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.

‘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.

‘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)”.

‘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.

‘Jashn-e-Bobby’ from ‘Bobby Jasoos’.

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 

When did we start parenting our parents?

As our parents grow older, our ‘adulting’ skills are tested like never before.

From answering every homework question to killing every monster under the bed, from soothing every wound with care to crushing anxiety by just the sound of their voice - parents understandably seemed like invincible, know-it-all superheroes all our childhood. It’s no wonder then that reality hits all of a sudden, the first time a parent falls and suffers a slip disc, or wears a thick pair of spectacles to read a restaurant menu - our parents are growing old, and older. It’s a slow process as our parents turn from superheroes to...human.

And just as slow to evolve are the dynamics of our relationship with them. Once upon a time, a peck on the cheek was a frequent ritual. As were handmade birthday cards every year from the artistically inclined, or declaring parents as ‘My Hero’ in school essays. Every parent-child duo could boast of an affectionate ritual - movie nights, cooking Sundays, reading favourite books together etc. The changed dynamic is indeed the most visible in the way we express our affection.

The affection is now expressed in more mature, more subtle ways - ways that mimics that of our own parents’ a lot. When did we start parenting our parents? Was it the first time we offered to foot the electricity bill, or drove them to the doctor, or dragged them along on a much-needed morning walk? Little did we know those innocent acts were but a start of a gradual role reversal.

In adulthood, children’s affection for their parents takes on a sense of responsibility. It includes everything from teaching them how to use smartphones effectively and contributing to family finances to tracking doctor’s appointments and ensuring medicine compliance. Worry and concern, though evidence of love, tend to largely replace old-fashioned patterns of affection between parents and children as the latter grow up.

It’s something that can be easily rectified, though. Start at the simplest - the old-fashioned peck on the cheek. When was the last time you gave your mom or dad a peck on the cheek like a spontaneous five-year-old - for no reason at all? Young parents can take their own children’s behaviour available as inspiration.

As young parents come to understand the responsibilities associated with caring for their parents, they also come to realise that they wouldn’t want their children to go through the same challenges. Creating a safe and secure environment for your family can help you strike a balance between the loving child in you and the caring, responsible adult that you are. A good life insurance plan can help families deal with unforeseen health crises by providing protection against financial loss. Having assurance of a measure of financial security for family can help ease financial tensions considerably, leaving you to focus on being a caring, affectionate child. Moreover,you can eliminate some of the worry for your children when they grow up – as the video below shows.


To learn more about life insurance plans available for your family, see here.

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