The first time you listen to Vir Das’s new feminist song No Means No, it sounds very rough around the edges. The music is fine, but Das, on the vocals, sounds like a college student, minus the shyness, trying to desperately make a career in music with only a modicum of singing talent.
The lyrics are cringeworthy. It sounds like a poem, written with good intentions and structured in a poor way, being jostled around as it tries to fit into some sub-standard music.
But as the song continues, you find yourself entranced. Not because the words suddenly change to some alluring Gulzar theme. They don’t. But because the song, being energetically shouted into the mic just like a misogynist confidently throwing his sexist opinions indiscriminately at women, aptly represents the message it is trying to portray.
Performed by Vir Das’s comedy rock band Alien Chutney, No Means No is a song that mocks men who don’t understand the true meaning of consent. The band has been known to perform songs about important issues with ridiculous lyrics and a mocking quality.
The song describes how a man tends to get childish when he’s rebuked for his sexist actions towards his ‘begum’. It talks about the egocentric frustration that he feels when a woman voices her own opinions or says no to his advances. And when rejected, he is left asking the question ‘Bolo Kya Karu?’, hinting at the assumption that he somehow needs to figure out ways to get what he wants instead of just accepting the situation.
The best part about the song is probably the music video which has random millennials mouthing “tu chutiya hai”, the one pervasive (and truly appealing) line of the song. This profane phrase refers to the sexist things men tend to do on a regular basis in this country, like discouraging their wives from working because who needs two people bringing home the bacon when the man’s putting food on the table or, as the song says, “full tijori kyun zaroori”.
With the ongoing wave of comedians (or just men in general) being accused of sexual misconduct, Das’s energetic voice against harassment sounds welcome. The way he mixes the absurd song with his feisty assertiveness on stage is good to watch.
All in all, No Means No is a bad song about an even worse situation. And that’s what makes it fun to listen to.