Just watched an interview of Anupam Roy on a bengali news channel. The interview was around his latest offering 'Second Sex' and here's what the talk was all about.
Once again, since the entire conversation was in Bengali, I've tried to share it here as well as I could understand. So please do forgive if there's some wrong interpretation.
1. Why did you create this song in English? Was this a deliberate attempt to let the song reach more audience, who are not comfortable with Bengali?
Anupam Roy: No, it wasn’t a conscious effort. I do write in English along with Bengali too, but yes, if I have written, say, 200 songs in Bengali, there will be 20 songs in English too. While I was writing this song, all these incidents were being reported, like the Delhi rape case and a few others that happened simultaneously around that time. I was constantly checking the different news reports that were coming in. And while I was checking all this on my laptop, the song just came very naturally to me. I was holding my guitar and these words just seemed to come out and flow over…’come out come out and play….’ And the rest followed.
2. Different languages have a different rhythm, different beats, something that comes naturally.
Anupam Roy: Yes, I was true to the feelings that were flowing out naturally. I always wanted to release an English song, but since this song came quite naturally in English to me, so why not this one – that was the thought. I went to the studio and recorded and everything was done with our own money. While discussing the song I mentioned that we would make the video in a simple way – there would be a mannequin who would be representing the second sex – and different people would put their own thoughts and views on her – the way we see in the case of a woman. Society tells a woman what she should wear, how she should talk, how she should behave – society tells her that only if you do all of this will you really be a proper woman.
3. 'Second Sex' – there’s a first sex and then the second sex. As women, we’ve been taught from the beginning that not just second sex, you’re the weaker sex.
Anupam Roy: Yes, that’s cause we always say it’s a man’s world. Men are the main ones responsible for everything that happens, rest everyone is ‘secondary.’ Hence the term ‘second sex’. And I’m not the first one who used this term, there’s a very famous book titled ‘Second Sex’ from where feminism kind of gained its momentum. Students of social science even have this book as part of their curriculum. And I feel the views expressed in this book are quite logical. No one is born a ‘woman’, it’s the society that shapes a woman. In the case of a man, when you’re a little boy, the biggest insult comes when you’re called ‘girlish.’ Call a boy naughty, bad, crook – it won’t hold that much of an insult as calling him ‘girlie’. And this happens from the time you’re a small boy.
4. This song hits a nerve – the part where you show the mannequin’s clothes being changed over and over again. It brings to mind the saying of Mallika Sengupta, that the 21st century woman will have a world where she can wear what she chooses. Do you think we’ve been able to reach there?
Anupam Roy: Maybe a little bit. But there are so many different opinions and thoughts on this that we’ve still not been able to reach where we should have.
5. What would you attribute that to? As a man, what do you think is limiting us reaching there? You’re saying that there are a lot of men who are coming forward now and supporting, yet why haven't we been able to reach 'there'?
Anupam Roy: As a man, I feel there’s a lot of confusion in society. If you see around, there are a lot of women too who speak against this, against what a woman is wearing. What a woman should wear and shouldn’t, I believe should best be treated as a personal choice, and no incident can occur based on what a woman is wearing. And we should stop bringing up these questions like what is she wearing, what is proper clothing, what is less clothing or decent clothing. Let everyone live the way they want to, that’s when society will function best. We shouldn’t be deciding or judging these things for others.
6. It’s commonly said that a woman is raped because of the kind of clothes she wears.
Anupam Roy: This is the basic ‘uneducated’ mentality that works in different aspects in our society. We’re still not able to flush it out of the system. For a machine to work smoothly, it needs to be cleaned and oiled. I think that for our society to operate smoothly, we need to remove such dirty and uneducated mindset as soon as possible. Only then will our society work like a well-oiled machine. Then these questions will never arise after a rape – what was she wearing. ‘What was she wearing’ should probably be the last question on anyone’s mind, or, rather, not arise at all. This is the main idea behind the song – how can you have such questions. The entire question changes the entire idea behind a rape. The entire blame ends up falling on the woman, who is actually the victim here. What she wears cannot make rape logical. The woman may even be a prostitute, a sex-worker, but rape is a rape. There can be no reasoning behind a rape based on what the woman is wearing, what she does as a profession, what she said or did. That’s what we are trying to make people understand. See, we create a song, but I can’t claim to change the society. We are not protesting here. This is only our viewpoint that we are keeping across. We believe that all this negative mindset needs to change.
There’s one thought that ‘she’s not your mother, she’s not your sister.’ Whenever there’s a case like this, people immediately say – don’t you have a mother or sister at home? I’m quite against such ideas, that if you have a mother, sister or daughter at home then you can’t commit a rape but if you don’t, then you can. This shows that a woman’s identity is being jeopardized – her identity is still based on her different roles in relation to a man. She has to be someone’s mother, sister or daughter to be given that respect that’s due to her, otherwise she has no identity. There’s no independence for her anywhere. Her identity is being tied to that of the man. And she’s automatically made the ‘second sex.’
7. For quite some time now, whether it’s cinema, literature, novel, poetry, music, anywhere, there’s a conscious effort to give a woman her identity. And this has been going on for ages, years after years, for decades. But there’s no progress really, we’re not being able to reach up there.
Anupam Roy: That’s because of the society itself. If you see any movie poster today, you’ll see a well-built hero, flexing his muscles, being the main focus of the entire visual, and there, behind him, a young woman, who’s actually the heroine mind you, is standing behind him, wrapped around him. It gives the idea that the film will work for the hero and not for the heroine. The woman here is shown merely as arm-candy. The audience looks up to the poster and admires the hero’s muscles and that’s about it. It’s the man’s strength that’s being shown here – his strength in the movie, his strength in the house and society. And that’s where we are lagging behind.
8. How did the entire idea of making a video come up?
Anupam Roy: This song is an attempt, a way to bring out my point of view. There was no financial or business interest behind this, I had no label. The main idea was to reach out to people. Audience reacts best to visual medium, it’s easier for them to connect. And what best if it can be done on a zero budget, like pooling in your own resources. So we definitely got in touch with friends and acquaintances. And everyone came forward to help in many different ways of their own will. We were all like part of a family, my band is like my own family, and it was with a lot of love and belief that the recording went through the night, the cameraman, the lights and different concepts – no one got paid for anything. The person who helped us by letting us use his home for the shoot also contributed a lot. Everyone – from friends, family, relatives and even friends of friends – everyone came out and helped immensely. So many people acted in the video and as we passed on the word, someone’s mother, someone’s aunt, someone’s sister, everyone came forward without any complaint and with love.
9. So you agree you have a lot of well wishers?
Anupam Roy: Yes, definitely, I am getting aware of it every moment now.
10. The media now is changing a lot. You made this video and released it on YouTube. As a musician, how do you react to this? Youtube launch – how do you view this?
Anupam Roy: It’s free. I had no backup for this video, so I definitely had an interest in it to be released free. My main aim is to let the video reach out to as many people as I could and it was the best medium for this. We uploaded it on YouTube and those who wanted to watch it did watch. The aim was something like this. The moment we launched the video on YouTube, within 2-3 days there was a big hype around the entire thing and there was a lot of curiosity everywhere – what the song is about, what’s happening in the video. I’m glad it could reach as many people as I thought it would, maybe even more.
11. Word selection has been one of your biggest assets.
Anupam Roy: Every musician, every poet has to have a way of expressing their feelings, I believe this is mine.
12. Whenever a woman tries to come forth with her views she faces a ban, a restriction from society that tells her what she can or cannot say. What do you have to say on this.
Anupam Roy: I don’t support moral policing or ‘banning’ something as such. You should be free to do what you feel like, others have no right to come and tell you what you should be doing, how you should dress, what you should feel or talk about. It’s no one’s business but yours and yours alone. So I definitely don’t support moral policing, and society telling a woman what she should do and how she should lead her life.