Unraveling "Gandi Baat": Popular Bollywood culture needs to embrace responsible storytelling, eschew misogyny

"Gandi Baat" serves as a microcosm of a larger issue within popular culture, normalizing the silencing of female voices and perpetuating harmful behaviors. 

Ribhya Dhirasaria Mar 13, 2024
Representational Photo

The intersection of music, particularly Bollywood songs, and culture, forms a dynamic and influential nexus that shapes and reflects societal values, norms, and identities. Music, as a universal language, holds the power to transcend boundaries and resonate with diverse audiences. Bollywood's vibrant melodies have long pulsated with stories of love, loss, and triumph. In the vibrant tapestry of Bollywood songs, where melodies intertwine with societal values, the catchy beats of "Gandi Baat", a popular music video that is being much heard and talked abouthowever, reveal a disconcerting clash between music and misogyny. Beyond its surface allure lies a festering wound within Bollywood's musical narrative: the detrimental portrayal of gender and a blatant disregard for consent. 

Through a feminist lens and ethical considerations, we delve into the toxic lyrics, visuals, and choreography, unraveling the insidious messages woven into the fabric of "Gandi Baat." This deconstruction, however, is not merely an academic exercise; it is a conscious effort to avoid amplifying harmful content. Instead, we use "Gandi Baat" as a springboard for a broader discussion about the societal consequences of such portrayals within Bollywood's cultural ecosystem.

Music as a weapon: Deconstructing harmful lyrics

The song's lyrics wield language as a weapon, reducing women to objects of desire and romanticizing persistent advances in the face of silence (Johnson, Adams et al., 1995; Anderson et al., 2003). Objectification Theory reveals the repercussions of media's recurrent sexual objectification, fostering internalized self-objectification among women (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Exposure to such content, as seen in "Gandi Baat," correlates with acceptance of hostile cognition, potentially contributing to real-world violence (Johnson et al., 1995).

Visual reinforcement of power imbalances

Delving beyond words and sound, we scrutinize the captivating visuals and costume choices, exposing how they visually reinforce power imbalances and objectification within the narrative (Mishra, 2021). Laura Mulvey's "Male Gaze" theory highlights how the camera adopts a perspective that objectifies women, reducing them to visual pleasure for the male audience (Narayanan, 2022). The lyrics and visuals align, concentrating on male desires and reinforcing harmful perceptions of female passivity.

Power dynamics and patriarchal control

Bell Hook's theory of the "Patriarchal Gaze" emphasizes the favoring of male perspectives, with women subjected to constant scrutiny and control. "Gandi Baat" reinforces this structure, depicting a male character embodying dominance and entitlement, dictating terms of interaction and normalizing male control over women's desires and autonomy.

The male character embodies dominance and entitlement, dictating the terms of interaction through lines like "Tu chahe na mane, main karunga tera intezaar." This reinforces the patriarchal structure where women's desires and autonomy are disregarded, normalising male control and female submission.

Hegemonic masculinity and toxic behaviors

Raewyn Connell's theory of Hegemonic Masculinity exposes a narrow definition of manhood that normalizes toxic behaviors. The song's narrative aligns with this, portraying aggression, dominance, and disregard for consent as essential to being "masculine."

The lines "Tu ne bhav nhi diya re" and "Khali peeli 18 cup chai bhi to piya re" suggest a power dynamic where the man feels neglected or disregarded, leading to his actions. This narrative of seeking attention and resorting to stalking as a response to perceived rejection reinforces traditional gender roles and power imbalances. It romanticizes the act of waiting for someone outside their home or in public spaces, implying that such behaviour is a gesture of devotion rather than a form of unwanted surveillance and harassment.

Silencing the female voice 

Judith Butler's performativity of gender theory reveals gender as a social performance. The song silences the female voice, framing aggressive advances as playful and desirable, erasing the woman's right to consent. The absence of agency perpetuates the notion of women as passive objects within a male-dominated narrative.

Female characters are constructed solely as objects of visual pleasure for the male protagonist and audience. Lyrics like "Dikhne mein thi tu Kadak" and “Gul badan” reduce her to a body, stripping her of individuality and agency.

Female consent and male entitlement

The line "Tu ne bhav nhi diya re" implies that the woman's lack of enthusiasm or rejection is simply a playful act, an obstacle to be overcome rather than a genuine response. This reinforces the harmful notion that "no" can be interpreted as a subtle "yes" or an invitation for persistence, blurring the lines of consent and potentially justifying unwanted advances.

Lines like “deal done done done” and “one to one ho gaya” are also of note here. Framing the interaction as a "deal" implies bargaining and negotiation rather than mutual agreement. This undermines the fundamental principle of consent being freely given and revocable at any time. The repetition of "done" emphasises a sense of finality, suggesting that the woman's consent is irrelevant once the "deal" is struck, regardless of her actual feelings or desires.

The phrase "one to one ho gaya" suggests exclusivity and possession, implying that the woman has become available solely for the male character.

When such portrayals are unchallenged, they can contribute to a culture where male persistence and pressure are mistaken for romantic gestures, while women's hesitation or rejection are seen as obstacles to overcome. This normalises non-consensual behaviour and can have detrimental consequences for both men and women, perpetuating a cycle of violence and objectification.

Call for responsible storytelling

 "Gandi Baat" serves as a microcosm of a larger issue within popular culture, normalizing the silencing of female voices and perpetuating pernicious behaviors. However, through deconstruction, we unveil its underlying messages and call for responsible storytelling that promotes gender equality. Artists challenging harmful tropes become agents of change, paving the way for a more equitable and respectful representation of gender in popular culture. Ultimately, "Gandi Baat" stands as a stark reminder of the need for conscious efforts to combat harmful messages and foster a culture of genuine consent in entertainment.

(The writer is an undergraduate student at Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru. Views are personal. She can be contacted at ribhyadhirasaria@gmail.com)

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