How A 1982 Bappi Lahiri Bollywood Song Became A Protest Anthem In China

l: A still from Disco Dancer r: A still from A Chinese protestor in a reel
l: A still from Disco Dancer r: A still from A Chinese protestor in a reelOpIndia

"Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja" is a superhit song, by Indian composer Bappi Lahiri and used in the 1982 Bollywood film ‘Disco Dancer’, featuring Mithun Chakrabarty. What possible relevance could that have in today’s China? In the Chinese social media Douyin, which is the Chinese equivalent of TikTok.The "Jimmy Jimmy" song is sung as "Jie mi, jie mi", in Mandarin, which translates to "Give me rice, give me rice". Clips with the song have surfaced virally showing Chinese netizens sporting a bindi and makeshift saree, mockingly holding empty utensils, while dancing and lip-syncing to the popular Hindi song.

The videos are a language of protest highlighting how the Xi Jinping government’s “zero-COVID” goal has affected the country, where the people are deprived of food and necessary items. The ‘zero-COVID’ policy states that all infections take priority over the economy. It is a decision with global entanglement and has been implemented despite warnings by experts, such as the director-general of the World Health Organization, stating that such a goal may be unattainable.

Through the 'Zero Covid' policy, the government has been imposing lockdowns on entire towns and cities, even if very few Covid-19 infections have been detected. The thought behind it is to restrict people's movement and keep the infections and transmission as close to zero as possible. Its implementation does not take the needs of the Chinese citizens into consideration and has put the economy under great strain. The citizens’ access to the market and essential healthcare access has been cut. Also, under the 'Zero Covid' policy, recurring and mandatory testing of millions is the norm implemented which puts civil liberties, the economy, and the healthcare sector under duress. Many other videos show how protestors on the streets have been brutally manhandled by government security personnel.

People all over the world have lauded Chinese citizens for smartly using the song as an expression of public outrage. Moreover, till now the videos have managed to escape the ever-vigilant censorship board of the Chinese Government.

Indian cinema has always enjoyed immense popularity in China, starting from the days of Bollywood legend Raj Kapoor in the 1950-the 60s to recent years when films such as 3 Idiots, Dangal, Andhadhun, and many more Bollywood films have grossed well at the Chinese box office. The “Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja" phenomenon in China shows that music has always been a powerful tool of protest and can transcend geographical boundaries.

Watch the original psychedelic 80's disco music video here.

Check out one of those trending videos here.