A promotional item number song from the upcoming Bollywood movie starring Ananya Pandey and Ishaan Khatter is receiving backlash online for its racist and colorist lyrics.
Although racist and colorist lyrics are no new trend in Bollywood, the most recent instance has made a global impact by singling out the Queen herself -- Beyonce.
The crux of the song which has caused controversy are the following lyrics: “Tu jo kamar yeh hilayegi / tujhe dekh ke goriya, Beyonce sharma jayegi” which roughly translates to “when you move your waist / when they look at you fair woman, Beyonce will feel shy.”
The song explicitly states that the dance moves of this fair-skinned woman will put Beyonce, one of the most talented performers in the world, to shame.
This song comes just a few months after the release of Beyonce’s visual album “Black is King” where she featured a dark-skinned, Tamil model named Sheera Ravindren in the song Brown Skin Girl.
Through this song, Beyonce created an ode to Black and Brown women who have found themselves excluded from traditional beauty standards, and chose to embrace a Tamil woman in this powerful moment of representation and celebration.
It’s no surprise that the Beyhive revolted after catching a glimpse of the song. Many netizens from India have also taken it upon themselves to personally apologize to Beyonce for the problematic lyrics.
The music video, with 118 thousand likes and 1.1 million dislikes on YouTube, is accompanied by a furious comment section filled with people voicing their opinions on the song.
The virtual backlash comes during an extremely tense and emotionally charged period for the Hindi film industry.
Since the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, the public is demanding justice for the events that lead up to his tragic end. This has furthered the ongoing nepotism debate in the industry, and many star kids (including Alia Bhatt, Sonam Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan) have been facing adverse trolling on their social media and underneath any trailers they are featured in.
This includes the trailer for Sadak 2 (which currently has 13 million dislikes), starring Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt and Aditya Roy Kapoor -- all of which have prominent family members and connections to the industry.
Many people are also discussing the many name changes that the song has endured since its launch.
Due to the fact that both Beyonce and Jay Z have trademarked their names, Zee Music Company is not allowed to include the word Beyonce in the title of the song. In turn, the company changed the spelling in the title from “Beyonce Sharma Jayegi”, to “Beyonse Sharma Jayegi”. While the song still has this title on YouTube, the title “Duniya Sharma Jayegi” (the world will feel shy) is now being used on all major streaming services.
In addition to these name changes, Maqbool Khan, the director of the film has issued an apology for the lyrics.
He suggests that the song was not meant to disrespect Beyonce in anyway, it was “simply meant to be a street-smart guy flattering a girl who is trying to impress that her dancing/performance is worth comparing to even Beyonce who we all see as the final word, the epitome of talent, beauty, performance, style, and attitude.”
He also contends that the lyrics were not intended to be racially charged.
“In fact ‘goriya’ has been so often and traditionally used in Indian songs to address a girl, that it didn’t occur to any of us to interpret it in a literal manner.”
Growing up, I can’t count the number of songs in which that word is used. This word is used in almost every commercial Bollywood song about a female love interest. Many fail to take the time to reflect every time this is included in a Hindi song.
For this reason, it could very well be true that the filmmaker did not intend for the song to be racially charged-- which is a testament to the nature of racism and colorism in the Hindi film industry.
Racism, colourism and misogyny are so deeply woven into the fabric of Bollywood, that problematic lyrics and imagery may not even be intended, yet they are still the norm. That is just how insidious these structures of oppression and injustice are.
These moments where anti-Black sentiments slip out in the Bollywood film industry reveal the subconscious thoughts that rule Bollywood.
It’s important to note that this is not just one bad song lyric. Beyonce Sharma Jayegi illuminates the pervasiveness of colorism and anti-Blackness in the industry, and among many South Asians as a whole.
It highlights how the deep-rooted idealization of whiteness has prevailed over many decades, and still continues even in light of the global Black Lives Matter movement.
While many of us may come to different conclusions on the messaging of the song one thing is for sure: Queen Bey did not deserve this.