Audiences have begun embracing mindless entertainment, reflecting a cultural shift towards a slow and steady acceptance of our own true choices and ourselves. This acceptance extends to our past, as seen in the resurgence of 90s music and the acknowledgment of B and C grade cinema. Saumya Baijal critiques this emerging trend.
Diljit Dosanjh, singing his way in style in dhoti-kurta and sneakers at Coachella, brings so much joy, from the little Instagram reel windows on our phones!
Zeenat Aman is one the latest sensations on Instagram, in her honesty, vulnerability and authenticity that make her so relatable and loved.
Govinda and Karisma Kapoor are cool today, to the same audience that vociferously judged Sarkai leyo khatiya.
Are we now less ashamed of our past?
Diljit Dosanjh performs “G.O.A.T.” at the first weekend of Coachella 2023
The millennials are now in their mid 30s- early 40s. Absorbing and reaching acceptances of their own past, their struggles and new definitions of nostalgia. There is an inherent confidence as a generation, that has grown up seeking validation, but now seems to be becoming more and more comfortable in who they are. They now validate the self, and celebrate it with abandon. Culturally this has begun to show.
The absolutely unprecedented and unexpected success of Pathaan, is one such phenomenon. While various reasons have been attributed to the unimagined success of the film like the undiluted charm of Shah Rukh Khan, him returning to the screen 4 years and many flops one after the other later, or the orchestrated attack on him via his son’s unlawful imprisonment or even the call for boycott of the film.
However, what is interesting, is the reaction the film evoked as it was being watched. Multiplex audience danced in abandon at the end of the film, clapped and whistled at the entry of their hero. India’s fault lines also run across class. And this is the same audience group that would scoff at any ‘mass’ behaviour which included dancing in the aisles in single screen theatres, that took to expressing their love for last of the stars in exactly the same way, as those they have othered, would. This we first saw during the Amitabh Bachchan film festival, that saw the return of some of his defining films like Don, Namak Halaal in limited theatres. India in both these scenarios showed us how we worship our heroes, with complete abandon, no matter who we are and where.
Within the film itself, in true blue Shah Rukh style, is self-deprecating humour. Lines that have the aging stars accept their realities at one end, and recognizing that there really is no one else after them, who can fill their very large, much adored shoes. This acceptance of both dichotomous realities, that are played out with elan on the big screen points to the immense confidence of self.
Pathaan is unapologetically a Hindi masala film. Replete with flaws, patchy screenplay, fairly predictable plots, and VFX that fell short of what was attempted. But with lines that would get whistles and claps. It was that unapologetic nature of the film, that had audiences enjoy it with the same abandon. Audiences accepted what they were going to watch — a mindless potboiler divested of any intellectual pretense.
Pathaan was watched by the elite who refused to criticize it, critics who were bafflingly kind to the film, with each group insisting on enjoying what as a film, is genuinely a tiresome watch, but designed to just entertain. This acceptance that we as an audience do enjoy such films, indicated slow and steady acceptance of our own true choices and ourselves. Unapologetic in what we enjoy.
Hark back to a few years ago, when films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha, had hat tips to the music of the 90s — one of the most harshly judged decades for commercial Hindi cinema, and its music, given that it is sandwiched between the iconic 70s and the 2000s that saw scale emerge in films. We heard Kumar Sanu grace airwaves in his true style, with no attempt to ‘contemporarise’ him to stay relevant. Lyricists like Varun Grover are fearlessly tapping into their closets of memories, and rebuilding a narrative that divests judgement from our collective past.
For the longest time, ‘B and C grade cinema’ was not spoken of in our living rooms. These were the films, that ran in single screen theatres, the posters of which objectified women, sex, violence and punchy lines were the commodities that were sold, that the ‘othered’ watched. An othering, laced in class divides and assumed position of authority. And yet on Amazon Prime we have a docu-series Cinema Marte Dam Tak, that puts a spotlight on those who made these films and how they were made. There is no upper class sanitization that has been done, and on the contrary and refreshingly so, respect has been accorded to those who did actually create films, in such tight budgets and restricted timelines, that had audiences enjoy them in more ways than one. There is now the long overdue acknowledgement by artists of mainstream Hindi cinema for these filmmakers, and these films. Pointing to a complete acceptance of our past, in its authentic self.
The rise of stand up comedy that throws into sharp relief our own idiosyncrasies as a nation, and common eccentricities of families we have all grown up in, have made us less defensive of our own experiences, increasing our ability to laugh at them. Influencers on social media, are building content in their own voice and stead, choosing languages of their choice. And building a following with those who identify with their style, perspective and view of the world.
Tik Tok unleashed expression across India. Relying on their own ideas of nostalgia, tapping into their own individual aspirations and ideas of joy, India began to create. Create in languages they loved, reliving, recreating and often reinterpreting songs and scenes we grew up listening to. This complete acceptance of our past, this ability to record a performance and share it on social media in the hope of a following, indicates immense confidence and the much awaited refusal to conform to someone else’s ideas of entertainment, or behaviour. It also reduces then, the fear of judgement as a collective. And therein lies the strength to look inward and accept.
Culturally, we seem to be moving beyond the rise of individuality, to now taking pride, and accepting ourselves in true raw authenticity, who we are. Will projections collapse anytime soon? Maybe not. However, what will possibly keep happening, is claiming space. Breaking away last dregs of a colonial past, to building who we are and how we wish to be. The only wish, that we don’t lose what makes us truly diverse, in a world that thrives on homogeneity and hegemony.
(The views expressed are personal)
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