From Nursery Rhymes to Party Anthems

Bollywood composers have taken the country by storm with their quirky party anthems, which seem to be a rage in this new age. However a keen observer would note the sudden interest that these composers have taken in nursery rhymes. A few examples of how the twists that have been imparted to children’s rhymes by leading composers have changed the entire outlook and meaning of the song are, Johnny Johnny (Honey Singh), Akkad Bakkad (Nucleya) and Machli Jal ki Rani (Honey Singh) etc. This article is a humble attempt by the 90’s generation to implore this new age to acknowledge the damage done and demand that the childhood, untouched by contemporary degrading practices that these rhymes stood for, be brought back to life.

It is with deep regret that the author notes how the children of this generation have quite evidently picked up the new quirky version of rhymes as opposed to the glamourless yet innocent originals. A jingle that was earlier used to teach children the virtue of honesty is now symbolic of adolescent alcoholism. Of course it doesn’t end there, what’s far worse is that there is a blatant and liberal display of the consumption of marijuana and use of tobacco too in these songs.

It is well known that display of alcoholic beverages in any manner in advertisements is strictly condemned. When such prudence is exercised for marketing or sale of alcoholic beverage itself, does it not go without saying that the culture of alcoholism should also not be promoted? These songs (apart from hurting the moral rights of the original versions) are essentially a loud way of promoting and encouraging a culture that we have for decades refrained from adopting.

Before our esteemed music industry begins their rightful protests claiming their freedom to express themselves and throw in arguments about a creator’s privilege, let us take a moment to analyze what the issue is. As John Finnis rightly points out in his article ‘Law, Morality and Sexual Orientation’ – the modern theory and practice draws a distinction not from the former’s legal arrangements, but from how the theory helps in supervising the truly private conduct of adults as well as the public realm or environment. The importance of public realm includes:

  1. the environment or public realm in which young people are educated;
  2. the context in which and by which everyone with responsibility for the wellbeing of young people is helped or hindered in assisting them to avoid bad forms of life;
  3. the milieu in which and by which all citizens are encouraged and helped, or discouraged and undermined, in their own resistance to being lured by temptation into falling away from their own aspirations to be people of integrated good character, and to be autonomous, self-controlled rather than slaves to impulse.”

This in other words means supervision of the moral, cultural and educational environment that we are made to live in and more so, that in which the children of today ought to be raised in. To an extent, government is meant to perform duties that are ancillary to those of parents. Legislations such as the helmet rule or ban on alcohol advertising are examples of government’s discharge of such duties, and it is essentially a parent who is expected to take care of the environment in which a child is brought up.

It may be argued here that these songs are (hopefully) not universal and are not of course a deliberate attempt to target the younger audience. However the ramifications of the influence of such songs are just as unacceptable in either case. The system we prescribe to today is a web of criminal and administrative laws as well as policies that seek to curtail alcoholism, especially at a(n) young (inappropriate) age. Prevalence of songs such as these is undeniably the biggest mockery that we have yet made of this system.

The beauty of these nursery rhymes is the innocence that they have for years preserved within their lines. We understand that the copyright which the original author may have possessed would have expired decades ago and that these rhymes are now free to be published in any manner and be improvised upon. Does that then mean that the inherent character of these rhymes can be perverted to showcase an altogether different picture? No. The State ought to protect children of today’s generation, as well as of the future, to remember the original embracing moral values of such rhymes. Just as we object to adverse or offensive re-characterization of mythological works or epics, or perverse depictions of the Mona Lisa despite the fact that they are eons old, we have a duty to preserve the basic and most fundamental character of every creative work be it a rhyme or an elaborate painting; because each one of these has acquired a certain meaning and such meaning has acquired certain significance over these many years of its existence.

Deepak Vaid
Senior Associate – IP
Surana & Surana International Attorneys, Chennai, India