Popular singer-musician Sona Mohapatra has sparked outrage in Odisha after threatening to go “full naked” in response to mounting criticism for allegedly distorting a devotional song written by 17th-century saint-poet Bhakta Salabega.
The issue also took political colours with the opposition Congress taking potshots at chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s alleged “mispronunciation” of Odia words, the same charge against Mohapatra in her rendition of 'Aahe Nila Shaila', a bhajan in praise of Lord Vishnu.
Social media users said the song was a distorted version of the original, written by the most famous Muslim devotee of Lord Jagannath, an avatar of Vishnu.
Angry Odias said the singer has “horribly mispronounced” nearly a dozen words, including the poet’s name, in the four-and-a-half-minute song and has also offended Odia sensibilities by “killing the very soul” of the devotional ditty with her “rather coarse” rendition. Some have also found fault with her attire, saying it was completely inappropriate for the religious song.
“Dear losers who are yet burning up about my foreign accent & mispronunciation of some words in an earnest enough rendition of Nila Saila, please do note that YOUR Odiya ‘accent’ while talking or singing English & Hindi, let alone your grammar & spelling skills could offend many (sic),” Mohapatra tweeted.
Dear losers who are yet burning up about my foreign accent & mispronunciation of some words in an earnest enough rendition of Nila Saila, please do note that YOUR odiya ‘accent’ while talking or singing English & Hindi, let alone your grammar & spelling skills could offend many.— SONA (@sonamohapatra) June 20, 2018
In an earlier post responding to a critical tweet, she said: “Oye, shut up you & your lot of illiterates. Have had enough of you & your moronic vomit on my timeline all of the last few days. I’ll go full naked with higher ‘hills’ & show you Chandis true colours if you don’t shut up. She doesn’t wear clothes btw. (sic)”
Oye, shut up you & your lot of illeterates. Have had enough of you & your moronic vomit on my timeline all of the last few days. I’ll go full naked with higher ‘hills’ & show you Chandis true colours if you don’t shut up. She doesn’t wear clothes btw. ðÂÂ¤ÂÂðÂÂÂÂ¾ðÂÂÂÂ´ https://t.co/4qiiAz8Wcg— SONA (@sonamohapatra) June 20, 2018
Chandi is a reference to Hindu goddess Kali, who is often depicted naked and is known for her anger.
Mohapatra, 42, has around 1.5 lakh followers on Twitter and constantly engages with her followers.
Outrage over the affront to Odia sensibilities spilled over from the streets to the media, both mainstream and social, since she uploaded the video of a stage performance in Mumbai in 2017, where she sang the song, on YouTube on Monday.
An FIR has been lodged after a right-wing group filed a police complaint and her effigy was burnt in Puri. Reams of newsprint have been consumed and heated debates aired on local TV channels on the controversy.
Mohapatra, a BTech and an MBA, had earlier courted controversy in 2015 when she sang a modern version of an iconic Odia folk song ‘Rangaboti’ in MTV’s Coke Studio.
While most people have condemned Mohapatra for her indiscretions in the latest song, a few have put up a spirited defence on her behalf, pointing to the distasteful and sexist comments made on her attire and body language.
“When non-Odia singers starting from Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar to Anuradha Paudwal, Udit Narayan and Babul Supriyo can render Odia songs with perfect diction and pronunciation, how can someone who spent the better part of her early life in Odisha commit such horrendous mispronunciations?” asks Parikshit Rout, a middle-aged resident of Bhubaneswar, the state capital.
The Congress sought to use the controversy as it ridiculed Naveen Patnaik for his failure to speak Odia even after 18 years and his “horrible mispronunciations” whenever he reads out a speech in Odia written down in the Roman script.
“Why has no one filed an FIR against the CM?” asked Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik, the newly-appointed PCC chief.