Five days ago, a video titled An Open Letter to Honey Singh began doing the rounds of Facebook and Twitter. Since then it has garnered more than a million likes, and Rene Sharanya Verma, a 20-year-old student of St. Stephens College, who features in the video has become an overnight sensation. The three-minute 30 second rap video unabashedly targets advertisements, pop music and culture that labels men and women. “I am not an overpriced sweater in Zara, I’m not a kudi namkeen, I’m not shawty who got low low low, I’m not Arnab Goswami and tonight the nation wants to know.I’m not blue eyes hypnotise, main chhoti dress mein bomb nahi lagti yaar,” raps an irritated Verma in the video.
CHECK OUT VIDEO: AN OPEN LETTER TO HONEY SINGH
The video was shot at Café Zingo Star in Greater Kailash-II where Verma performed as part of the Delhi Poetry Slam in front of a mere 30 people. “I participated in a competition at Lady Shri Ram College where the topic was Portrait of a ‘Lady’. I had an hour to prepare and I went on to win it and also got a standing ovation. This café performance is my first public act,” says Verma, who has been flooded with hate mails as well as job offers.
Verma began rapping in middle school about issues related to the environment, pollution and violence. A student of KR Mangalam World School, Verma would often perform short raps and comedy sketches during the school assembly. “I worship Missy Elliot, and how she reclaims hip hop, with the kind of music that she makes. I love the flow of Busta Rhymes, as well as Eminem, but I do not like the sexual aggression in the lyrics. So I decided to follow their flow, but write lyrics that are socially relevant,”explains Verma.
The video is widely being seen as an “open letter to Honey Singh”, but it’s a comment on the culture we silently consume at large. So there is mention of Nicki Minaj’s song Anaconda and Imran Khan’s Amplifier, as well as potshot at beauty brand Maybelline. “My problem is the way we normalise violence and masculine anxieties. My problem is with the labels we constantly use. My problem is with beauty brands equating success to how beautiful you are. Banning an artiste is not the answer, it’s counter-productive. You give them an answer through their art form, and in this case it’s rap. We need to be more conscious of what we consume,” she says.
Verma never anticipated that a rap she performed in front of 30 people in Delhi would go viral, and that her inbox would be full of people congratulating her. For every 10 good comments, there is one negative one that she has to deal with. “Some of it is really funny, with a few Honey Singh fans saying that I have ‘professional rivalry’ with him, and that I am fat and his songs are not for me. I have been called names and labeled a ‘virgin’ and a ‘slut’ too, so basically some of them just didn’t get it,” says Verma, who aims at pursuing a double major in film aesthetics and gender studies.