For Chinese citizens frustrated with Covid curbs, Disco Dancer classic becomes protest song

Updated on Oct 31, 2022 02:44 PM IST

The chorus of the original song – which has music by Bappi Lahiri and is sung by Parvati Khan - when transliterated into Mandarin sounds something like “give me rice” [Jie mi]

A screengrab of a video doing rounds on Chinese social media. Netizens are grooving to 1982 classic Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja with empty vessels in their hands, and many of them wearing improvised saris, in protest against the country’s strict Covid-19 restrictions. (BY ARRANGEMENT)
A screengrab of a video doing rounds on Chinese social media. Netizens are grooving to 1982 classic Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja with empty vessels in their hands, and many of them wearing improvised saris, in protest against the country’s strict Covid-19 restrictions. (BY ARRANGEMENT)

A superhit song from a Mithun Chakraborty movie released in 1982 is being widely viewed and shared on short video platforms in China as a song of protest against the government’s strict Covid-19 restrictions.

The classic Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja from the movie Disco Dancer has become the unusual choice for citizens exasperated with lockdowns and Covid-related restrictions to voice their discontent with a song and dance.

The chorus of the original song – which has music by Bappi Lahiri and is sung by Parvati Khan - when transliterated into Mandarin sounds something like “give me rice” [Jie mi].

In Mandarin, the song is being transliterated to mean, “Give me some rice? Who can give me? I ran out of it. No need to give much rice, my family has only a few members.”

It can be interpreted as a plea from the people to the government to lift its harsh restrictions that are put in to place even when only a handful of Covid-19 cases are reported from a locality.

Various versions of the song have been viewed millions of times on social media, especially on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok.

In the videos, netizens are shown dancing to the song with empty vessels in their hands, with many of them wearing improvised saris as they sway to the rhythm.

Social media is closely monitored in China with most criticism against the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) leadership or its policies being swiftly censored.

The song, however, seems to have evaded the censors until now given its comedic nature.

Even as the rest of the world has moved on to existing with the virus, China has refused to do so, doubling down on its “zero-Covid” strategy with snap lockdowns, mass testing and strict restrictions on movement.

This has led to growing frustration among citizens across the country.

But despite people’s frustrations, it’s unlikely that the government will change its strategy any time soon against the backdrop of the rising Covid cases being reported from across the country.

At least 2,898 new Covid-19 cases were reported on mainland China on Sunday, topping 2,000 for a second consecutive day, the national health commission (NHC) said on Monday.

“We expect Beijing to maintain its zero-Covid strategy (ZCS) at least until March 2023, the lockdown situation to worsen due to the winter season and more infectious variants, export growth to slide further on a global slowdown and the property sector to deteriorate further on the lack of a comprehensive solution,” the brokerage Nomura said in a report on Monday.

At least 28 cities across China had implemented various levels of lockdown measures as of last week. According to Nomura estimates, around 207 million individuals were affected by the lockdown measures.

Reuters reported that cities in central China have drawn up plans to isolate workers fleeing to their hometowns from an assembly facility of iPhone-maker Foxconn in outbreak-hit Zhengzhou city.

“Photographs and videos circulating widely on Chinese social media since Saturday showed Foxconn workers trekking across fields in the day and along roads at night,” the Reuters report said.

The Reuters report added that in an apparent show of support, residents in the vicinity left bottled water and provisions next to major roads with signs such saying, “For Foxconn workers returning home”, according to social media posts.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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