The way partition happened was a catastrophic disaster. Too many people died in barbaric ways, too many families lost their histories and too much violence left millions bitter and aggrieved. Tons of movies and songs show these stories. Enough of our grandparents have shared their experiences with us. People get it. So it makes you wonder why the Punjabi media machine released yet another song about how tragic partition was. Because when you really think about it, Ranjit Bawa’s Lahore is one of those songs that sounds like it’s meaningful and germane but it’s actually nothing new.
Lahore is technically a quality song. Bawa’s vocals justify his well-earned success after being discovered on PTC’s Voice of Punjab Season 2. His voice is soulful and traditional but also hip enough to sing fluffy pop songs like this summer’s smash hit Jean. (And not to be ridiculous but I’ve had a crush on him for a while.)
The video for Lahore is conceptually fine. Rimpy Prince’s creativity is once again proven. He always manages to produce work just a little bit more well thought out than the average Punjabi music video. In this video a father flashes back to the events of partition while sharing his remembrances with his young son. The viewer gets to see what the father witnessed in 1947. There is fire, kidnappings, and angry Muslim mobs – the usual images you see in songs or movies about the time. Bawa’s voice cries out on behalf of all those who lost everything in 1947. Charnjit Singh’s lyrics are appropriate to the theme without being so depressing that you never want to listen to the song again.
Despite all its technical worth however, Lahore is a red herring of a song meant to distract people from the real policies and historical events that serve to oppress India’s minorities today (Government sponsored disappearances anyone?).
Let’s be real, India’s censors and the monopolistic T-Series music distribution company is okay with releasing a video/song with a Sikh guy angrily wielding a sword because he’s swinging it at Muslims. The main character even saves a crying baby from his dead Muslim mother’s arms! Apparently his moral compass draws the line at stabbing minors. Weird how no Muslim character is allowed this humanity at any point in the 5 minute long video.
Partition is a great historical event for India’s modern day media machine: it’s a time period where Hindus and Sikhs are pitted against Muslims, thus uniting Hindus and Sikhs. By directing focus on to how Muslim mobs attacked Sikhs and Hindus, we are tricked into forgetting our current problems. Our current problems have more to do with India’s Hindu majority than Punjab’s long-since pushed-out Muslims. Our current problem is that we are less than 2% of the population in a country that’s out to deny our existence, identity and history. Our current problem is not partition or Lahore, it’s everything after that. I’m not falling for it because as traumatic as the 1947 human disaster was for survivors, the Sikh struggle lies in the present not the past. This record is a technical job well done, but thematically irrelevant. 2 out of 5 stars.