The Chennai Police reportedly stopped a performance of the Casteless Collective at the ongoing Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha on 27 January, as an issue was raised about the lyrics of a certain song that mentioned the word 'Modi'.
— Manasa Rao (@manasarao) January 27, 2019
The Casteless Collective, a band conceptualised by the Tamil filmmaker Pa Ranjith, was to perform seven songs at the Chennai Vizha this year. While they had sung six songs already, it was the seventh song titled 'Modi Mastan' which reportedly concerned the police.
"Everybody was enjoying the song. Nobody knew which Modi we were talking about — whether it was Nirav Modi or Lalit Modi, nobody knew. They just thought it was a nice song about people who run away with the country. So the song started and the police came and said you must not sing this song because it has the words 'Mastan' and 'Modi' in it. The song went on anyway, but finally, we stopped the song because the police were insistent and concerned that it may be inappropriate (sic)," said Chennai-based social activist Nityanand Jayaraman, who is one of the main coordinators of the event.
Jayaraman added that the organisers were not upset with the police. "They were very polite, they even allowed another song to be sung after that, which also made fun of gangsters, people who run away with the country, who divide the country. The policeman who was doing it [stopping the performance] was not hostile, he came to us saying, 'Why don’t you quieten this down?' And, if he was hostile, he would not have let us play another song. He was not hostile to the message, to the writer or whatever, so I would not really blame the policeman in this at all (sic)," said Jayaraman.
The Casteless Collective said that the word 'Modi' did feature in their song 'Modi Mastan', but it was not a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "It was just a Hindi word... There is an old Gaana song, 'Nagoor Mastan'. We basically upgraded the song to whatever it is now. With 'Modi Mastan', we are just trying to reach a wider audience," said Tenma, the music producer and the band leader of Castless Collective.
The News Minute reports that the Chennai Police did not answer any further questions when asked about what aspect of the song was 'communal'. "This is a cultural program. They asked permission (to perform) without any communal or caste-wise discrimination. That’s the basis on which they took permission," said Sub Inspector A Selvakumar to The News Minute.
Jayaraman said that he felt the reasoning used to stop the performance of the song was problematic. "In all fairness, the event had full permission. We knew that the Casteless Collective is singing, so that is not a big deal. The problem is with the whole idea of the fear of the name... You can’t mention the name 'Modi' without getting negative reactions. We are upset with all the people who are called Modi who have made the country’s atmosphere so bad," he said.
Tenma shared the Tamil lyrics of the song with Firstpost, along with their meaning. "Come here listen to my story, how I got ruined / Whatever stories you said are not true / Whatever you did, did not get executed / You are messing with all our lives for so long / You are trying to shut down other religions/ You use caste hatred to destroy it / You are changing the colour of Dr Ambedkar, putting different colour to Dr Ambedkar / You don’t know the problems of the people. You always incite fights in our streets and cities / You opened up something and it's sort of screwed up. Are these actions only for corporates? All the profits, is it only for them? / The ink which I put on my index finger has become false now (sic)." This song has been rewritten for the band by its primary lyricist, singer and rapper, Arivu.
The Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha is being organised with the objective to culturally connect North Chennai and South Chennai. Previously known as the Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha, it has been moved to North Chennai, which is the birthplace of the Gaana tradition, practised by Dalit artists. It began on 13 January and will continue till 10 February.
With inputs from Suryasarathi Bhattacharya
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Updated Date: Jan 28, 2019 12:23:33 IST