Published: 04th April 2020
Declaring war on fake news: Hariharan and his band of celebs have a new lockdown track for you
Led by Hariharan, the band also has Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, playback singer Roop Kumar Rathod, celebrity chef Ranveer Brar and nine others
Rumours and fake news worsens any situation but at times like these, it might even prove to be life-threatening. While India battles Coronavirus with the rest of the world, WhatsApp forwards are spreading "news" about food shortages, chants that can help ward of the virus and other ridiculous "facts". Foodpreneur and marketing guru Vinod G Nair got together a few of his friends — Padma Shri and National Award winning singer Hariharan, Padma Shri Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, playback singer Roop Kumar Rathod, celebrity chef Ranveer Brar and nine others — to discuss what can be done to warn people how harmful it can be to subscribe to rumours. They will release their Lockdown track — Chappa Chappa Afwaah Chale, a rendition of Vishal Bhardwaj’s hit from the film Maachis — across social media on April 4.
Led by Hariharan, the band calls themselves The Sur-Viralists. The video also features Sunali Rathod (Singer), Reewa Rathod (Singer), Hariharan's sons, Akshay (Music Producer) and Karan (Actor), Ishaan Dutta (Singer), Immanuel Berlin (Composer), Punit Gupta (Diamonds Jeweller), Rakesh Sreekumar (Marketing Consultant) and Nadeem Lasani (Advocate). The track and the video were recorded on phones and then edited. The entire process took over eight days. "We did everything from home since the lockdown was in place. Karan, Hariharan's son, who helped to edit the video and I directed them over phone calls and video meetings. It was a tedious process but the end result, I hope, drives the message home," said Vinod.
What triggered the thought of talking about the rumour? The relentless WhatsApp messages and doctored videos, what else? "A few days back I received a video of a riot and it said that riots have broken out due to Coronavirus. I later found out that it was an old video," said Hariharan. "A lot of times even if the video is not vile it is edited to make it look and sound objectionable," he added.
Singer Roop Kumar Rathod had received a message about how the military is out on the streets and even using rubber bullets on the people to ensure lockdown. "Messages like these, often take a communal overtone which might instigate mobs," he said. Food scarcity has also become a huge subject that WhatsApp University is propagating. "This leads to hoarding and that can never be good. We all come with the same stomach, have the same need for food. Then why should we hoard food? Food is the natural leveller and times like these reveal that best. While some hoard food, others who need it have to go hungry," he added.
Vinod Nair has received some of the most ridiculous messages and videos. "Someone texted in a group saying that cosmic energy on that particular night will align in such a way that our phone might burst if we use them. And surprisingly people said that they know this to be true," said Vinod. "A song sung by a classical singer whose voice might be confused with the Prime Minister's went viral a few days back and there were people who vouched that they knew that it was indeed the PM's voice," he added.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who is also seen singing and acting in the video has been supplying food to hospitals in Mumbai received a series of messages claiming that the doctors are going hungry and urging him to help them. "We had accounted for everyone and sent food accordingly. But after I received these messages I called up the head of the institution and enquired. He told me not only was there an abundance of food, but he was also about to call me to say that we need to send lesser amounts," said the chef. "We need to verify the news or information we receive through social media. I got around four messages from different people within an hour that the army has been deployed at Lonavla and they are seen marching on the road. I called my friends there and they said there was no such thing. It was like any other lockdown day. Fake news is like the poison that we are feeding our dear ones," he added.
While the entire country is trying to cope with the isolation during the lockdown, the stars of the video have a few tips for you. "I have started reading again, catching up with old friends and planning a productive day every morning. It is very easy to idle away at times like these. We need to learn to love and spread love. Also whatever good habits you pick up during this time — exercising, reading or anything productive — try to maintain that even when the lockdown is over," said Hariharan.
Ranveer is positive about the outcomes of the lockdown. "One of the things that would definitely be a positive take away is that we will probably know the difference between opinion and news by the time all this is over," he added. To top that up, Sanjeev added that he thinks it also taught us how simply we can afford to live.
But what is the way out of this fake news mess? "We ourselves can stop its propagation if we tell the sender that this is wrong and take time to find out the truth and point out to them rather than just ignoring such forwards. Otherwise, this won't stop," Vinod pointed out and added that they hope this video will help reach out to people and make them understand why it is not right to propagate information without verifying it.