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Songs of despair

Why should the content of a school programme be incongruent with the occasion being celebrated? Why choose a ‘Bollywood hit’ always?

Bitan Sikdar Published 20.02.23, 04:19 AM
Children perform to a Bollywood song in school.

Children perform to a Bollywood song in school. Sourced by The Telegraph

A few years ago, I was invited to a school event in Calcutta. The institute had arranged for a farewell function for its students. The students bade goodbye to their seniors by singing songs from various Hindi films — and only Hindi films. One of the songs, “Give me some sunshine”, was from the film, 3 Idiots. Its context was significant. An engineering student, who lost a year because he could not complete his ‘project’ on time, sang this song as a wish to get rid of a time-centric, target-oriented study programme. Furthermore, in the next scene, he commits suicide. What message was the school trying to give to its audience by incorporating this painfully consequential song? Was it to show the bleak future of the education system in this country? Or was it to convey the message to the outgoing students that they should be mentally prepared to put up with the hurdles that lay ahead?

Many schools across Calcutta have, of late, picked up this trend. They require songs from films — Bollywood songs — for every occasion being observed in their institutes. Why should the content of a school programme be incongruent with the occasion being celebrated? Why choose a ‘Bollywood hit’ always? Has it become the sole mode of cultural expression for students and teachers alike?


Teachers’ Day was being celebrated in a school; the students were dancing to the tune of “Radha”, a song from Student of the Year. Was this the ideal way of paying tribute to teachers? The truth is that mindless populism prevails — even in schools. Whatever is ‘popular’ must be endorsed, be it in a neighbourhood pandal or in a school.

But why is it that an unheard or non-filmy tune cannot become popular?

I once asked a school public relations executive (nowadays many schools have PRs), “Well, couldn’t you have organised the programme with anything other than these popular film songs?” She politely answered, “What to do, Sir? These are what parents want nowadays.”

I was aghast. Parents want it? But why? How is it that parents decide on the contents of a school event? Are we talking about schools or a business organisation with a special focus on its ‘stakeholders’?

What I gathered was that if schools do not keep up with the times, they are likely to lose students and, in turn, their source of remuneration.

What could be the implications of this populism? If “Ma tujhe salaam” is the only song sung to observe Independence Day, would students ever be taught to enjoy D.L. Roy’s patriotic songs or, for that matter, Nazrul’s “Karar oi louho kopat”?

A school event starts with a ‘bhajan’. Fair enough. It’s “Kanha so ja zara” from Baahubali, an outstanding composition. But then again, was it the only bhajan that had come to the minds of the organisers? Is it a bhajan at all? Have they not heard of authentic bhajans? Is that because those are not as popular?

The constriction of knowledge can lead to the impoverishment of the intellect. Keeping pace with the time doesn’t necessarily mean a mindless endorsement of all that is popular. Curating the diversity of culture is the collective responsibility of the administration and teachers.

It would be erroneous to include every school in this discussion. Convent or missionary schools remain an exception to this trend. But they are insignificant in number compared to the mushrooming neighbourhood schools.

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