.
Many still don’t know of Yo Yo Honey Singh’s songs like Ch**t Vol. 1 and his official website doesn’t even mention it. It’s not like Honey Singh is an overnight sensation. Ch**t Vol. 1 was released in 2009 and was his breakthrough song. His association with the likes of Akshay Kumar (Khiladi 786), Amit Trivedi & Anurag Kashyap (Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana), Himesh Reshamiya (Son of Sardaar) and Pritam & Saif Ali Khan (Cocktail) not only increases his popularity but also gives him a mainstream approval of sorts. Rather than being taken to task for such lyrics, Honey Singh has comfortably seeped into the Bollywood mainstream.
According to some sources, producer Sunil Bohra, who produced Honey Singh’s latest video Satan, has made him Bollywood’s highest paid singer by giving him Rs. 70 lacs for a single song in an upcoming film called Mastaan that reportedly features Naseeruddin Shah. Perhaps it is free speech that allows someone who came up with lyrics such as Ch***ey key baad tujhe jutey maroon (Beat you with my shoe after I f**k you) to get away with it.
What kind of society have we become that it is okay to allow such misogyny? Surely artists who portray women in such terms also need to be held responsible and taken to task?
One can’t undermine the power and social impact of cinema and music, especially Bollywood. Films and songs are such an intrinsic part of our being that many of us would readily remember popular releases of years gone. Songs, too, have played a vital role in the Indian psyche to an extent where we can’t look at them as plain entertainment as they evoke emotions ranging from patriotism to devotion. To date whenever Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo plays, it instils a sense of oneness with the nation irrespective of who hears it and where. Half a century later, the song continues to move us.
A nation’s strength can be keenly adjudged by the status the women enjoy in that country. Would it be too much to ask of filmmakers or the film industry to be an active participant in a society that is screaming for reforms when it comes to women? Filmmakers and artistes apart, each one of us has to consciously make a choice to not promote such songs, people or anything else that might promote the perception of women in a derogatory way.
Gautam Chintamani is a writer and award winning documentary filmmaker. He's currently working on the biography of Rajesh Khanna that is commissioned by Harper Collins and would come out in 2013.