Filled with chaste Punjabi expletives directed at rapper Honey Singh, his mother and sister, an audio clip by a group of girls has gone viral on YouTube. With nearly a million hits in 10 days, it may not have yet matched up to the popularity of Honey and Jazzy B’s latest song, but it ends up doing exactly what it criticises. The irony is not lost on anyone.
In the backdrop of the Delhi gangrape-murder, protests have re-ignited across Punjab against misogynist songs by the likes of Honey. And as audio remains largely out of the purview of the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), demand for a dedicated censor board has come up. But artistes and scholars call for a look within too.
The Punjab government expresses helplessness in censoring content in times of the worldwide web. “To figure out a mechanism to deal with such songs, we have held three meetings with intellectuals. But how do we check each song, keep a tab on download trends, control the Net at large?” said the state’s cultural affairs minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur, who had told HT in April that a board would be set up. The transport department has already banned “lewd” songs from being played in public buses, but the popularity shows no signs of waning.
Singer-actor Harbhajan Mann raises the larger question: “If such songs are being played at family gatherings with no one protesting, the society must take the blame.” The opinion finds support from Dr Sukhdev Singh, head of the Punjabi department at Panjab University, Chandigarh: “The feudal tendencies of our society are reflected in such art, be it about degrading women or glorifying the dominant sections like Jats. A censor board will help, but the clergy, religious and social organisations like the Akal Takht, the Arya Samaj have to step in.”
When HT contacted Avtar Singh Makkar, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), he said the issue would be on the agenda of the SGPC meeting later this month. “We have been issuing appeals against such songs,” he reminds.
Minister Phillaur, too, reiterates his promise of making a “cultural policy”. And singer Pammi Bai stresses, “The whole responsibility is in the hands of government as it has the real power.”
But singer Gurdas Maan seeks sanity from the alleged offender, “Honey Singh is a really talented musician but he is using his energy in a negative manner. He must realise that he is an idol for many.” (inputs by Navleen Lakhi)
Don’t use me as excuse: Honey Singh
On his Twitter account, Honey sought to underline that the anger may be missing the point, “They just needed an excuse and they’ve found one. CONGRATULATION!” He further wrote, “Before you blame me, blame the government for not taking action against the rapists in the first place! Don't use me as an excuse!”
He did write a more sober comment later, “I’ve admitted that my past was a wrong choice, but now I deliver completely different music.”