We all have that one guilty pleasure item song that we know is extremely degrading and is problematic but you have those killer moves ready for them. I mean can a thumka really be that awful? It is just a song, right? Well, no, the objectification of particularly women should not be accepted and it is high time we start knowing, analysing and calling out the various intricacies of the media that we consume. To point out a few issues that a lot of critics & experts have specifically pointed out are: provocative dress, skin show, male gaze, objectification in terms of behaviour & appearance and more. While most of this public outrage is directed towards bollywood, I want you to think of all the outrageously vulgar regional songs that you have heard.
You can choose how to grow and when to fall but you can’t choose your roots. Indian regional languages are in the media market and it’s no news. With music platforms like Spotify, Amazon music, etc. having well curated playlists and language options ranging from Punjabi to Tamil, has increased the accessibility to these forms of media. A lot of stereotypes are imposed and are done away with because of the lack of knowledge about the language. Regional languages fail to acquire mainstream conversation and media platforms like the popular Bollywood songs.
People often use Bhojpuri music as a synonym for crass taste and the music industry has just gone down. The objectification and the use of vulgarity is unparalleled. Abusive language and sleazy lyrics often find a way in the music. Well, they too say “this is what the audience wanted”. In recent news it was observed how the Bhojpuri music industry was trendjacking the death of Sushant Singh Rajput; Hurling abuses at Rhea Chakraborty and calling out any female that was far fetched related to the case. Female family members of any person related to the case were targeted too. Some “die-hard” fans of Sushant Singh Rajput were convinced to malign Rhea’s name with a very unethical language. Media trial gone too far? Well Bhojpuri songs may have a convincing role in the whole vulgar song conversation but hold on my dear friend others are not very far in this race.
Vulgarity and Punjabi songs have a relationship from the 80s. The trend has only gone up. From region specific music to the entry of rap music, the Punjabi music industry has seen quite an evolution but how much is the role of women evolved? There have been so many commissions, articles and reports projecting the issue of such songs in the media. Still, somehow these songs make a passage to your phones, How? It is not as easy to define a sociological term and construct laws regarding it. A concept like vulgarity can not be exactly quantified. Stating it as a subjective term again raises the issue “Where do you draw the line?”. No one can neglect the increasing popularity of Punjabi songs. Also, what is up with the whole gold-digger impression of women? Not naming any artist or calling out a song because the list is huge and it does not deserve more attention.
South Indian Music & Male Gaze
While understanding this conversation and watching videos regarding the same, it was disheartening to see how all the music videos focused a lot on the male gaze. Male gaze is the projection of women in whatever form of media through a heterosexual male’s lens. There are an endless number of videos with slideshows and video clippings of a lot of South Indian women with objectionable hinting. This irresistible and oppressive gaze is not only suffocating but sets expectations which are so heavily rooted in our subconscious that we fail to tell the difference between what should be considered civilised and what is media fed.
The whole ecosystem is a vicious cycle. The societal and cultural structure and framework, the expectation setting by the audience, the expectation setting by the directors/producers, the profit margin debate and whole heteronormative fulfilling artwork. Under such pretexts, representation becomes the utmost need. Society is an unhealthy place to live in with constant pressure such as these. Turn the magnifying glass into a mirror and question what is entertainment to you and does it have the potential to objectify a particular section of the society.