Beyonce reference cut from Bollywood song after racist lyrics storm

by Roli Srivastava | @Rolionaroll | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 15 September 2020 13:10 GMT

Beyonce reacts after winning the entertainer of the year award at the 50th NAACP Image Awards - Show - Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 30, 2019 REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Image Caption and Rights Information

Film’s director apologises, saying the offending lyric 'was never intended racially'

By Roli Srivastava

MUMBAI, Sept 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A song from an upcoming Bollywood film has been rewritten after social media users criticised the original lyrics as racist for glorifying fair skin and making an inappropriate reference to Black American pop star Beyonce.

The offending lyrics, which translated as 'After looking at you fair woman, Beyonce would feel shy', featured in a song from a film called Khaali Peeli, whose director Maqbool Khan swiftly apologised.

"(The) lyric in question was never intended racially," Khan said in a statement on Monday, adding that the film's makers were huge fans of Beyonce and had not meant any disrespect.

"The term 'goriya' (fair woman in Hindi) has been so often and traditionally used in Indian songs to address a girl, that it didn't occur to any of us to interpret it in a literal manner," he added.

A new version of the song, which drops the controversial line, is now available on music streaming applications, a spokeswoman for the film said.

India's film industry is often accused of feeding the country's obsession with fair skin and bias against darker faces, and the issue drew increased scrutiny during the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year when Bollywood actors spoke up against racism.

Campaigners welcomed the criticism on Twitter over the song's lyrics. They said it was a rare challenge to Bollywood song lyrics and dialogues equating fairness with beauty that showed greater awareness about discrimination.

"The fact that Bollywood has been endorsing this trend is not new but I'm happy people have reacted. A decade ago, they wouldn't have," said Kavitha Emmanuel, founder of India's Dark Is Beautiful advocacy campaign.

"It's very sad that after so much of awareness we have a song like this today," she added, contrasting it with Beyonce's new visual album Black is King, released in July.

The album celebrates Black culture and features music videos celebrating the search for identity and Black beauty.

Related stories:

Unilever to drop 'Fair & Lovely' skin lightening product name   

Skin lightening under fire as Indians seek whiter shade of pale

Actor John Boyega quits Jo Malone role after cut from Chinese ad

(Reporting by Roli Srivastava @Rolionaroll; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

We want to hear from you: what critical stories and perspectives are missing from our coverage of systemic racism around the world?

Your responses to our short survey will help shape our reporting.

You can submit your response anonymously. If you provide an email address, we may follow up with you for more information. Any information you share with us will remain strictly confidential and will be used only in accordance with our Privacy Statement.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.