hindi film music

What women sing about in Hindi movies (hint: anything but themselves)

A female character’s personality is rarely the subject of a song in a Hindi film.

Characters in Hindi films are notoriously versatile singers and they incorporate a motley collection of things into their songs, ranging from “saree ke fall” to “selfies”. But the lyrics are considerably more imaginative when the characters are singing about themselves or each other. In Kala Chashma from the September 9 release Baar Baar Dekho, the male singer pays his female love interest a slightly dubious compliment, comparing her black eye gear to a beauty spot on her chin. She inexplicably demurs with “Main Katrina toh sohni ve” (I am more beautiful than Katrina).

Kar Gayi Chull from Kapoor and Sons features the female comparing other women to sparrows and herself to a bulbul. Questionable analogies aside, it is interesting to examine how male and female characters sing about themselves in Hindi film songs.

Play
‘Sau Aasmaan’ from ‘Baar Baar Dekho’.

A female character’s personality is rarely the subject of a song in a Hindi film. After the trend of item numbers named after women took off, female characters sang more about their bodies than their personalities, describing themselves with one demeaning metaphor after another.

Munni compared herself to Zandu Balm in Munni Badnaam Hui; Sheila declared that she was “too sexy” for any man; Chameli announced that she was serving herself to men (“Pyaar se paros loongi, toot le jara); Mary called herself Sau Takka (100%) the property of another man. Their less popular counterparts Jalebi Bai and Bably Badmash described bodies in similarly degrading ways.

This kind of lyric is not limited to item numbers. In Roy (2015), for example, the female protagonist sings “Chittiyan kalaiyaan re, oh baby tere hisse aaiyaan ve” (My fair wrists are yours).

It is not unusual for female characters to describe themselves in terms of their love for a man in Hindi songs. In songs like Kamli from Dhoom 3, or Deewaani Mastani from Bajirao Mastani, females sing about themselves, but with declarations like “Main ruthiya yaar manawangi” (I will placate my disgruntled lover) and “Nazar jo teri laagi main deewani ho gayi” (When you gaze at me, I am besotted with you). Female characters rarely sing about males in Hindi films unless it is to pledge their devotion in no uncertain terms.

Play
‘Deewaani Mastani’ from ‘Bajirao Mastani’.

On the other hand, male characters often sing about female bodies or attires in Hindi songs and rarely about their personalities. In Gabru Ready to Mingle Hai from Happy Bhaag Jaayegi, the male cannot stop raving about the DP (display picture) of the female, which quite strangely but predictably, raises his BP (blood pressure).

A lyrically interesting exception is the song Aali Re from No One Killed Jessica, which describes Rani Mukerji’s character with lines like “Temper hai bhayankar udhde cactus ki daali” (Her temper is terrible, she uproots cactus stems).

Males sing about other men far more flatteringly in Hindi films. Consider songs like Shah Ka Rutba from Agneepath and Behti Hawa Sa Thha Woh from 3 Idiots, both of which are almost obsessive odes to the personalities of the men they describe. Even the otherwise not-so-complementary Tharki Chokro from PK offers a sweet description of the titular character with words like “Pyaaro laage tu, bhoolo laage tu” (You appear lovable, you appear innocent).

Male characters don’t sing about male bodies often, though. A few rare exceptions are Aata Majhi Satakli from Singham 2, in which a man sings about how much his chest and biceps measure (“Mera sola ka tola, chiyaalis ki chaati”) and Tattad Tattad in which Ranveer Singh’s character invites people to gaze upon his body (“Ramji ki chaal dekho, aankhon ki majaal dekho)”.

Play
‘Tattad Tattad’ from ‘Bajirao Mastani’.

However, men in Hindi films describe their personalities in painstaking – and often painful – detail. Lungi Dance from Chennai Express, intended to be a tribute to the actor Rajnikanth, is a litany of self-praise. The lyrics include the male singer cavalierly suggesting that the listeners should simply look him up on Wikipedia.

In Selfie Le Le Re from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Salman Khan’s character raps about himself confidently: “Mere jaisa na hoga, chand pe na Cheen mein (There is no one like me, neither in China nor on the moon). The song is a lyrical package of the titular character’s personality, and its music often appears in the film as Bajrangi’s theme.

As more Hindi films are named after, or describe, characters that they are about, title tracks that extol the virtues of the principal characters are becoming quite common. Consider the headliner of films like Dabanng, Bhaag Mikha Bhaag, Bodyguard and more recently, Rustom. All these songs are typically smug descriptors of the male protagonist.

The lyrics of the title track of Barfi, Ala Barfi, offer a more meandering and ironic statement on Ranbir Kapoor’s character. Ghanchakkar Babu from Ghanchakkar is a quirky take on its titular character. But all these songs praise men, and more importantly, are sung by men.

Play
‘Jashn-e-Bobby’ from ‘Bobby Jasoos’.
Play

On the other hand, soundtracks of films named after their female protagonists such as Queen, Neerja and Mary Kom do not contain a similar song about their titular characters. Although the title tracks of Aisha, Bobby Jasoos and Doli ki Doli are about the personalities of the titular female protagonists, they are sung by men. Piku has a deliciously worded title track about Deepika Padukone’s character sung by Sunidhi Chauhan, but it never makes its presence felt in the film.

Hindi films are being praised for gradually including more women in their narratives and for crafting diverse female characters. But even these films seem to be several crucial miles away from a song in which a female can confidently describe herself with a line as casual as “Mere baare mein Wikipedia pe padh lo” (Just read about me on Wikipedia).

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.