A screengrab of the Jugnu challenge by Badshah on YouTube.
A screengrab of the Jugnu challenge by Badshah on YouTube.
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When not scrubbing their WhatsApp chats clean of evidence of marijuana consumption, Bollywood celebrities are dancing to Badshah’s latest song Jugnu.

Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma, Alia Bhatt, Tiger Shroff, Ayushmann Khurrana, Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra — every other A-list celebrity has found pep in the beat of the song and is making reels performing the ‘hook’ step. Thanks to them, now every other video on Indian Instagram is of people dancing to Jugnu.

Don’t get me wrong, the ‘hook’ step is pretty fun and so is the song, but this celebrity endorsement of the song doesn’t look organic at all.

The trend, apparently started by Badhshah himself, has made the song a smash hit. While this could be the first instance where celebrities have been leveraged to create a reel trend, it definitely won’t be the last.

The performance of the songs is now no longer incumbent on the movie, the star dancing to it, if it’s a Mirchi Top 10 song or has won the Filmfare song of the year award, what matters is if your song is trending on Reels. Reels is the new Billboard chart.


Also Read: How Instagram reels is a mirror to modern casteism in India


Reel trends

Songs now make a home in your head not by how many times you hear a particular track on the radio, cafes, bars or pubs, but by how many reels are made to the track you’re scrolling through on a given day.

With the short 1-minute-video format fast becoming the most snackable content online, music is becoming an integral part of meme-making. Take for example Dua Lipa’s Levitating, which has inspired many video memes. In fact, according to Billboard, the song’s rise can be largely credited to the momentum it gained on TikTok. The same can perhaps be said for Stay by Kid Laori and Justin Bieber, a song that became popular through a very famous meme format. It became such a sensation that the meme format was incorporated into a Puma ad featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan. Megan Thee Stallion’s Girl in the Hood song also kick-started the hot girl shit trend which had ruled the internet for a while.

The reel trend can be traced right back to a 2012 culture, made popular by the social networking service Vine. The platform enabled users to make six-second long videos that were a significant addition to the meme world. In fact, it also had a role in making music viral, just like Reels today. One of the most illustrious examples is the hip hop group Finatticz’s song Don’t Drop That Thun Thun, which was paired with the “Twerk” popularised by Miley Cyrus.


Also Read: Instagram is dead. Reels killed it


Bollywood’s new obsession with Jugnu

Back home, upcoming and independent music producers are resorting to making music memes into a trend online. Who can forget last year’s ‘rasode mein kaun tha’ meme by Yashraj Mukhate? Or the ‘How to make a Ritviz song in 2 minutes’ meme by Anshumann Sharma, which was shared by Ritviz himself. Both Mukhate and Sharma have flirted with the idea of assigning tunes to memes or giving funny instant remix tutorials for various artists. In fact, Yashraj Mukhate himself has become a meme, with people joking that he is trying to find an opportunity to appropriate every other meme out there.

In this article for Vice, music marketing manager Siddhanth Jain noted that song popularity via small videos had become especially popular during the lockdown. Jain also claimed that he has been looking for ways to market music through memes in an organic fashion.

For Bollywood, capitalising on Reels to make songs go viral should be an easy project. Now that dance challenges are extremely popular on the app, Bollywood’s ‘hook’ steps can shine even brighter.

Easy ‘hook’ steps have been the Hindi film industry’s ‘thing’ for a really long time, yet my memory might be failing me, but I don’t remember a recent fun ‘hook’ steps like that of ‘Beedi Jalaile’ from Omkara (2006), ‘O O jaane Jaana’ from Pyar Kiya toh Darna Kya (1998), ‘Lungi Dance’ from Chennai Express (2013) or Kaala Chashma (Remix) from Baar Baar Dekho (2017), which made people get off their chairs and dance at parties just to perform the ‘hook’ step. Maybe Jugnu can revive the Saroj Khan-style choreography and give us more delightful ‘hook’ steps to practice for shaadi sangeets.

In the meantime, be ready for more celebrity trends, endorsements et al. Reels are the new Billboards, and music producers are on their way to winning them over.

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