Singer Sravana Bhargavi had used the devotional song ‘Okapari Kokapari’ by 15th century saint Annamayya, which was seen as offensive by his followers.

Sravana Bhargavi
Flix Controversy Sunday, July 24, 2022 - 11:11

A controversy has erupted after popular Telugu singer Sravana Bhargavi uploaded a video, with the devotional song ‘Okapari Kokapari’ by saint Annamayya in the background. The song, said to be composed by 15th century saint and Lord Venkateshwara devotee Annamayya, plays while Bhargavi is seen reading and being herself in an aesthetically pleasing video. However, the followers of Annamayya took extreme offence against this, claiming that the video ‘defiled’ the devotional poem or keertana, and that it was being ‘appropriated’ and ‘eroticised’.

The backlash prompted Bhargavi to take the video down from her social media accounts. Issuing a statement detailing the reason for her decision, the singer on her Instagram wrote, “My channel has always brought JOY, ENTERTAINMENT, and PEACE to my subscribers. And I don’t ever want it to be known for uncalled controversies. Negativity has never been encouraged on any of my social platforms. And I want to keep it that way (sic).” While much of the objection to the video stayed online, however, a group of people filed a police complaint against Bhargavi in Tirupati on July 23, and claimed that they would not let the singer enter the Tirumala temple there. However, the complaint was withdrawn after the singer removed the video online. 

Bhargavi initially defended her video, reasoning that nothing was objectionable in it. To put across her point, she replaced the audio of the song with different music and titled it ‘Perspective is everything’. Earlier, when some claimed that she hurt Hindu sentiments with her video, she was heard arguing with another person, saying, “I am a Hindu, a Brahmin woman. I do not know which part of the video offended you. I will not remove the video. Where is the indecency in it?”  

In her statement, Bhargavi expressed that hours of work were put into the making of the video and said that it was a “beautiful piece of art.” Justifying that her video was not controversial, she said, “When you change the way you look at change. Perspective is everything.”

Arunank Latha, a poet and film critic, who has come to the defence of the singer, pointed out how Bhargavi was selectively targeted. “There are many Telugu film songs where the keertanas have been used in a romantic situation. So why is there an outrage only against her?,” he said. Giving examples, he says, “‘Marugelara O Raghava’ is a keertana by carnatic musician Thyagaraja. It was used in the movie Saptapadi in a duet situation. Similarly, ‘Samajavaragamana’ is another keertana but yet it has been used in films and no one objected to it. So, what is the problem if Bhargavi is using the keertana for her video? Besides, the video is not vulgar as some claim”.

According to Arunank, the outrage is a case of patriarchy by conservative Brahmins, who, among other reasons, are offended that Bhargavi is not seen wearing a toe ring despite being married. “She is also seen reading Kanyashulkam written by Gurajada Apparao, which is a satire on orthodox Brahmins. Kanyashulkam could have inspired her to remove the toe ring, which has angered some Brahmins,” he said. 

While Annammaya’s descendants claim that the keertana is by Annammayya, some scholars contend that this keertana may actually be written by his son Pedda Thirumalaiah. 

Watch: This week on Let Me Explain, why Kerala is a hotbed for infectious diseases

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.