We know what to expect from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's films by now: ostentatious sets, a trip to the old, glorious India; and a smattering of romance — usually a love triangle.
But nothing from Bhansali's filmography could prepare me for the song Pinga from his upcoming film Bajirao Mastani, starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, which was released online on Sunday.
It's not because I'm a Kannadiga who has been born and brought up in a typical Puneri household. It is not because I lived in one of the seven peths (a small colony set in the heart of a city) for the most part of my life and definitely not because I am a devout fan of PL Deshpande and VP Kale.
30 seconds into the song I realised what my problem was.
Revolving around Bajirao Peshwa's two wives Kashibai (Chopra) and Mastani (Padukone), the song appears to be a celebratory spectacle meant to commemorate the occasion of Mastani wearing traditional Maharashtrian attire for the first time.
History lesson: Bajirao Peshwa's second wife, Mastani, was a Muslim court singer as well as a highly skilled warrior who often accompanied him in battle.
It was then that I realised what was missing from that song, and what was it that offended me particularly.
First of all, the tune (and lyrics) have almost been directly lifted from the old famous Marathi song Latpat, latpat tuza chalana from V Shantaram's film Amar Bhoopali (1951).
A significant chunk of Pinga has also been taken from the song Nach ga ghuma, heard in another V Shantaram classic, Chandanachi Choli Ang Ang Jali.
While I don't claim to be an expert in Maharashtrian folk art, culture or various traditional Marathi dance forms, I do know that the song Latpat Latpat... is a lavani, a dance form that is mostly focussed on erotic sentiments and double entendre. The latter, meanwhile, is a song from a mangalagauri programme, held during the Indian month of Shravan (usually around the monsoons), where women come together and pamper the newly-wed girls in the house or area or locality, singing, dancing and worshipping lord Shiva and his wife Parvati.
So what exactly is my problem, you ask? It is the blatant appropriation of two completely different things from Maharashtra and squeezing them together in a song — just 'cuz it's Maharashtrian. Oh, you know, just wear a nath, a nauvari sari, and dance to the beats of a lavani-cum-mangalagauri song. It's a little like penning lyrics to a song in a Disney film that simultaneously celebrates a baptism ceremony as well as a honeymoon.
And if I admit it, it is this offensive combination of, not only the songs that radio channels such as Aakashvani have etched deeply within Maharashtrian brains, but also the confusing choreography — from adoring gestures, sizzling moves, over-enthusiastic neck bobbing, to a final dance off (remember Dola re dola from Bhansali's version of Devdas?) that left me baffled and rather unimpressed.
It is a good thing that Thorle Bajirao isn't around, because that'd have meant starting a whole new "choreographical" intolerance debate.
P.S.: Maharashtrian women do not bob their necks like that. Seriously.
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