The rap begins on an incredulous note. "What?! Am I an anti-Indian to you? What?! I am a Tamil citizen who votes." When rapper Arivarasu performed the 'Anti-Indian' song for the very first time on the Madras Medai stage in Chennai in May last year, he took a brief pause that evening even while audiences waited for him continue. Apologising for the interruption, he spoke of humanity and how it is important for everyone to retain their human side.
“It doesn’t matter if we are Tamilians, Malayalis or Indians. We are just humans. Humanity is the only thing that lasts, it is the only thing that binds us,” he had said, before resuming the powerful rap.
The 'Anti-Indian' song has, almost after a year, been shot as a video and the duo behind it, Arivu and Ofro, have released it just in time for the elections. Shot inside a room with a red-filter, the video is a simple yet powerful delivery of stinging lines penned and performed by Arivu.
Ask him about the blown-up profile pinned to the wall in the song’s video, Arivu chuckles. “That’s Kendrick Lamar. His work too has been very political and I take him as an inspiration,” he says.
Arivu is also the man behind the lines in ‘Urimayai Meetpom’ in Pa Ranjith’s Kaala. Since then he has penned songs for over 13 films now.
The young rapper says that it's time to remind people of what they'd undergone in the last five years. “There is a need to remind people of all that has happened to us. Of how we stood outside ATMs in long lines, of how NEET exams caused protests among people. While the song was not written specifically for the elections, the time was right to to release the video,” says Arivu.
‘Anti-Indian’ is part of Arivu-Ofro’s Therukural, an exclusive hip-hop album, which will have a total of six politically charged songs.
The 25-year-old rapper who gained fame through The Casteless Collective band tells us that the 'Anti-Indian' song was penned and composed in just a day. “Ofro and I worked on it for just a day. The song was written and performed on May 18 last year for the Madras Medai stage," he says.
While Arivu penned the lyrics, the inspiration for it was something he had within himself for years. “I’ve always wanted to write such a song, to convey all that I felt in one song. In that sense, I’d call this an essay, a detailed study done after research. I’d call this my angst,” he says.
Arivu also shares that calling someone "anti-Indian" saddens him. “Even today, people are identified and neglected based on their identities. Tagging those who speak for the sake of the country as 'anti-national' might sound funny in Tamil Nadu but it is a very serious term and it pains me whenever I hear it,” he points out.
“We are Indians firstly and lastly. This is what Ambedkar said too. Humanity is important for all of us. Calling us 'anti Indian' is the most absurd thing. I used rap as a medium to take the message to youngsters,” he adds.
While the song was not written specifically for the elections, Arivu was decided in not writing a song just for the sake of it. “The lines in this song are not based on imagination. I didn't want my song to be on 'inspiring people to vote'. My song was going to reach someone whose face I’ve not seen before. I wanted the message to be right,” he explains.
Arivu’s song highlights the hypocrisy in society and the political class with lines like ‘You make the riots, when I ask questions, Am I a traitor?’, but he is also quite clear that change will not happen overnight.
“These are problems that will continue. We cannot believe in illusions that all of this will change in just one election. This is not a revolution. We are all small steps in a long path. The election is not our goal. We need to keep talking about the injustices on a daily basis. That is what matters,” says the young MBA graduate.
Ever since the song was performed, Arivu has been receiving a great response for it, with many youngsters sharing their music with him. “A lot of young people are writing political songs now and I can see that a new team is forming. I think they are moving out from the cliched songs on love, friendship and ‘Tamil gethu’ Youngsters are asking questions. A politically aware generation is now being shaped and people cannot keep fooling them with fake promises. This makes me very happy,” he says.
The Casteless Collective will release the official lyric video of their next election song 'Dabba Dabba' at 6.00 pm on Facebook.