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Bollywood’s embrace of Honey Singh

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By Danyal Razi

Honey Singh Song Satan Red EyesHe has been one of the most searched personalities online along with Shahrukh Khan and Katina Kaif in 2013 and also occupies two of the top ten trending videos of YouTube for the year that has gone by. He has been lauded as a youth icon on numerous public platforms and has senior politicians like Ms. Sheila Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, sharing the stage with him. Yeah you guessed it. It is none other than Yo Yo Honey Singh.

Yo Yo Honey Singh, whose songs have been nothing but a blatant glorification of misogyny at its crudest. Bollywood’s embrace of him has made an obscure underground rapper into a bona fide playback star. But what made Honey Singh accessible to millions were his Bollywood outings such as Cocktail’s Angrezi Beat. In a little over six years Yo Yo Honey Singh has gone from being an obscure underground rapper to a playback singer endorsed by the likes of Akshay Kumar (Khiladi 786), Ajay Devgn (Son of Sardaar), Saif Ali Khan (Cocktail), Shahrukh Khan (Chennai Express), Himesh Reshamiya (Khiladi 786, Son of Sardaar) and Pritam (Race 2) amongst others.

What kind of society do we live in if, in spite, of knowing the influence that Honey Singh could wield on the impressionable we not only don’t stop the access to his songs and lyrics but freely continue to associate with him?

We can debate whether banning a Honey Singh goes against the freedom of expression or not but we surely don’t have to support and patronise him. Mainstream Bollywood’s association with Yo Yo Honey Singh certainly adorns him with popular approval. Most of Honey Singh’s fans are still unaware of songs like Ch**t Vol. 1 and this possibly allows those who collaborate with him to declare themselves as his fans. Even the radically independent Anurag Kashyap believes that one mustn’t judge Honey Singh for his past actions. But the bigger question is that have we as a society become so shallow that we operate on ‘as long as mine is fine’ attitude? Most of those who have worked with him would say that the songs that he sung for them were clean and in any case Honey Singh’s early songs were supposed to infest the underground rap scene and never meant for public consumption.

Troubled by the revelation of Honey Singh’s past I couldn’t help but put the question about making him accountable to a select group of people whom I considered unbiased and reasonable. To my dismay I saw a reaction that I wasn’t expecting in a case I thought as cut and dry as the one at hand. In spite of suggesting options such as outright banning such songs of his, or asking him to apologize and take the content off public domain or urging filmmakers to boycott him, the reaction was different. A majority of the group consisted of women and they opined that maybe we should look within and question whether banning or boycotting in such an instance was the right thing to do as Bollywood’s mindset has been misogynist for as long as they could remember. They worried that banning Honey Singh’s songs would garner a similar response as banning an item number or a ‘Chamatkar-Balatkar’ scene or even an advertisement for Axe Deodorant. One of the filmmakers in question pondered if there would be any difference between the Taliban and those who want social exclusion of Honey Singh.

My question is if Bollywood readily gives Honey Singh a pass without questioning his earlier lyrics then are they even serious about taking up social responsibility? Let’s think about his misogynist lyrics now as opposed to our qualms about what the future might hold. Why do we even ask for a debate in a case like this? In the quest of being liberal we refuse to call a spade a spade without endlessly debating lest we come across as unreasonable people. And as such does one really need a debate to know which one is the bigger evil between a ‘Main Zandu Balm Huee’ and Honey Singh’s infamous lyrics?

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