Ali Sethi, ‘Pasoori’ are so big that Arijit Singh looks small for trying to own it

Ali Sethi, ‘Pasoori’ are so big that Arijit Singh looks small for trying to own it

Hindi film remakes take regional songs to a wider audience but the big Bollywood singer gets the fame, not the original artiste.
29 Jun, 2023

Remixing, remaking, and ripping off is nothing new to Bollywood. Enough has been said about it — to no avail. But after listening to Arijit Singh’s version of Ali Sethi’s ‘Pasoori’, I strongly feel that the Bollywood singer and others like him should stop taking regional, especially Punjabi songs and ‘making it their own’.

Originally a Coke Studio Pakistan production, ‘Pasoori’ shot Ali Sethi and co-singer Shae Gill to global fame. It even earned Sethi a space in The New Yorker and a stage at the Coachella music festival in April 2023. The song also challenged the stereotype that Punjabi music is either vulgar or violent.

I am not sure if Arijit Singh’s ‘Pasoori Nu’ would hit any such milestone.

The outrage against ‘Pasoori Nu’ — made for Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani’s upcoming movie Satyaprem Ki Katha — is limited to how shoddy his work looks in front of Sethi’s, how the lyrics were distorted, and the beats just don’t feel right. But the larger issue is how remaking these songs is a lose-lose situation for both Singh and the regional music industry.

Singh’s claim to fame

Let’s talk about Singh first. He had a quite humble start to his career — on a reality singing show called Fame Gurukul in 2005. His claim to fame was Aashiqui 2’s blockbuster romantic songs — ‘Tum Hi Ho’, ‘Chahun Main Ya Naa’ — that defined him as a melancholic crooner. ‘Kabira’ from the 2013 movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, ‘Gerua’ from the 2015 film Dilwale, and the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) title track further cemented that image.

That Singh is extremely talented and globally renowned — he is the fourth-most followed artist on Spotify after Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, and Billie Eilish — is widely known. Then why remake songs?

This is not the first time Singh has been accused of using Punjabi music in his songs. He was accused of plagiarising his super song ‘Kesariya’ from Charkha by Lakhwinder and Pooran Wadali. In 2016, he sang the Hindi version of the Punjabi song ‘Soch’ for the Akshay Kumar movie Airlift. The original singer, Hardy Sandhu, was “upset” that Singh took his opportunity to sing for a Bollywood movie.

Disservice to smaller singers

Now, let’s come to why Singh’s remakes of Punjabi songs aren’t good for the regional music industry.

The Punjabi music (and film) industry has been accused of glorifying gun violence and making meaningless songs. They have been panned for the cringe that they serve in the name of music. But when someone, be it Sethi or Sandhu, challenges the status quo Bollywood singers like Singh take over. While they introduce it to a wider audience, they also get all the acclaim for ‘popularising’ the original song. The original singer gets acknowledged in the obscured YouTube description box.

This limits the growth of regional singers. If Bollywood wants to take advantage of popular Punjabi songs, why not ask the original singers to sing for their label or movie? If they want ‘star power’, why not include the original singer in some way?

These simple ways can help give credit where it’s due and deter big Bollywood singers from eating into the regional singers’ share of fame.

It’s only because Ali Sethi and ‘Pasoori’ are so big that Arijit Singh looks small for trying to own it. Instead of forcefully taking over the limelight from Punjabi music, why don’t you make your own songs, Arijit?

This article was originally published in The Print on June 28 and has been reproduced with permission.