Sexist Bollywood songs: I am an old soul. At least that is what people call me because even in the year 2021, I jam to classical songs and 80s superhits. The reason behind my inclination to Mehdi Hasan, Chhannu Lal Mishra, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Lucky Ali is both philosophical and logical. I will spare you the effort to read my ramblings about philosophies, past, present and change in time and get directly to the point.
I find much of Bollywood music extremely sexist and offensive. These songs feed off objectification of women and the male gaze. The maximum I can bear with these songs is the first line and then before my ears bleed and my feminism is hurt, I turn it off and push myself further into love with old classics. So here I will bring to you six Bollywood songs that I find sexist and offensive and wonder about the mindset of millions of people who enjoy them
Sexist Bollywood Songs:
1. Na Goriye
I came across this song by Hardy Sindhu just randomly on a radio when I was eagerly waiting for RJ Sayema’s Purani Jeans. And I must say that the level of sexist and offensive content of the song touched a new height. The song portrays a man complaining about a woman who would rather have him buy new shoes for her but not accept his proposal. And guess what the man replies? “If you can’t give me love, you better drown and die.” The song reinforces the stereotype that women are gold-diggers and then disrespects her consent by literally asking her to die if she can’t say yes.
Isn’t the song propagating the threat to life that women even today face if the stalker or one-side lover is not ready to accept rejection? Have we forgotten the Ballabgarh case and many such incidents in which a woman was killed just because she said NO? Then what is the point of writing such songs, playing them and tapping feet to them?
“Jahan se hona chahiye wahi se hai tu thick” The line alone is enough to show how sexist this song is. The song by Badshah and Aastha Gill features a woman enticed by a man and who expresses her love and attraction for him. And the man appreciates the woman’s “just right” body and proudly announces how toxic he is and is certainly going to break her heart. The song clearly valorises a toxic man “against whom many mothers warn their daughters”. Moreover, it also portrays the stereotype of how women always fall for the wrong man. But, why should the toxicity of the man be praised, so much that a song is written on it, rather than asking him to respect women, believe in equality and, you know, just be a kind human?
3. Tu cheez badi hai mast mast
The classic song that reduced women, their identities and bodies into “mast cheez”. To be honest, my heart broke into pieces when I got to know that this song by Udit Narayan and Kavita Krishnamurthy is a part of Hindustani Classical music as it is based on Raag Bhimpalasi. I loved Raveena Tandon grooving on the music which is unique and catchy. But the lyrics are too offensive and sexist to bear with till the end. The song is entirely about the male gaze that sexualises and objectifies women as objects of male desire whose unattainability makes them more attractive. Rather than the praise of womanhood as many listeners posit, it demeans it by viewing it from the male gaze.
Correct me if I am wrong, many women must have heard this song being sung aloud by the eve-teasers. And the discomfort that you face at that time is exactly what that song muffles and hides under catchy music. But dear composers, serving sexist lyrics under the garb of good music and beats doesn’t change their sexism. They are still offensive and perpetuate patriarchal ideologies. It only seems to be a trick to feed bitter guard with chocolate toppings, except that bitter guard is healthy, sexism isn’t. And this applies to all the songs.
4. Teri Bhabhi Khadi Hai
To be honest, I haven’t heard this song even once because the title was enough for me to understand its mess. The song, released recently and sung by Neha Kakkar, Javed-Moshin and Dev Negi, upholds a man’s ownership of a woman he loves. It is very common, and of course, cringe-worthy, how men want their girlfriends to be addressed as Bhabhi by their male friends, in fact, women themselves like it. But the ideology behind this is that the word “Bhabhi” is like a man’s stamp of ownership on a woman’s identity and body. Only he gets to walk along with her, touch her and later make decisions for her. While other men who would “obviously” want to own her, cannot do so anymore as she is already “taken”.
In films also this concept is perpetuated in the scenes where a group of men harass women and then when a hero jumps in and asks the harassers to stop, the question is “ye ladki teri kya lagti hai” It is 2021, how long will it take for people to understand that a woman isn’t a property to be owned? That a woman is an individual who has her own choices and deserves safety? Just because a woman has no man in her life doesn’t mean she is available, unsafe and vulnerable to harassment.
5. Gandi Baat
As soon as the song is mentioned, people groove to its signature step. But how many times did they realise how the song romanticises harassment? Let me just put down a part of the lyrics to make myself clear:
Raja beta banke maine jab sharafat dikhai
Tune bola hatt mawali bhaw nahi dia re,
ABCD padhli bahut
Achi baatein karli bahut,
Thandi aahein bhar li bahut
Ab karunga tere saath
Undoubtedly, “gandi baat” refers to non-consensual sexual advancements i.e. harassment. The song by Mika Singh and Kalpana Patowary normalises harassment as a way to convince a woman to fall in love with a man. This song shows the grim reality today in which women face harassment, threat and even death just because they dare to own their consent and choice and say NO. Why should such a serious concern be romanticised, mocked and danced upon? The song is a gandi baat in true sense.
6. Tu mere agal bagal hai
Another number that normalises a man’s ownership of a woman’s life, and her harassment. A part of the lyrics goes
Haan Tujhpe Right Mera
Tu Hai Delight Mera
Tera Rasta Jo Rokoon
Chaunkne Ka Nahin
Firstly, the song deems it right for the man to demand his love by hook or by crook because he owns the woman. The consent of the woman is literally overshadowed as she rarely speaks but in the video of the song it is clear that she is fed up with the stalker and her answer is No. But obviously, the stalker convinces the woman about his “true love” and their romantic love story kickstarts.
The list is still long because such songs continue to be composed, normalise patriarchy, harassment, stalking and objectify women and devalue their agency and consent. As I wrap up my article today, I am sure that the next morning I will hear these songs playing on TV, radios and whatnot. And when I dare to stop them, the answer is “Too much feminism it is! Come on, just a song!” It is exactly like the battle against patriarchy. We keep on calling out and envisioning a new day but patriarchy and misogyny are too deep-seated in our society. Almost like the favourite songs whose lyrics we can sing even when asleep! So there you go! I have made my point on why we need to stop listening to and composing such songs before we memorise its lyrics and consider its narrative as the norm.