“I’m going to marry her anyway,” concludes one of the chorus lines of the popular song ‘Rude’ by the band Magic. It narrates the rant of a boyfriend in love, asking his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage, and when the father refuses, he declares that he’s going to marry her anyway. The song rings with a catchy tune and easy chord progression, making it instantly popular. But for anyone listening more closely, the song is notorious for ignoring the right of consent, the girl’s voice in the song is inexistent, silenced by the loud, tall patriarchy of boyfriend and father playing tug of war with her as if she were an object–not a person with a choice.
At most parties blasting Bollywood music, the energetic beat of ‘Gandi Baat’ is a must on the dance floor, where the chorus is chanted in unison: ‘ABCD padhli bohot, thandi aahein bhar li bohot, acchi baatein kar li bohot, ab karunga tere saath, gandi baat.’ And it’s at this point where, once again, pop culture has toed the line of consent.
At this point, most readers might sigh and say the writer is being too cynical, reading too much into the lyrics, it’s just a pop song, let it go. But that’s where it gets tricky: it’s not ‘just a pop song’, it represents an important culture. Music, films, dialogues, lyrics, advertisements: we as millennials in a digital age are constantly consuming pop culture and it forms an important part of our socialisation. And when songs, both English and Hindi, begin to blur the line of consent, it’s an immediate violation of women’s safety and women’s right to say no.
The next criticism that could be thrown at me could be: but listening to that song isn’t going to make me a rapist or molester. Well, legally speaking, it could. In July of 2014, an Indian man facing trial for stalking women in Australia told the court in his defence that his actions were inspired by Bollywood movies. He said that Bollywood films had taught him that if you persist and pester a woman enough, she will fall in love with you. And the court, accepting that justification, acquitted him.
My point is simple. Pop culture is a reflection of society, and society a reflection of pop culture. And right now, that mirror looks pretty damn dirty.
Written by : Rhea Almeida