Actor Ishaan Khatter has said that a lot of people have formed opinions about the Khaali Peeli song controversy ‘out of context’. A song from the film, previously titled Beyonce Sharma Jayegi, was put under the spotlight for lyrics that many claimed had racist undertones.
Ishaan said that while he hasn’t met the lyricists personally, he can vouch for the fact that none of the filmmakers ‘have a racist bone in their body’. Beyonce Sharma Jayegi, composed by Vishal-Shekhar, sung by Nakash Aziz and Neeti Mohan, featuring lyrics by Kumaar and Raj Shekhar, has undergone two title changes because of the backlash. It was first rechristened to Beyonse Sharma Jayegi, and then to Duniya Sharma Jayegi. ‘Goriya’ literally translates to ‘fair-skinned girl’.
“The word ‘gori’ has been taken out of context, as I understand it,” Ishaan said in an interview to Film Companion. He added, “I have asked a lot of questions to people from rural areas, who’ve clarified that ‘gori’ has been used in multiple songs, for ages, as just referencing a girl. Like you’d say ‘launda’ or ‘chhora’, you also say ‘gori’, and that is the context in which it was used.”
He continued, “It was never meant to be about the complexion, let alone race. As for Beyonce, for this ‘tapori’ character, his biggest reference for somebody beautiful, and stylish and iconic is Beyonce. If anything, it’s flattering. That’s why he goes so far as even to compare this girl he’s trying to woo to Beyonce, because he’s trying to flatter her.”
Ishaan admitted that he’s glad that this has allowed for a conversation around things such as ‘colourism and racism’, as ‘these are important things to discuss’. But, he added, it’s also important to take things in context.
Also read: Khaali Peeli director says Beyonce Sharma Jayegi not racist: ‘Goriya has been used in Indian songs to address a girl’
Previously, director Maqbool Khan had said in a statement, “First, without any hesitation or excuses we want to apologise to anyone offended. We assure you that the lyric in question was never intended racially. In fact, the term ‘goriya’ 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 the literal manner. Also the comparison with Beyonce is simply meant to be a street-smart guy flattering a girl who is trying to impress that her dancing/performance is worth comparing to even Beyonce who we all see as the final word, the epitome of talent, beauty, performance, style and attitude. We are all huge fans, and there was never any question of disrespect.”
Khaali Peeli, also featuring Ananya Panday, is slated for an October 2 release on the newly launched Zee Plex pay-per-view service. Ishaan will also be seen in Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy, expected to release on Netflix late October.
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