Grow Up Bollywood! A Fun Holi Means Consent, Not Your Usual Hooliganism!

The comment bura na mano Holi hai has become slogan used to excuse the worst kind of behaviour: invading personal space, touching, defacing and groping the most inappropriate places because oops! the hand slipped.

Can we retire the ‘Bura Na Mano Holi Hai’ slogan forever? I’m talking to you, Bollywood! And the men who take their cue from it.

Bura na mano, Holi hai – don’t be offended its Holi. What does this mean? It basically means that I can do whatever I want, including intrude upon your personal space, touch you, deface you, it is up to you to not take offence. You must acquiesce, give it and resign yourself to it all. Now where have we seen this before? Countless Hindi films, the songs in particular. Check out some of the problematic songs and maybe think of the message they send out:

“Do what you want today”

Image source: This song from Darr

This song literally says this: do what you want today, embrace whoever you want. The song exhorts the viewer to touch bodies to transfer the colours (pardon the clumsy phraseology, much is lost in the translation). Apart from all the embracing and vigorous dancing in close proximity, there are some very thinly veiled sexual references with all the pelvic thrusting.

And of course a stalker that comes in, who has no concept of consent.

The trauma is real, but apparently unimportant – because Holi

Image source: This song from Mohabbatein

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The boys and the girls face off and the ‘fun’ begins. A couple of minutes into the song, the girl gestures to the boy to keep away and he responds by lifting her off her feet in a fireman’s lift. All the other boys do the same and then the boy proceeds to tell her, do what you want, I’ve coloured your whole body.

A little later in the song, we have a shy boy gain Dutch courage presumably with the help of a cannabis based beverage and proceed to do some groping of his own. But you know it’s all in good fun… just indulging a little bit of socially-approved sanskaari lust aided by some emboldening inebriation.

“Holi ke bahane”

Image source: This song from Sholay

Don’t harass me on the pretext of Holi says the struggling Hema Malini to Dharmendra’s character in this iconic Holi song from Sholay. This one more example of the popular Bollywood trope of ‘a yes hidden in her no’. Harassment and even molestation is excusable because he wants her… and secretly she wants him as well, of course. The classic ‘playing hard to get’ charge laid at the door of the ‘tease’ – a Bollywood oldie but goodie!

Numerous women have felt violated; been traumatised by the inappropriate touching and groping that songs like this have normalised over the years. Men are either unaware of this or have wilfully misunderstood. Women – and men – who don’t want to play are drawn willy-nilly into the fray. You must enjoy it or at least pretend to because otherwise you’re a bad sport at the very least.

Consent – who dat?

Image source: This song from Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani

First she picks up the hose and proceeds to douse him. He then ditches the jacket and proceeds to very vigorously colour her. The context in this particular song is, of course, that this is the strait-laced bookish girl finally breaking out and having a little fun. In fact, she is singing about why am I having so much fun. Fine so far. But then we have the guy speaking about ‘no vacancy’ looking suggestively at the woman and even rubbing his hands in anticipation. Apparently she has no business saying ‘no’ when there is no one else in her heart.

In case someone is wondering why that Holi anthem is not a part of this list – Rang Barse – the reasons are, firstly it is a song about adultery – which is consensual. Secondly it is a part of every Holi song list ever, so I left it off… boring! And even if there may be other objectionable things about it… this list was getting just too long.

Classic ‘bura na mano holi hai’

Here’s the problem – the concept of consent is blurry if not wholly absent in these songs. It is all a case of badger her till you wear her down. One cannot say no, one cannot mind because it is a festival, and enjoy it you must! The comment bura na mano Holi hai has become slogan used to excuse the worst kind of behaviour: invading personal space, touching, defacing and groping the most inappropriate places because oops! the hand slipped.

This isn’t fun, its violation. It is time to retire the slogal bura na mano Holi hai permanently. And Bollywood, you need to do better. A festival cannot continue to be an excuse to show suggestive moves and physical contact in your movies, particularly the songs. No, she doesn’t want it and there is no ‘yes’ hidden in her ‘no’.

If there is no consent, it is not sanskaari, and it very well ought not to be socially-approved. Let’s not encourage male entitlement, even impunity in the name of a festival… like it or not, what Bollywood says is impactful, so Bollywood, do better!

That said, have lovely, safe and enjoyable Holi all!

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About the Author

Reena Daruwalla

A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...

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