Bengali internet star booked for ‘vulgar’ distortion of Tagore’s songs
Kolkata Police have initiated an investigation against a Bengali internet sensation, who goes by the pseudonym of Roddur Roy, for allegedly hurting people’s sentiments by vulgar distortions of Rabindranath Tagore’s songs. Another complaint against Roy was lodged with the Hooghly district police.
His versions of ‘Tagore songs’ containing choicest of Bengali expletives recently stirred public outrage in Bengal after students of reputed schools, colleges and universities across the state were seen in viral videos singing or highlighting select parts of the distorted lyrics. His YouTube channel started in 2012 has over 17 million views and over 200,000 subscribers.
“A complaint has been received and an investigation has been initiated,” Ajay Prasad, deputy commissioner of Kolkata Police, eastern suburban division, said on Wednesday.
According to an officer at Beliaghata police station where the complaint was lodged, Roy is a New Delhi-based techie, aged in his 40s, and hails from Kolkata. The complaint has been sent to the cybercrime department of Kolkata Police for investigation.
Roy appeared unmoved by the news of the police complaints. “I’m waiting for the police but no one came,” he wrote on social media.
Roddur Roy has been making parodies of popular Tagore songs for quite a few years but the distorted version of the iconic romantic song ‘Sedin Dujone Dulechhinu Boney’ started getting noticed since November last year for the wrong reasons. Tagore’s songs, commonly known as Rabindra Sangeet, occupy a special cultural space in Bengal. Roy sang it adding expletives to the original lyrics, apart from completely changing the music composition.
In November, viral videos showed students at the annual fest of Kolkata’s South City College and a group of students inside a classroom at Sri Chaitanya College in North 24-Parganas district singing the distorted song in a chorus. A group of youth at the Eden Gardens were also seen signing the controversial song during the pink-ball cricket test match against Bangladesh.
In December, students of Visva-Bharati University, which was founded by Tagore himself, were seen cheering to the song. With time, several other videos of youth singing it were seen on social media.
However, it snowballed into a raging controversy in March after photos of alleged objectionable part of the lyrics painted with ‘Gulal’ on students bodies surfaced during the celebration of the Tagore-introduced Basanta Utasab (spring festival on the day of Doljatra) at Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University, which is part of the Tagore’s ancestral home.
Another video had students of a reputed girls’ school in Malda district signing it inside their school.
The series of events has triggered heated debates on social media and Bengali news channels on issues ranging from personal liberty versus social decency and the ‘sanctity’ of Tagore’s musical compositions. Tagore, Asia’s first Nobel Laureate, also composed India’s national anthem.
“We believe in Roddur Roy’s freedom of expression but there are limits to it and what he is doing is adversely impacting the society,” said Moidul Islam, secretary of Poschimbango Shikshak Oikya Mancha, the teachers’ organisation that lodged the police complaint in Kolkata on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the student wing of the state’s ruling party, Trinamool Congress, lodged a complaint at Serampore police station in Hooghly district.
Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, an advocate practicing in Calcutta high court said the police could book Roy under section 294 (Obscene acts and songs) of the Indian Penal Code and 67A (publishing or containing electronic content containing sexually explicit act or conduct) of the Information Technology Act.
In his video messages, Roy claims to be expressing love for Tagore’s creations in his own way. He often calls his performances, “comedy”.
Roy has self-published an English novel titled, ‘And Stella Turns a Mom’, which has been described as “a psycho-erotic journey from corporate scenario to cosmic truth”, and also a poetry collection in Bengali. In 2019, a Bengali independent publisher brought out his first novel in Bengali.
Human rights activist Ranjit Sur said policing was not the right way to deal with the situation. “The young generation is getting attracted to such things due to a lack of acceptable alternatives to the traditional cultural heritage. We need to offer the young generation with quality alternatives,” Sur said.