In just 48 hours after being uploaded on YouTube, it had already notched up an incredible five lakh hits by Sunday night when it was aired on MTV. Coke Studio –MTV’s ‘Rangabati’, a re-rendering of the timeless Sambalpuri hit by Sona Mohapatra, Ram Sampath and Rituraj Mohanty is clearly a winner all the way.
But back home in Odisha, where this cult song of the 1970s originated, it was a rage and a cause for outrage in equal measure. Old timers cried ‘blasphemy’ even as Gen Next could not stop dancing to the beats of the fusion version of this super-hit number. On Facebook and Twitter, there were as many people training their guns on Messrs Sona Mohapatra & Co for what they called the ‘rape’ of a ‘classic’ as there were those defending the liberties taken with the original.
Despite the partial credit given to them in the Coke-MTV music video, the lyricist of the original Sambalpuri song Mitrabhanu Gauntia (misspelt as Guintia in the credits) and its composer Prabhudatta Pradhan have slapped legal notices on Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, Hindustan Coca Cola Holdings Pvt Ltd, singer Sona Mohapatra, musician Ram Sampath and co-singer Rituraj Mohanty seeking damages worth Rs 1 crore for alleged violation of copyright.
“Not only have they not taken permission from us; they have made mincemeat of the original song,” says Gauntia.
“It has hurt the feelings of not just me and others involved with the song, but the people of the entire area. No one has the right to fiddle with folk traditions and culture,” said Jitendriya Haripal, the folk singer who shot into national and even international fame for his rendition of the song.
Senior Bhubaneswar-based journalist Priya Ranjan Sahu, a native of Sambalpur, was perhaps speaking for many when he said; “I could only ‘see’ and not 'hear' the MTV version because it was an assault to the ears and senses. It has killed the soul, flavour, energy, sweetness and earthiness of the original.”
It is measure of the timeless quality and the foot-tapping beat of the song that even four decades after it hit the music scene, no marriage procession in Odisha is complete without the Rangabati number being played by bands - sometimes twice over - to the accompaniment of frenzied dancing by the old and young. It is the kind of song which would force even the most leaden-footed man on earth to start shaking a leg or two. No wonder its popularity soon crossed the geographical boundaries of Odisha and spread all over India. ‘Rangabati’ became mandatory fare in marriage processions in places as far off as Delhi and Mumbai.
In contrast, the MTV version has none of the verve and vivacity of the original. Repackaged as it has been for the MTV generation, the Ram Samapth-Sona Mohapatra version lacks the earthiness that made Rangabati special in the first place.
While the outrage over Rangabati was more pronounced in western Odisha where the song had its origins, what made it blasphemous for the average Odia across the state was a rather weird rendition of ‘Bande Utkala Janani’ (misspelt as ‘Jannini’), the state anthem, by Rituraj Mohanty of India’s Raw Star fame, in the third and last part of the 06:57 minute-long video.
The middle of the three-part video is a Tamil fusion song sung by rappers Tony and Rajesh. The promos dub it as ‘a beautiful, bi-lingual conversation between Sambalpuri & Tamil’ (though Sona’s rendition sounds anything but Sambalpuri). “The eternal adoration of the beloved in Rangabati is connected to the love for one's roots & mother in the Tamil Rap & finally celebrates the love for one’s motherland in Bande Utkal Janini (sic),” says the blurb.
Rituraj can’t understand what the fuss is all about. “Coke-MTV is a huge platform. It would take the song to the world at large. I just don’t understand what is wrong with the song,” he says.
But most Odias find much that is wrong with this music video. They would have perhaps forgiven the fiddling around with Rangabati since it is, at its core, a folk song, though an immensely popular one, and speaks the language of love that most songs of the genre do. It is the liberties taken with the state anthem that has got the goat of most Odias. Given the outrage it has already sparked, it is almost certain that there would be a spate of court cases seeking a ban on it in the days to come.
Beyond the court cases, however, la’ affaire Rangabati reopens the larger debate about the ethics of the ‘remix’ industry. The trend started by Gulshan Kumar in the 1990s has reached a stage where every second song – even TV jingles – is a remix. It is imperative that the debate is settled one way or the other and once and for all.
Watch the full video here:
Updated Date: Jul 06, 2015 16:11 PM