Kabir Khan’s Sneaky Subversions


Kabir Khan’s Sneaky Subversions

Illustration: Sushant Ahire


abir Khan’s 2015 blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan, was a career-defining film. The director used a Bollywood superstar as an actor and the India-Pakistan border as a muse to effectively capture the tensions between the two countries. Yet, the film’s most politically charged moment does not take place at Wagah – it arrives wrapped unsuspectingly in the lyrics of the foot-tapping “The Chicken Song,” set in the bylanes of Old Delhi. Underneath its bumbling innocence that can be enjoyed at face value, lies a plucky statement on the dietary restrictions forcefully imposed on the citizens of this country, by the government.

The lyrics of “The Chicken Song” prefigured a debate that would go on to hijack national headlines for months: The taboo of consuming meat, the futility of food being a marker of nationalism, and the rising intolerance toward people who don’t abide by the government’s diktats. Only a couple of months later, the tragic Dadri lynching – where a 52-year old Muslim man was killed on suspicion of consuming beef – took place.