In a year when suppressing dissent and freedom of expression has been on the rise, especially on social media, there was a pleasant rise in the number of young people taking to the stage to perform slam poetry and win the world over in the process. From Aranya Johar’s Brown girl’s guide to gender to Simar Singh’s Legal Rapist, these powerhouses of talent touched upon issues that deserved more attention, such as marital rape and atrocities that men face while dealing with the pressure of being manly, etc. Actors like Kalki Koechlin and Kunal Kapoor joined the trend too.
Here is a look at how slam poetry found its voice in 2017 and is here to stay.
* Amandeep Singh encouraged people to focus on the bright side and at the positives of life in his slam poetry stint that went viral. Titled Muskurate raho, Singh describes his lows — which include a heartbreak and then a bad phase with his father — but says that as time passes, his wounds heal and asserts that so will that of others. ‘Dosto Muskurate raho, zindagi itni bhi buri nhi,’ he says.
* Poet Gloria B took to the stage and pulled down all those who fat-shame people. In her poem, titled Damn, Girl, she describes the innumerable times she has been shamed for her weight on Tinder or otherwise and also reveals the repartee she has come up with.
* Afreen Khan, a feisty, young poet took to stage as she bravely addressed one of the most atrocious crimes prevalent in society — child sexual abuse. She spoke about the dreadful incident in a poem titled Kya Yaad Hai Aapko‘ at an open-mic session, which touched many people on the Internet once the video was uploaded.
* Diksha Bijlani, a young slam poet called out TV saas-bahu saga makers for their often regressive portrayal of women, either as villains plotting and conniving against members of their house or as unsubstantial characters wearing loud make-up and/or playing the victim card.
* Former Bigg Boss contestant Priya Malik’s slam poetry on Right To Pleasure focused on topics like consent that attained a lot of attention this year owing to the #MeToo social media movement. “Dear men, ask us about our choices/Ask us about our consent,” she says. And finally she assures women that seeking pleasure from one own’s body should not be considered wrong or clandestine.
* Slam poet Daaniyal recited an unnerving poem titled Shukr as he focused on the constant state of mind of women — that of a fear of rape and the relief that spreads through their senses when they return to their homes safe.
* In the ‘millennial’ ways of thoughts and being, the concept of love has been largely debated upon. Just like everyone trying to understand what love is, Yahya Bootwala, a young slam poet in his piece titled Shayad Wo Pyaar Nahi talks about scenarios that get people thinking if they are in love and then thwarts these notions. Ouch!
* Samar Singh addresses the fact that men are victimised too in his poem How to be a man and emphasises that men too suffer, often crumbling under the pressure to prove that they are “man enough.”
* Aranya Johar’s A Brown Girl’s Guide to Beauty went viral after it aimed to attack the conventional ideas of beauty that people harbour, their preferences for ‘fair and lovely’ skinned women and toned figures. Johar emphasises how high standards of beauty affect both men and women, who are then driven to extremes as a result.
* Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, a student of London University, in a heart-touching speech poem titled This Is Not A Humanising Poem addresses Islamophobic hate crime in London.
* Kunal Kapoor’s stirring slam poetry was a wake up call against the problem of women trafficking and pierced through like a sword into our hearts. Encouraging his followers to take a stand against the crime with lines like “Every night when you drive back home, you cross that road where love is sold,” he encourages people to stop being indifferent to the suffering of those who are being exploited.
* That Indian judiciary is yet to see marital rape as a criminal act has continued to disturb a lot of people, one of whom is Simar Singh, whose poem titled The Legal Rapist’ focuses on the plight of a woman who thought it was her “dominating” husband’s love when he forced himself on her against her will.
* Sudeep Pagedar’s poem titled the The Privileges of a Penis’ struck a chord with many after he addressed the privileges that comes with being a man. He starts by saying how he was born rich “not with a silver spoon, but something just as privileging.” He addresses the elephant in the room — the inherent patriarchy and misogyny that continues to question women, their ways and choices and the times when he, like many of us, stifled a laugh over a light banter on voyeurism and rape.
* Aranya Johar’s poem titled ‘A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender highlighted women’s continued fights — of being asked to ‘cover up’ to not seem like they are ‘asking for it’, to quicken their paces if they are out after 8:30 in the night, how they are made to believe ‘men’s privilege will save theirs’ and much more.