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Beyonce reference cut from Bollywood song after racist lyrics storm

Roli Srivastava

Reuters

Mumbai, India  /  Wed, September 16, 2020  /  01:02 pm
Beyonce reference cut from Bollywood song after racist lyrics storm

US singer/songwriter Beyonce arrives for the world premiere of Disney's 'The Lion King' at the Dolby theater on July 9, 2019 in Hollywood. (AFP/Robyn Beck)

A song from an upcoming Bollywood film has been rewritten after social media users criticized the original lyrics as racist for glorifying fair skin and making an inappropriate reference to Black American pop star Beyonce.

The offending lyrics, which translated as 'After looking at you fair woman, Beyonce would feel shy', featured in a song from a film called Khaali Peeli, whose director Maqbool Khan swiftly apologized.

"(The) lyric in question was never intended racially," Khan said in a statement on Monday, adding that the film's makers were huge fans of Beyonce and had not meant any disrespect.

"The term 'goriya' (fair woman in Hindi) 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 a literal manner," he added.

A new version of the song, which drops the controversial line, is now available on music streaming applications, a spokeswoman for the film said.

Read also: Bollywood faces flak for protesting racism while backing skin lightening

India's film industry is often accused of feeding the country's obsession with fair skin and bias against darker faces, and the issue drew increased scrutiny during the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year when Bollywood actors spoke up against racism.

Campaigners welcomed the criticism on Twitter over the song's lyrics. They said it was a rare challenge to Bollywood song lyrics and dialogues equating fairness with beauty that showed greater awareness about discrimination.

"The fact that Bollywood has been endorsing this trend is not new but I'm happy people have reacted. A decade ago, they wouldn't have," said Kavitha Emmanuel, founder of India's Dark Is Beautiful advocacy campaign.

"It's very sad that after so much of awareness we have a song like this today," she added, contrasting it with Beyonce's new visual album Black is King, released in July.

The album celebrates Black culture and features music videos celebrating the search for identity and Black beauty. 

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