West Bengal based NGO, Aatmadeep has lodged an FIR against Bollywood Singer Badshah, the director and producer of pop song Genda Phool, and record label Sony Music.
The video of the song featuring Jacqueline Fernandez was released last week. Despite amassing numerous views, the song soon started to gather negative reactions. As the remake of a Bengali folk song, Jacqueline performs the holy dhunuchi aarti in a pooja mandap which is a regular and significant part of Bengal’s Durga pooja. The traditional dhunuchi dance holds great religious and cultural significance for Bengali Hindus.
In the song Genda Phool, the dhunuchi naach performer, dressed in traditional white saree with a broad red border, a staple of Bengali women during the poojas, acts more as a seductress in a bar, than a devotee in a mandap. The choreography involves obscene steps and gesturing that is unfit to be performed in a Durga pooja mandap, which is the the setting for the picturization of the pop song.
Several Bengali Hindus have objected to the sacrilege of Hindu religion and cultural appropriation in the song. Many looked at it as sexualizing Bengali women in a disrespectful way, with a woman performing the Dhunuchi aarti being presented as a sexual object. Many also took offense to the tone-deaf picturization of the music video.
Prasun Maitra, a social activist who runs the NGO Aatmadeep, questioned the derogatory depiction of Bengali women in the said music video and demanded an unconditional apology from singer Badshah.
Dear @Its_Badshah, in your latest #GendaPhool song you’ve depicted Bengali women & traditional Aarti before Maa Durga in a very vulgar way. Such depiction is an insult to Bengali community. @Aatmadeep_ wants you to tender an unconditional apology else we’ll initiate legal action.
— Prasun Maitra(প্রসূন মৈত্র) (@prasunmaitra) April 1, 2020
Having waited for 3 day and after receiving no responses from the singer’s end, Maitra lodged a formal complaint with the Officer in Charge at Bizpore Police Station under the jurisdiction of Barrackpore Police commissionerate. In the FIR, charges of hurting Bengali cultural and Hindu religious sentiments, and provoking communal tension have been leveled against singer Badshah, the director Sneha Shetty Kohli, producer and record label Sony Music India.
This is not the first time the song has found itself amidst controversy since its release on March 26th. Charges of plagiarism had haunted the artists from day 1, and netizens had demanded that the folk singer Ratan Kahar be credited for the song. When the media reached out to the folk singer, he said, “if people are dishonest, what can I do” adding that he doesn’t have resources to file a case in court. On the other hand, Payal Dev, the co-singer with Badshah in the pop version, refuted allegations of plagiarism claiming that it is a folk song and no one has any rights those.
For far too long, Bollywood and the TV/music ‘entertainment’ industry has taken liberties with Hindu culture and religion – distorting profound cultural and Dharmic themes to sell their products through crass commercialization. It is time that a clear message is sent to this cabal.
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