Indian women have grown up tolerating wolf whistles and sexual slurs. Although they are derogatory, words like ‘maal’, ‘bomb’ and ‘item’ even feature in film songs. But now, the usage of the word ‘chammak challo’ can land you behind the bars. A court in Thane, Maharashtra, has held that the use of the word amounts to “insulting a woman’s modesty”, after a woman dragged a man to court for addressing her with the word. Although the man was fined with just `1, this judgement sends out a strong and clear message.
Incidentally, a hit song composed by Vishal Dadlani in the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Ra One was the first to use this word. The music director, however, doesn’t feel that anything is wrong with the track. He says, “Well, in the case of our song in Ra One, it was a husband singing to his wife. She was dancing with him and also sang along. When mutual, consensual, and within a relationship, surely a little playful teasing is permitted? Although, given our current political scenario, perhaps I should apologise now, before some lunatic files an FIR. I’m deeply sorry if anyone was offended in 2011 and waited this long to realise it.”
Lyricist Manoj Muntashir, who has written some of the most aesthetic lines in recent times, feels there is nothing wrong with calling a woman ‘chammak challo’. “It’s a harmlessly mischievous way to praise a woman’s looks. I have not met one girl in my life who feels demeaned about being called ‘chammak challo’,” says Muntashir. He feels, more than the words, it’s the intention behind them that makes all the difference.
“The offense lies in the undertone and the way they are being used. If spoken with disgrace, a neutral word like jawani sounds uncomfortable. Besides, if chammak challo is indecent, what about katto gilahri, patakha and ‘sexy’? Are these going going to be banned next?” he asks.
Muntashir feels we have become a nation of protesters. “Can we please stop being offended by anything and everything? We are a nation that celebrates beauty and looks since ancient times. Millions of pages have been written to acknowledge female charm and most of them are a part of our esteemed literature. Can we ban Padmawati where the killer looks of Rani Padmavati have been described in a graphical fashion? Every period has its own idioms and phrases. Chammak challo’ is today’s language. All said and done, I respect the court of law and accept its verdict with utmost faith in the judiciary,” he concludes.
Mind your tongue
These are a few objectionable words which have been used in films