Updated Oct 31, 2022, 12:08pm EDT
East Asia

A Bollywood song has become a zero-COVID protest anthem on Chinese TikTok

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Chinese TikTok users are protesting the country’s zero-COVID lockdowns with a song from “Disco Dancer,” an iconic 1982 Bollywood movie with music by the late composer and musical legend Bappi Lahiri.

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In the videos, Chinese social media users dance with empty bowls to “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja,” a song that featured the lead character of the movie, Jimmy, played by Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty.

When transliterated into Mandarin, the chorus’ lyrics sounds like “jie mi” or “borrow rice” — a reference to residents being barred from leaving their homes to buy food during the strict COVID lockdowns.

Users interpreted the sound of the Hindi lyrics as: “Can I borrow rice? Which home has any? My home doesn’t have rice. Does your home have rice? Take less, you don’t need a lot.”


It appears that the videos on Douyin — China’s version of TikTok — originally evaded censorship, but online monitors began removing uploads after the trend became more popular, according to The Hindustan Times.

Xi Jinping has vowed to continue imposing lockdowns nationwide despite growing anger and frustration from residents. In Zhengzhou this weekend, video captured employees at a Foxconn factory escaping the facility after authorities appeared to have ordered workers to quarantine in place. Officials also suddenly closed down Shanghai’s Disneyland, prohibiting visitors from leaving until they produced a negative COVID test.

The Bollywood protest song is another example of how Chinese social media users engineer creative images, puns, and text to circumvent online censorship. Discussions like the #MeToo movement can be heavily regulated online, and users have turned to emojis to convey messages about it.