In a conversation with Film Companion Editor Anupama Chopra, actor Ishaan Khatter discussed the controversy around his film Khaali Peeli‘s ‘Beyonce Sharma Jayegi’ song which came under fire for lyrics that many claimed had racist undertones. Following the backlash, the makers of the film changed the name of the song to ‘Duniya Sharma Jayegi’.
Edited excerpt from the interview:
Anupama Chopra: Did no one from the sets of Khaali Peeli feel that the lyrics from the Beyonce song were problematic?
Ishaan Khatter: For this question I would like to keep my answer concise because the producers have put out a clarification on those lyrics. For those who don’t know, the lyrics of the song have been changed. But, because I think many people have taken the lyrics of the song out of context, I would like to clarify certain things. First of all, I have worked with these people very closely – the producers and the director. I didn’t get to meet the lyricist but I can vouch for the fact that none of these people came with an intention of underlining colourist or racist sentiments. I don’t think any of them have a racist bone in their body. But the way that it was intended is, it’s an entertaining and fun film.
The word ‘gori’ has been taken out of context is, as I understand it, and I have asked lot of questions to people who are from rural areas, domestic help and such, and they clarified that ‘gori’ has been used in multiple songs for ages now for just referencing a girl. Just like you say ‘launda’ or ‘chhora’, you also say ‘gori’ and that was the context in which it was used. Now the underline meaning and the language and the semantics that were used, that is a different conversation altogether. But it was never meant to be about the complexion, let alone race.
Also for this tapori character, his biggest reference for somebody beautiful and iconic and stylish is Beyonce. So, if anything, it is flattering. That’s why he goes as far as comparing this girl, who he’s trying to woo, with Beyonce because he is trying to flatter her. It was meant to be taken in that context. But having said that, I am glad that conversations about colourism and racism are coming to the fore. These are important things to be discussed but it is also important to understand these things in context.