Yo Yo Honey Singh: The Indian student who took on 'misogynist' rapper

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Media captionRene Sharanya Verma: "People assume that I am really studious and serious"

A student in the Indian capital, Delhi, has hit back at controversial rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh with a video criticising his "misogynist" lyrics. BBC Hindi's Shalu Yadav met her.

Rene Sharanya Verma loves to write poetry, mostly about things that either inspire her or irk her.

"When I heard Honey Singh's song Blue Eyes for the first time, I got hooked to it. His songs are very catchy. But when I paid attention to the lyrics, I found it quite problematic," says Rene, a student of history at Delhi's St Stephen's College.

Blue Eyes - sung in a mix of Hindi and English - is about the rapper wooing a girl in a short dress who has "glossy lips" and a figure like a "bomb". He asks her whether she wants to go home with him or go clubbing.

Yo Yo Honey Singh is one of India's biggest music stars. His website describes him as a "rapper, music producer and actor" and the "highest paid musician in Bollywood". At "some point in time", it says, he studied music in a "prestigious" college in London.

But critics say some of his lyrics depict violence against women and rape. Two years ago a court in India ordered the Punjab government to take action against the 32-year-old rapper for singing "vulgar songs".

Some of Singh's lyrics were also widely criticised on social networking sites after the December 2012 gang rape and murder of a student in Delhi, which focused attention on India's male-dominated culture.


Rene, 20, performed her parody rap - entitled An Open letter to Honey Singh - for a group of 30-odd people at an event called Delhi Poetry Slam last week.

In her riposte, Rene rapped that she "did not look like a bomb in a small dress" and that "every woman is flawless, and don't let anybody like Honey Singh tell you otherwise".

Before she knew it, the rap had gone viral on social media and has already attracted about a million hits on You Tube.

"My aim was to challenge the culture that rationalises the narratives of sexual violence, misogyny, patriarchy and lack of women's consent. And I wanted to do it in the same style as Honey Singh's. So I expressed myself with this rap."

Rene says Indian pop music is very "restrictive and doesn't take women's identity into account".

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Image caption Yo Yo Honey Singh has been involved in controversies over the lyrics of some of his songs

"And it's not just pop music. TV adverts, Bollywood films and songs also create a normative image of women who are fair, slim and submissive. When the Indian masses consume such forms of entertainment, they also end up internalising such thoughts, which is dangerous."

Social media reaction to Rene's rap has been overwhelming, although not all of it was positive.

"There were bouquets and there were brickbats. I was called everything from a slut to a sexually frustrated woman. Some people said that I should keep my views to myself, which I thought was very funny," she says.

"I see these reactions as a bit of a reflection of our patriarchal society. But there were many people who told me that I inspired them, which was heartening."

Rene says she's not sure if rappers like Singh are a product of a conservative society or whether society's behaviour towards women is informed by their songs.

"But if I met him, I would be very polite. I'd ask him 'Hey wassup!'. Do you actually believe in the lyrics that you use in your songs?'"

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