New Delhi: Bhojpuri songs were once looked down on for their vulgarity, because they often featured double-meaning lyrics or direct sexual references. But over the last few years, crassness has given way to downright abuse, particularly those referencing mothers and sisters.
A recent example came after the suicide of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput — as the likes of actor Salman Khan and director Karan Johar began being vilified for allegedly promoting nepotism, Bhojpuri songs abusing female members of their families were released on YouTube.
Padma Bhushan-awardee singer Sharda Sinha, who sings in Bihar’s folk languages Maithili and Bhojpuri believes that “like politicians, the new boys are playing with the emotions of listeners to grab views on YouTube”.
Sinha told ThePrint: “Music has become like politics. Trending issues are exploited as much as possible. Lewd songs are made on serious issues ranging from the coronavirus outbreak to the death of Sushant. These people have no regard for the seriousness of such matters.”
Bhojpuri actor/singer and BJP MP Manoj Tiwari also believes things are going from bad to worse, and can only be improved with regulation of content on online platforms.
Autotune has ruined Bhojpuri songs
Sharda Sinha’s son Anshuman Sinha runs the Swar Sharda Art and Culture Foundation, and said autotune software has completely ruined Bhojpuri songs.
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“Since autotune is extremely cheap to buy and use, almost everyone in the Bhojpuri industry now has his own recording studio, leading to a flood of such songs,” he said.
Nirala Bidesia, journalist and part of the Bhojpuri promotion and literary development initiative called Aakhar, agreed that technology had made the songs hit the depths of obscenity.
“Songs are written in seconds to suit pre-recorded tracks. Your singing might be off, but autotune fixes it. This leads to dozens of songs being recorded every day,” Nirala said.
Lovely Sharma, who abused China with the song ‘Cheen maa******d baa’, runs one such low-cost studio in Delhi’s West Patel Nagar. He told ThePrint that in a studio like his, a song usually gets recorded for Rs 1,000 (for an existing track) to Rs 2,000 (for a new track). There are dozens of such studios in Delhi.
“This song was recorded in March 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. It was racking up views on YouTube, but was deleted after being reported. Then, someone else uploaded this song on his own channel, and since then, it has been viewed by thousands,” Sharma said.
He added that while the lockdown has hit his business, he earns Rs 40,000 in a ‘season’ when Bhojpuri songs are in great demand, such as around Holi and Chhath Puja.
Sunny Kumar, who penned the lyrics for ‘Cheen maa******d baa’, hails from Bihar’s Siwan and works as an electrician in Faridabad, Haryana. When ThePrint called him for a comment, his caller tune turned out to be a prayer to Lord Shiva — ‘Karpoor gauram karunavataram’.
Asked about the obscene lyrics he wrote, Sunny said: “Everyone was abusing China for spreading the coronavirus on social media, which gave me the idea for the song.” He added that he was not the only one penning such songs; there’s a flood of them on YouTube.
Munna Pandey, who teaches Hindi at Satyawati College in Delhi, considers the altered politics of nationalism since 2014 as a major reason for the growing trend of such songs. Pandey has done his PhD on Bhikhari Thakur, revered as the ‘Shakespeare of Bhojpuri’.
Pandey said: “The songs have kept getting worse since 2014, and the ruling BJP has given recognition to them by inducting people like Manoj Tiwari, Ravi Kishan, Pawan Singh and Kalpana Patwari, who were the pioneers of such songs.”
It’s not just a one-party problem — Pandey pointed to the appointment of Vinay Bihari as a minister in the JD(U)-led Bihar government when Jitan Ram Manjhi became CM in 2014, despite being dragged to court for penning numerous vulgar songs (he was granted bail the same year).
Pandey went on to cite films like Le Aayib Dulhaniya Pakistan Se, Pakistan mein Jai Shri Ram and Patna se Pakistan — the last of which starred Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’, who went on to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket — to illustrate his point.
Nitin Chandra, who won the National Award for the film Mithila Makhaan, also blamed nationalist politics for the proliferation of such songs.
“Not much economic, social and cultural development has taken place in the BIMARU states. These are the regions where Hindi has been imposed in the name of nationalism. Munshi Premchand’s grandson Alok Rai has described this in a book titled Hindi Nationalism.”
But Manoj Tiwari, the BJP MP for Northeast Delhi, vehemently denied allegations of politicians normalising vulgarity.
“How can you accuse me of being vulgar? It was I who turned Bhojpuri cinema into a form of family entertainment. I got a Bhojpuri film festival organised, and when my film Sasura Bada Paisewaala became a blockbuster, the value of other Bhojpuri actors also increased,” Tiwari said.
In his assessment, the problem is that “today’s boys want to become stars overnight”.
ThePrint also called Ravi Kishan, Pawan Singh, Kalpana Patwari and ‘Nirahua’ for their comments but they did not respond. This article will be updated when they do.
Migration a big factor
According to Munna Pandey, vulgarity in Bhojpuri songs started growing rapidly during the era of singers like Guddu Rangeela and Radhe Shyam Rasiya. But from double entendres and vulgarity, the nature of songs changed to outright political, and then abusive. He said Biharis’ alienation from their mother tongues was one of the reasons for these trends.
“Look at Punjab. Its people migrated to developed countries, and introduced Western musical cultures into their songs, so that even crass songs sound alright to people,” Pandey said, adding that on the flip side, Biharis migrated inside India and began distancing themselves not only from their languages but their small towns too.
Chandra, who also blamed internal migration for the poor state of Bihar’s languages, said speaking Bhojpuri is almost considered a sign of illiteracy.
“People ranging from Anurag Kashyap to Prakash Jha have never worked in Bhojpuri,” he said, adding that because of this, Bhojpuri has been left in the hands of people who are quite “communal, feudalistic as well as misogynistic”.
“Be it the coronavirus scare or the suicide of Sushant, we need women and Muslims everywhere to vent our frustration,” Chandra said.
ThePrint called up Jha and emailed Kashyap, but neither responded until the time of publishing this report.
Nirala added: “In Guddu Rangeela’s song ‘Ja Jhar Ke’, the connection between a woman and gutkha is similar to using a semi-dressed woman to sell tractors. But all this has acquired acceptance in the society. The net result is that a song like ‘Lehnga ma coronavirus ghusal baa’ (coronavirus has sneaked into the skirt) was released even before the virus really spread in India.”
Nirala said Biharis confined their daughters behind lock and key, and never allowed local women to become actors or singers. Because of this, the backbone of art got shattered in Bihar.
“Barring one or two exceptions, almost all female singers and actors are from outside Bihar. Patriarchal society has produced male heroes and singers only,” he said.
“Now, we bear the consequences.”
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