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VIDEO: 'Call Me Maybe' Parody Pokes Fun At India's Marriage Ads

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The music on the video sounds familiar, but the words definitely aren't.

It's the megahit "Call Me Maybe," by Carly Rae Jepsen, but with different lyrics:

"Once you come into my house you will have no life. Cause you'll be a wife. You'll have no, no life."

Asmita Ghosh and Anukripa Elango, musically inclined seniors at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, came up with "Be Our Pondati" — that's Tamil for "be our wife" — for a college parody contest this spring. They wrote the lyrics overnight, and for the fun of it, spent four hours shooting and editing a video featuring their friend, Krupa Varghese, dressed up like a matriarch who's bride-hunting for her son.

It was an instant hit. Within the first three weeks of being posted on YouTube, the video racked up more than 700,000 page views. And it has been lauded by Indians on social media for using humor to show that a good match is really about pleasing the in-laws. But it also reveals a darker truth: When a woman gets married in India, whatever her accomplishments are, she's judged on her ability to run a home and produce heirs.

The video spoof is aimed at what Indians call a "matrimonial advert." Usually written by families on behalf of their sons and daughters, the newspaper ads list their child's many accomplishments. For men, that could mean his salary and whether he owns a house, his grades and salary. For a woman, the ad might include her skin color and cooking skills — can she make the Indian bread known as "round chapathis"? But interests and personality traits are immaterial.

The song is a three-minute matrimonial ad looking for a "tall, thin, fair girl" who is also "homely" — Indian matrimony-speak for "home-oriented." The song quotes lines from real matrimonial adverts, including one about a boy owning two Mercedes and another describing a "progressive" family that allows its daughter-in-law to work part time.

They sing that the boy has an MBA, is tall and handsome and boasts a "shoe size 10" because "it matters, baby."

By titling the song "Be Our Pondati" — using "our" wife instead of "his" or "my wife" -- Ghosh says they aimed to draw attention to the fact that "when you get married in India, you get married to the entire family" and "how invested the entire family is in the process of choosing a bride."

While Ghosh says the song "wasn't made with the intention of being a scathing social commentary," the trio has "used our 15 seconds of fame to start a conversation about double standards — not just in matrimony — but across the board in India."

"A lot of people who share it on Facebook now are saying things like, 'I was laughing at this [video] a month ago and now I'm being expected to go through this grind, and that's not cool,' " says Ghosh.

That reaction is music to their ears.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chhavi Sachdev

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