‘Tu cheez badi hai mast mast’? Try, ‘Main ladki badi hoon sakth sakth’.
College student Ravi Jaiswal’s clever subversion of the sexist lyrics from the 1994 film Mohra, didn’t just hand the reins of power to the woman, it also won him first place at the Gaana Rewrite finals.
The competition, taglined: Pen uthao aur gaana ghumao!, ran between December and mid-Jan and challenged people to change the lyrics to a sexist Bollywood song.
The finale was held at Boston Butt on Friday as part of the LIC music section co-powered by Fox Life, of the HT Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
For Snehal Velkar co-ordinator at nonprofit organisation Akshara Centre, which fights against gender discrimination, putting the campaign together was exciting.
“We got a good response; 150 entries were eligible, but each entry is a step to challenge Bollywood to change,” she said.
Winners, picked by actor and activist Rahul Bose, wove fun and fresh takes on feminism into their lyrics. Doctor Manisha Gupte’s spin on the classic ‘Na jao saiyan’ ended with ‘Main toh ladoongi’, instead of ‘Main roh padoongi’.
Psychologist Sadaf Vidha’s reworking of the hit ‘Khali peeli rokne ka nai/ tera peecha karoon to tokne ka nai’ (from Phata Poster Nikla Hero, 2013) was just as empowering. ‘Ladka-ladki baitha hai toh tokne ka nai/main aage badhoon toh rokne ka nai’.
The winning songs were performed live, to much cheering and a packed house. Nayantara Bhatkal, 26, who performed the versions, knew exactly how they affected her audience. “The first time I read them I was amused,” she said. “Later, I realised that someone had used their own experiences to change the nature of the song to mean the opposite. It was quite moving.”
The event also saw the launch of short web videos in which young women addressed sexism in the workplace, on streets and on public transport, through the changed lyrics.
College student Munib Chougle, 18, said paying attention to the words of hit songs made him see how they might be offensive to women. “I’d listen to them for fun, now I’ll stop my younger brother from playing them,” he said.
His classmate Aparna Warrier, 18, who participated in the contest, said she loved the catchy tunes of the winning numbers. “The event was amazing and we reflected on the casual sexism in cinema.”