Where women are a ‘cheez’

Where women are a ‘cheez’

Bollywood thrives on songs that are sexist and offensive to women

The Indian movie industry celebrates Women’s Day with such gusto, but nobody champions sexism and misogyny worse than them.

With uni-dimensional or non-existent female characters, Bollywood is also the undisputed king when it comes to regurgitating songs that give you a step by step guide to objectifying women and laughing at the idea of consent. These are fondly nicknamed party songs or item numbers.

Sexist lyrics

Where do we even begin? From songs that gleefully describe the girl’s anatomy to those that celebrate the modern female who drives all males crazy, it’s a dirty cocktail of everything problematic.

Songs like ‘Sheher ki ladki’, ‘Chamma chamma’, ‘Sheila ki jawani’, ‘Chikni Chameli’, ‘Haye garmi’, ‘Chittiyan kalaiyan’, ‘Chhote chhote peg’, ‘Coca Cola’ and hundreds more are played at weddings, DJ nights and religious festivals without a second thought.

Then there are those that make short work of the idea of consent — if you say yes, it means yes; if you say no, it means yes!

From ‘Apun bola’ in Josh to ‘ Ek chumma’ in ‘Housefull 4’, nothing has changed — every creepy stalker who can’t take no for an answer is rewarded with the heroine’s love at the end. 

The rap gods of Hindi music, Badshah and Yo Yo Honey Singh, are doing their best to take this misogyny to newer heights.

Oh and don’t forget all the songs that compare women to every random object on earth because you know, flattery. Gone are the days when a woman was a flower or the monsoon rain, now she is anything from Fevicol, ‘Tandoori murgi’ and Zandu Balm to a fish, a bird, a phone, a high value currency note and Afghan jalebi. We can’t even... 

Skimpily clad women

It doesn’t matter if the movie is about terrorists, civic issues, politicians, relationships, college life or competition -- there has to be an item number where a scantily dressed women will gyrate, twerk and roll over the floor as men leer and lust at her.

The stated purpose is to increase the commercial appeal of the cinema and show empowered women in control of their sexuality. What it actually does is promote objectification and male dominance, allow for voyeurism, encourage rape culture and normalise harassment.

But it makes no difference to Sheila, Munni, Chameli and all others (mostly alter egos of Nora Fatehi, Katrina Kaif and Sunny Leone) who are happy to bask in the male gaze. 

Naughty gold digger

If the heroine is ‘modern’, she will smoke and drink and flirt outrageously, terming herself ‘naughty’ and irresistible to men in the song (full marks for self awareness).

But seriously, whatever happened to realistic depiction? Most ‘modern’ women want to beat the traffic after work, get home on time and go to sleep. 

Then there are the unreasonable demands these reel ladies make. Kareena wants her man to get her a house in Chandigarh (lady, you know what real estate prices are like now?), Alia wants a Prada bag before anything else (buy it yourself!) and Jacqueline Fernandez wants to be taken shopping and then for a movie (PS: Don’t go for one of your own then). Whatever happened to good ol fashioned charm and manners?

Big brother’s line

Though Bollywood has been the torchbearer, it would be unfair to say that it is the only industry which banks on women and their torsos. Punjabi songs are giving their Hindi counterparts a run for their money with songs such as ‘Naah’, ‘Suicide’ and ‘Palazzo’.

These show women as gold diggers or desirable objects who can be emotionally manipulated to give their consent - a Luv Ranjan fantasy.

Down south, Malayalam cinema negates all the strides made in the field by liberally sprinkling item numbers in movies featuring even biggies like Mohanlal and Mammooty. The most recent trend is songs with nasty lyrics insulting girls who reject men or songs oozing with sexual innuendo.

Tamil and Telugu songs are also notorious, with songs from superstars’ movies making no qualms about being cringeworthy and inappropriate. Kannada film songs of an earlier era were largely respectful of women, even if they were guilty of reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Outside of films, rappers such as Chandan Shetty aren’t great champions of the women’s cause, with lines like ‘Look, she is so fair/What packet milk does she drink?’ (Moor peg).

Some of the most problematic songs

Sheila Ki Jawani (Hindi)

Chikni Chameli (Hindi)

Chamma Chamma (Hindi)

Haye Garmi (Hindi)

Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast (Hindi)

Aval vendrada (Malayalam)

Moha Mundiri (Malayalam) 

Ayalathe Veettile (Malayalam)

Nee Enn Bittu Padam Di (Tamil)

Chupinchandey (Telugu)

Pacha Bottasi (Telugu)

Kiraaku (Telugu)

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