We are proud to feature two guest writers, Salonnii and Bidisha, on our blog, as a special treat for winning The Theory of (Summarising) Everything Competition.
Beyonce Sharma Jaayegi – Or not?
By Salonii Khemani
Jesus and Mary College
Khaali Peeli, directed by Maqbool Khan, had been all set for its release on June 12 had the coronavirus pandemic not broken out. All ready for the movie’s unveiling on 2nd October, ‘Beyonce Sharma Jayegi’ was the first song that was released as a teaser for the film. Not only did it trigger the audience, the fact that it shamelessly attacked something as fragile as someone’s skin colour spurred a controversy, to say the least. Starring Ananya Pandey and Ishaan Khatter, the song revolves around how Ananya is so “gori” that even Beyonce – an American singer and the icon Black America needs – is envious. In what world does a woman, black skinned, supremely powerful and successful get to feel insecure of a song particularly about her (or others’) skin colour?
The main hook of the song – “tujhe dekh ke goriya, Beyoncé sharma jayegi” – speaks volumes about how the song is deeply engraved with racist undertones. After George Floyd’s demise due to police brutality in United States of America, the entire world joined hands in supporting black lives. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was used by people ranging from daily workers to highly reputed actors. Seeing Bollywood compose a song about colorism was not only shocking, but the fact that the Beyonce had included Indian citizens in one of her videos made this entire situation even more fragile. Khatter and Pandey didn’t condemn this action for a very long time which led to the audience being super spiteful, and rightly so. Criticisms for the song were set out on social media. “This is just blatantly ignoring the fact how they’re glorifying fair skin (yet again) and then comparing it to Beyoncé (a black woman). This is racist,” said a Twitter user.
It’s no surprise that “fair skin” has been glorified for the longest time. With the netizens showing their dissent with the “Fair&Lovely” and support for the BLM movement was an empowering sight. However, being reduced to the levels of Bollywood where writing such lyrics comes very naturally is not something to be proud of. “The word ‘gori’ has been taken out of context, as I understand it,” Ishaan said in an interview to Film Companion.
“We did not imagine that people would think along those lines. Since ‘goriya’ is a word that has been used for ages, we were ignorant that it would result in backlash. We did not intend to offend anyone and we apologize if people were hurt. We would be the last ones to promote racism,” says Maqbool Khan.
However, there’s absolutely nothing that can’t be made right. Bollywood, as always, resorted to making a change to keep the song in the film. Faced with such criticism and slapped with claims of being racist, the main hook of the song has been officially changed to ““tera dekh ke nakhra, yeh duniya sharma jayegi.” Not only this, the song name has also been changed to “Duniya Sharma Jayegi.”
Backtracking aside, the song may appear with another title however the fundamental confirmation of their imprudence — the lyrics — are still up on all significant lyric sites just as in the metadata on streaming stages at the hour of distributing. Maqbool Khan, along with his entire team, apologized to the citizens in an interview with Hindustan Times. “There is no derogation intended – we revere beauty of global celebrity Beyoncé and don’t mean to hurt any of her fans,” he says.
From “Yeh kaali kaali aankhein, yeh gore gore gaal” to “Chittiyan Kalaiyan,” a glorication of fair skin has exist in Bollywood since time immemorial. It has been internalized to an extent of extreme ignorance. It’s high time we are made aware of problematic connotations and help each unlearn.
Bulbbul: Tale of a scourged tail
By Bidisha Barua
Mata Sundri College
Childhood, grandparents and stories of ghosts and witches. Did I just sail you through a sea of nostalgia? It’s undeniable that children across Indian cultures have been accustomed to the cultural right and wrong through the fiction of the witch haunting kids who dareth misbehave. From sleeping under a tree at night or not eating vegetables properly, we have been cautioned about the lurking presence of a supernatural woman patiently waiting for years to prey upon anyone who defies the order and invades their territory. Passed down and exalted through generations by men and women entangled in the stringent threads of patriarchy, these tales reverberate chronicles of women endowed with powers that instil fear even in the minds of men. So, was a witch merely a villain or was she the only soul who broke free from an atrocious society? Did she possess knowledge that was deemed unacceptable for a woman? Or was it a sin for her act on her own without the approval of men? Were the stories of female demons the only evidence of women paralleling the much celebrated masculine heroism in the pre-twentieth centuries?
Anvita Dutt instils dubiety about the age-long image of Chudail through Bulbbul-a period tale veiled with horror that traces the life of a child bride, Bulbbul (Tripti Dimri) married off to a rich Thakur more than twice her age. In a family of adults, comprising of her husband Indranil (Rahul Bose), his ostensibly developmentally challenged twin brother, Mahendra (also Rahul Bose) and his wife Binodini (Paoli Dam), the only consolation that Bublbbul gets is from the youngest brother, Satya (Avinash Tiwary) who keeps her occupied with exciting stories about the Chudail (subtitled as demon woman) who eagerly waits to pounce on the princess. Bulbbul develops a fondness for Satya as her only friend and confidante in a world of richly tainted callous walls.
20 years hence, Satya Thakur, an England returned lawyer, travels back to his hometown to find it haunted by a murderous and mysterious woman who allegedly took the life of many men including his brother, Mahendra. Meanwhile, Bulbbul, fanning herself with peacock feathers, presides over the mansion as the smiling, tough-headed Thakurain.
As the story unfolds, we are bombarded with revelations much more gruesome than a superficial horror story that echoe the jolting realities of an atrocious male-centric society destroying every ounce of viability and the dignity of women. Although Binodini antagonistically thrives to compete with Bulbbul, they both seem to connect with each other through their experiences as sufferers of excruciating forms of social control. Binodini’s formidable monologue on “bade ghar ke bade raaz (the secrets of the mansion)” speaks volumes about the necessary sacrifices a woman has to make to be identified with a rich and ‘reputed’ man.
The witch is powerful and insidious. The victims of her wrath are men who all have a similar record of wronging women which Satya Thakur and the rest of the village fail to uncover. It seems to be unimaginable for Satya to remotely suspect the brutal murders to be the work of a woman despite being prompted by Bulbbul multiple times.
The filmmakers have employed a commendable use of intelligently stitched symbolism which reflects throughout the movie and the title; Bulbbul, the delicate scourged tailed nightingale was a commonly caged bird of 19th century India drawing resemblance with the plight of young child brides estranged from the world and confined to impermeable fortifications of marriage.
Dutt carefully plays with vibrant colour palettes complementing the eeriness flowing throughout the movie. The gorgeously spooky night scenes characterised by the vengeance of the red moon are directed perfectly to make the viewers tighten up in their seats. Set in the colonial era of the Bengal Presidency, the movie vaguely encompasses the conflict of invading western ideas with locally held traditions. While the man gets to pursue education abroad, the woman is forced to practice widowhood. Despite their ‘progressive’ views, Indranil and Satya recite the same misogynistic beliefs which curse the society even today.
Bulbbul as a film of the horror and gothic genre, reinterprets a ubiquitous folktale. The plot seems to incline towards a questionable notion that a woman transforms into a puissant female only when she is brutally wronged and broken. Nevertheless, Tripti Dimri’s performance as the naive yet simpering, callow yet mysterious Bulbbul and the luscious settings make the film a worthwhile watch.