Jingostan (Gully Boy)
(My personal sense is that Indian writing about Bollywood does disservice to the depth of feeling behind some its songs and stories. In posts like these, I want to add a more nuanced read of Bollywood content.)
Gully Boy was made in 2018 and came out in 2019. Jingostan, just two minutes and change long, was played more than 3 million times on Spotify across two versions — Jingostan and Jingostan Beatbox.
Other Gully Boy songs got an order of magnitude more plays than Jingostan — e.g., Apna Time Aayega was played nearly 40 million times — making Jingostan a strange choice for this analysis.
My first thought when the song Jingostan starts during the movie is that it is going to be a hyper-patriotic, India rah-rah type song.
The only clue on screen that my perception of the song did not match what it is actually trying to say is that the people on screen were doing subversive acts of petty vandalism — tagging a bus stop with graffiti and so on.
For this misdirection, I give credit to the songster who picked the word Jingostan, which sounds a lot like Hindostan — an unrepresentative name for India which ignores India’s sizeable minority population used by Islamists to belittle India’s secular polity.
Only after many subsequent , did I realize that I had completely misunderstood the song.
Far from being patriotic, it was satire in song form.
The song opens with a strong voice directing unchecked violence at unnamed enemies.
Pakdo, maaro, kaato, cheer do
Saaf suthri chamdiyo pe
Gehre gehre neel do
Catch them, beat them, tear them, turn their clear skin blue (with beatings)
Dheere dheere saare khuddar
Khud hi maan jayenge
Inke pairo ke niche ki
Dharti inse cheen lo
Eventually, even the self-respecting will accept their fate once you tear out the foundations on which their self-respect rests.
The first paragraph with these seven lines are a powerful reminder of how politicians and their militia use political violence to undermine our reliance on the rule of law and our human rights.