The popularity of Bhojpuri music has grown to reach a wide audience, both in terms of listeners and watchers. Songs, in a sense, are a means through which cultural identities may be asserted. Bhojpuri songs promote certain prejudiced natures and settings in terms of gender, caste, class, and regions, among other categories. Some of the key aspects that are prevalent in contemporary Bhojpuri songs include the overt boasting of caste identity and pride, as well as the masculine objectification of women. The majority of Bhojpuri songs are preoccupied with dominant caste settings and worldviews, with little or no reference of marginalised groups or their locations.
Coming of Caste Pride
The explicit mention of caste pride with a misogynist caste centric male gaze where other caste women are a subject to consumption because of her caste location is a recent phenomenon in Bhojpuri songs and it all started with the song ‘Pandey Ji Ka Beta Hoo’.
The romantic-action Bhojpuri movie Mai Re Mai Hamara Uhe Laiki Chahi included the song as an integral part of the soundtrack. The song sung by the principal actor, Pradeep Pandey, who utilised his own caste location to express his identity-“Pandey Ji Ka Beta Hoo” (I am the son of Pandey Ji). Aside from this, the song is a smash in the world of Bhojpuri, with 548 million views till now, which is something that not many Bhojpuri songs have been able to reach. One of the earlier song of Pradeep Pandey made him famous ‘Piyawa Ke Pahle Hamar Rahile’, the lyrics of this song narrates the masculine gaze of the protagonist in respect of the female protagonist. The song “Pandey Ji ka Beta Hoon” has characteristics of male-centric caste pride throughout its lyrics. The surname Pandey majorly denotes Brahmin caste in Hindi belt and narration of lyrics- Pandey Ji Ka Beta Hoo, Chumma Chipak ke Leta Hoo shows the masculine prowess of a male Brahmin while kissing a woman. It has been almost four years for this song in the Bhojpuri world. These years have seen a mushrooming of similar songs where the certain caste male wanted to take over the women while kissing. Some of it which are popular in the Bhojpuri world belongs majorly to the dominant caste but other caste singers are also there-Verma Ji Ka Beta Hoo, Dube Ji Ka Beta Hoo, Trivedi Ji Ka Beta Hun, Upadhyaya Ji Ka Beta Hoo, Kushwaha Ji Ka Beta Hun, Paswan Ji Ka Beta Hoo, Chamar Ji Ka Beta Hoo.
Casteism in Bhojpuri Songs
Bhojpuri songs are located in a world where caste as a category is becoming normal. This normalisation tends to make Bhojpuri world more caste, religion and male centric. This song, “Pandey Ji Ka Beta Hoo,” not only sparked a competition among other caste men singers to demonstrate their masculinity and exhibit their views for other caste women, but also sparked a disturbing string of songs in which other caste women are used to satisfy the singer’s caste pride. In the songs Yadav Ji Ki Beti Hai, Sapnawa Me Aati Hai, Yadav Ji Ki Beti Hai Rahar Me Bulati Hai, and Pandey Ji Ki Beti Sapnawa Me Aati Hai, the sexual behaviour of women from other castes is questioned, and the lavish nature of the women performers is shown. Here, the song explicitly characterises the ladies of the other caste as being bad and lacking in morals and inclined to engage in sexual activity in respect of the singer’s caste The singer’s caste is shown to have sexist attitudes against women of other castes in these songs, while the singer’s caste is shown to be eulogised in the lyrics of these songs.
A distinct narrative emerges after doing in-depth research on the songs and reading the user comments on YouTube. In this context, the songs that are exclusive to certain castes serve as a platform from which the members of one caste may voice their resentment at the members of the other caste. First, all of the songs contain a male chauvinism that is directed against the female, and second, women who belong to different castes and religions are objectified in a gendered form that is abusive. These are the two things that have become commonplace in the comments. These songs not only promote biases against other castes and communities, but they also contribute to the perpetuation of casteism. Because songs are one of the things that sets the beliefs of the general populace, it is vital to have the appropriate education and legal frameworks in place in order to retain the constitutional belief of equality.
Vikash Kumar – Presently, the author is a doctoral student at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Historical Studies. His studies centre on the representation of caste in film, the geography of visual culture, and the construction of Dalit identity.