Gully Boy and the Bollywoodisation of “Azaadi”

Social Commentary

Gully Boy and the Bollywoodisation of “Azaadi”

Illustration: Shruti Yatam


n India, the word “azaadi” has the weight of the universe tied around its neck. Azaadi, of course, means freedom, but the manifold political heft that latches onto it makes it a word that has been violently flattened and tortuously stretched, twisted, turned, and transformed into an ideological battlefield. Here, political figures from across the spectrum come together to partake in a distortion of its meaning; a collective bastardisation in whatever way they feel fit. But all of them, without exception, will sell it to the masses as the coming of an anti-establishment revolution. They all just politely disagree on who exactly the “establishment” is.

The word revealed itself to the mainstream public consciousness (anybody in Kashmir would have the words ringing in their ears from the moment they were born) a few years ago when Kanhaiya Kumar – in what is now a seminal speech in the history of this BJP regime – listed out an array of things from which he wanted azaadi: Manuvaad, Brahmanwaad, Punjiraaj, Sanghwaad, to name a few. It hit peak popularity when Delhi-based producer Dub Sharma constructed an entire track around the azaadi chant and sent all those in colleges at the time into a serious tizzy.