Bhojpuri singer Chhotu Bharadwaj is only 19, and already a ‘notebandi’ sensation. He was at a recording studio in Varanasi when he heard the news about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. “My lyricist and I dropped everything and sat down to write a song about it overnight,” says Bharadwaj on the phone from Varanasi, PM Modi’s parliamentary constituency.
Modi ji Note Band Kaile was ready to be uploaded on YouTube by the time they left the studio the next morning. The song salutes Modi’s apparently singular courage in fighting corruption and black economy. “It is doom for those who have stuffed their sacks with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes,” goes one of the lines.
The song was downloaded about 30,000 times by the end of that day and notched up over 50,000 views on YouTube. The current count stands at about 5 lakh views.
Bharadwaj has been swamped with requests to perform the song at weddings across Uttar Pradesh. The teenager is happy to oblige. “At every wedding, people are asking me to sing the ‘Modi song’. They go wild dancing to it, young and old alike, actually the old more than the young.”
In spite of the cash crunch derailing lavish marriage arrangements, local-language songs lauding Modi’s vision are a rage across weddings in northern India. The reason, some of the regional singers tell HT, is Modi’s grip on public sentiment.
“The Modi wave is still sweeping through India. No matter what content you produce in his praise, people lap it up,” says Bharadwaj, who’s just released another album to seize on the popularity of the Modi paean.
This is just one of the hundreds of political songs his songwriter, Kush Lal, has written over a 10-year career. “Most of them are written on demand from politicians or supporters of political parties, like my last hit number, Dil Bole Yogi Yogi, which I wrote for Yogi Adityanath. But not this one, we wrote this to capture Modi’s fan base,” says Lal.
The songwriter has been affected by the cash chaos himself. “I had to deposit Rs 2,400 in my brother’s account for his entrance exam, but if I stood in the line, who would feed lines to the singers.”
He isn’t going to blame the prime minister for his “temporary trouble” however. “I believe that a present struggle always leads to a future gain.” The rewards are already rolling in for Lal. “I have got calls from every political party in UP-SP, BSP-to write songs for them.”
At least a dozen songs on the ‘note ban’ have hit the internet since its announcement. Modi’s ‘war on back money’ has been praised by singers in a range of languages and dialects: Hindi (Note bandi/Modi hi Modi by Rocky Mittal); Rajasthani ((Modi ji Mhara Man Bhatke by Anjali Bharghav); Haryanvi (Modi Dhamaka/black money vs Modi Sarkar by Sapna); and Bhojpuri.
Launched in the middle of a wedding season, the note ban is lucrative business for local entertainers.
Unlike Bharadwaj and Lal, who claim to be driven solely by commercial interest, Haryanvi singer Pradeep Jandli produced the song Modi ji Karya Kamaal Tanne just to express his support. It describes Modi as a “son of the nation”, a “warrior of truth” and a “man like no other”.
The song video has been viewed over 60,000 times on YouTube. Jandli has performed it at three weddings in the last week. “I felt really good about the note ban. It spelt the country’s progress for me. If Modi ji has made up his mind, people have to stand by him,” says Jandli over the phone from Gurgaon.
Jandli claims to have faced no problem concerning cash. He doesn’t believe others have, either. “I don’t think people are facing that much of a problem. It’s an image created by the media.”
The Modi fan doesn’t want to waste his time speculating about the economic repercussions of demonetisation. He is already working on his next Modi song. “It’s titled ‘ceasefire’ and it’s about the fitting response Modi is giving to our enemies across the border.”