8 Recent Bollywood Songs That Became Anthems of Protest

In the midst of candyfloss, Bollywood has in recent years, penned songs that have reflected turbulence in society.

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8 Recent Bollywood Songs That Became Anthems of Protest

Bollywood has more often than not been accused of taking the safe, candyfloss route when it comes to its music. Songs that sell, songs that please all sensibilities, songs that ruffle no feathers rule the roost – and usually no one complains.

But sometimes, just sometimes, our big bad industry manages to surprise us with songs written for a different purpose. Songs written in protest against societal norms, which in their own musical way, changed our thinking just a little bit.

Here’s a look at 8 such path-breakers.


1. Dhakka Laga Buka:

When Mani Ratnam’s Yuva released in 2004, it immediately arrested the collective imagination of a youth restless to change the political scenario of India. The title track ‘Dhakka Laga Buka’, catchy and peppy, became an anthem for the youth to effect change for themselves, instead of taking a backseat.

2. Ma Rewa:

‘Ma Rewa’ was made popular by the band Indian Ocean at the turn of the century. But right since the late ‘80s it was a folk song synonymous with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, against the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project. The agitation, backed over the years by celebs like Aamir Khan and Arundhati Roy, brought issues of displacement and rehabilitation into focus. With some small thanks to the song as well.


3. Bandeh:

Yet another Indian Ocean beauty, ‘Bandeh’ was picturised heart-rendingly over images of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts in the movie Black Friday. The sheer brutality of the blasts was poignantly captured by the raw lyrics of the song. Gems such as ‘Arre mandir yeh chup hai, arre masjid yeh gumsum… ibaadat thak padegi’ stand out till today.

4. Ranaji:

The songs in Anurag Kashyap’s disturbingly good Gulaal, are sharp blends of satire, folk and protest politics. The genius of Piyush Mishra’s lyrics lies in equating love with political metaphors. In one stanza, it compares love with the way the US blatantly ensconced itself in Iraq. Sample this: ‘Jaise sare aam Irak mein jaake jam gaye Uncle Sam’


5. Janta Rocks:

This song was part of Prakash Jha’s 2013 political thriller Satyagraha and needless to say packed quite the punch. The song used seemingly random objects such as cricket, Swiss banks, red beacon cars and black money stuffed in pillows to talk about rampant corruption. 

6. Mehengai Daayen Hai:

Featured in the popular movie Peepli Live which dealt with the harrowing reality of farmer suicides, the song goes ‘Hai sakhi saiyaan toh khoob hi kamaat hai mehangai dayan, khaye jaat hai’ (My husband earns a lot but the inflation ‘witch’ gobbles up everything). Instead of anger, the song uses black humour to make its point. The song also harks back to ‘Mehengayi Maar Gayi’ from Manoj Kumar’s 1974 hit film, Roti, Kapda aur Makaan.


7. Khoon Chala:

Rang de Basanti created more than one revolution when it released. The candle light march in the movie with ‘Khoon Chala’ in the background, reignited a sense of rage among audiences across the country. That single scene was believed to be instrumental in getting people on the streets to protest the injustice in the Jessica Lal murder. The song had soft, passive-aggressive lyrics - ‘badan se tapak kar, zameen se lipatkar, galiyon se raston se ubharkar, umarkar’ - and also gave rise to the now viral phenomenon of using candle light marches as a form of protest in India.

8. Give Me Some Sunshine:

Listen harder to this seemingly pleasing song from the blockbuster 3 Idiots. The lyrics go much deeper beyond the strumming on a guitar. ‘Saari umar hum mar mar ke jee liye, kuch pal to ab humein jeene do…’ speak hauntingly of the pressures that students all across India feel when they can’t match up to their parents’ expectations. Sharman Joshi’s monologue in the middle of the song about struggling to keep up with the “97 percents” is heartfelt.

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