Viral TikTok trend accused of appropriating, sexualizing South Asian culture

Bollywood dance
  • A Bollywood dance routine from the 2019 film “Batla House” has gained popularity with non-South Asian creators, who have changed a move from the routine.
  • In the original dance, actor Nora Fatehi drops to the ground to perform a series of hip thrusts.
  • However, non-South Asian TikTokers have switched the hip thrusts to a body roll, which is a slow fluid movement of the hips moving upwards then downwards.
  • In an interview with Insider, South Asian creators criticized the trendified version of the routine, saying that the videos are fetishizing and appropriating South Asian culture.

South Asian creators have spoken out against a viral Bollywood dance routine on TikTok as they believe that the trend sexualizes and appropriates South Asian culture.

The trending dance comes from a scene in the 2019 Bollywood film “Batla House.” In recent months, the South Asian community have been posting TikToks of themselves dancing to the routine along with the song “O Saki Saki.” 

@kmgaramm hip thrusts , not body rolls! FAKE BODY #kmgaramm #fyp #sakisaki #norahfateih ♬ O Saki Saki – Remix – Hindi Song & Hindi Music & Hindi Remix Group

The dance has since gained popularity with a wider variety of creators, who have changed a move from the routine. In the original dance, actor Nora Fatehi drops to the ground to perform a series of hip thrusts. However, non-South Asian TikTokers have switched the hip thrusts to a body roll, which is a slow fluid movement of the hips moving upwards then downwards. 

@ahmetteditz saki saki💃🔥#fyp #01_0_02 #iixonur ♬ original sound – …

In an interview with Insider, South Asian creators criticized the trendified version of the routine, saying that the videos are fetishizing and appropriating South Asian culture. 

“There was no acknowledgment of where it came from, they just took it and sexualized it,” Indian dance creator Naomi Namboodiripad said. 

“I just really wish that South Asian culture was more respected and that more people were advocating for a culture where we can be humanized and seen as individuals, who are just one small part of a bigger culture,” she added.

In response to the trend, Namboodiripad and other South Asian creators created TikTok videos demonstrating how to dance the routine correctly.

@naomi.nambo Replying to @halimah.shah here is just the dance part! I’ll release the singing only video soon 🫡 #dance #bollywood #browngirl #indian #southindian #desi #sakisaki ♬ original sound – …

Debotri Dhar, a South Asian Studies lecturer at the University of Michigan who specializes in Women and Gender Studies, told Insider that the appropriation of the dance is an instance of Western society “disproportionately highlighting those aspects of another culture that seem mysterious and intriguing, and playing down any similarities in cultural practices.” 

Dhar explained that the trend is a continuation of a “longer history of sexualization” that began during Britain’s colonization of India, which created a notion that white people were culturally superior to people of color.

Namboodiripad also noted that many non-South Asian creators received more views and likes as compared to South Asian dancers who danced the routine in the proper way, which she argued demonstrates how notions of white superiority are evident in the social media space.

“Why are we not being respected for what we do?” Namboodiripad said. “Why does it have to be a white creator that has to take our culture in order for it to be uplifted?” 

 

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