Recently I wrote a post blasting Facebook, calling it Fakebook and implying that everyone on it was just trying to win a very shallow popularity contest. I would however like to clarify that I do not believe that everything everyone does on Facebook is meant to make themselves feel better at other people’s expense. I do think a large portion of the user base does log in just for that but I think some people genuinely do not, and another significant portion does it without realizing that they are.
There are people who genuinely want to see what their friends and family is up to, see pictures and other evidence of them doing well and genuinely be happy for them. I know a few people like that and I wish I knew more of them but point is, they do exist. You just get overwhelmed by the assholes and don’t notice that they are still around, which is not very encouraging for them I guess. Apart from this altruistic crowd there is also another category of accidental assholes, to which you and I both probably belong. This group is both at the receiving and giving ends of the trauma at different points in their journey.
For convenience, lets take Mr. Pappu as an example (no, not the politician). Pappu fucked up somewhere between high school and college. Or maybe Pappu was born into circumstances that didn’t let him do as well as his peers. Maybe a bit of both. As the days go by, Pappu sees his friends surpass him in every way. That he could still live with, but everyday as he struggles with his demons or to make ends meet, he sees people he once called friends brag about their success, or talking about how traveling fulfills one’s life when Pappu cant even make bus fare. Several of his old friends post about how everyone should follow their dreams, when 1. Pappu needs to pay bills and 2. Pappu doesn’t even know what the fuck his dream is! Maybe he can have one when the nightmares stop.
Birthdays are very cool when you’re a kid. Your parents will get you a gift, new clothes and a packet of sweets to distribute in school. Every school kid in India looks forward to their ‘happy birthday’ and some of the spoiled ones have several in a year. Other kids and teachers will give you a free pass throughout the day because you’re a special little snowflake for a day.
Fast forward to when you’re an adult. Calendars synced to Facebook lets the whole world know that it’s your day but you get only a handful of calls. Your email inbox has an automated mail from your bank wishing you a good day, just above the one telling you how abysmally low your savings account balance is and another one telling you how much you owe them. And there’s a text from your friend asking you if you are on the other side of 30 yet. Yeah, real special day. But the real problems start when you head out of the house.
As soon as someone hears its your birthday, even if you’ve known them for like 3 hours, they’ll pump both fists in the air and yell “treat!!”. Heads turn and soon you’re buying a whole group of people lunch or dinner. Then you meet another group of people and go through the same thing all over again. If you don’t ‘treat’ a group, someone is sure to call you a miser, cheapo or uncle. Unfortunately, the credit card company doesn’t let you off the hook because it’s your birthday and neither will your landlord, so you suck it up, embrace bankruptcy and make a note to yourself to take your birthday off Facebook next year.
I can rarely stand Masala in anything other than food. I even hate Masala tea. Naturally, this means I don’t watch many Bollywood movies. However, many of my friends argue that there are many non-Masala Hindi movies which I am not aware of because I’m an ignorant Madrasi. So when I found a movie called ‘A Death In The Gunj’ on Book My Show which I hadn’t heard about in an advertising blitz, I thought I’ll try it out, especially since the critics had written that Konkana Sen Sharma had made a marvellous debut as a powerful story teller with this film.
What I saw however was a pretentious attempt to make the audience believe that India/Bihar in the 1970’s had a culture that very closely resembled the one shown in American sitcoms like Friends. They just looked a little different and drove ambassador cars apparently. The acting was pretty good, especially Vikrant Massey’s performance as Shutu. The cinematography, camera work, etc. were all good but none of that could make me get over how the characters used the F word and talked exactly as how people would in a pub in Bangalore or Delhi in 2017. Apparently in 1979 Bihar, elderly parents were completely cool with guys and girls drinking, smoking and joking about the promiscuity of one of the characters. They would just sit, smile and pour a drink for you. Shutu talks about getting back to college in ‘Cal’ (Calcutta) and Mimi blows cigarette smoke in his face and asks if he has any time for girlfriends in between all that studying.
If anybody who loved the movie like the critics did reads this, I’m sure that they would protest and say that I do not know what the lifestyle was like in McCluskieganj, a small hilly town in Bihar, present day Jharkhand that was founded specifically to serve as a homeland for the Anglo -Indian community. But guess what, neither did my friend who is from Jharkhand. He had to look that up in Wikipedia and tell me. I’m sure there might have been small places or groups in India where this culture existed, and I really don’t mean to be morally preachy or something. My problem is, why are we so desperate to find niche communities whose culture and lifestyle is very far from most of our country to showcase in our stories? Of course movies can choose any setting that the writer or director sees to be fit for storytelling purposes, but there was nothing in the plot of this movie that required such a setting. It could easily have been set in modern day India, or it could have been set in normal, non progressive 1979 India and the story would not have been affected.
Being a blog, this is purely my personal opinion about the film and I’m aware that I might not speak for everyone. But I’m sure that at least a few other people want to see movies and stories that are more representative of what our society is like and used to be like. As far as I know, in most of India, especially in the 70’s, parents were more likely to disown you rather than pour you a drink as you talk about your friend Vikram’s family jewels in front of his wife. I’m not one of those people who are worried about western culture spoiling our new generation or anything of the sort. I just think we should be more honest about what our society is like and was, instead of imagining 1979 as we would have liked it to be and pretending like it was real. Let’s not reboot Indian history please. Its not a Spiderman movie.
Of course, the movie makers might not have intended to do any of this and might have genuinely just picked a story about some obscure town with very different traditions. Filmmakers are not obligated to tell stories about population samples which are statistically representative of India as a whole, but when Karan Johar movies pretend like every high school in India has prom night and the supposedly different and realistic Indie movies have Om Puri pouring a drink for the kids when they talk about Vikram’s nuts, some people in the audience will think that all our movies are escapist and far from reality.
Show me a movie with a more accurate portrayal of 1979 Bihar that my friend from Jharkhand would be able to identify as Bihar without opening Wikipedia and I will consider it worth my time and money. If reality absolutely doesn’t matter in any genre of movies, we should all just watch porn then.
I never expected to become the fan of a series of movies which had titles like ‘rise of the planet of the apes’. Try telling someone to watch the movie. It sounds like you are telling them to watch some B-grade monster movie at worst and at best, a pop corn summer flick. But this series has proved to be so much more, and it looks the last installment is going to continue on the impressive trajectory set by the previous two. If you have any doubts, look at the latest poster.
Think about that for a second. A movie titled ‘war for the planet of the apes’, the last entry in a blockbuster trilogy and instead of apes jumping over fire, they chose to show what looks like a gorilla gently putting a flower behind a little girl’s ear.
Movie sequels have the irritating habit of taking the loudest parts of the previous movie, blowing that up 10 X and leaving out everything else. For example Bahubali 1, ridiculous as it is, still had a Trishoola Vyuha (Trident) battle strategy in the climatic fight. Bahubali 2 chose to have soldiers catapulted across castle walls using surprisingly pliant palm trees. This isn’t a problem in just Indian cinema either. I think the next fast and the furious movie will probably have Dom, the thief who just wants to spend quality time with family deciding to steal a nuke from N. Korea because it is the right thing to do- if they haven’t already done that in the last 6 movies I didn’t see. But anyway, point is, movie studios don’t usually go with subtlety in sequels, so its very refreshing to see this poster focus on the humanity (and apanity?) of the characters. A few fans pointed out that it might be a reference to Frankenstein’s monster playing with a little girl in a garden before killing her. I think thats unlikely because the gorilla in this series is usually like Hagrid in Harry Potter- big but huggable. However, it might still be alluding to evolved apes, mans creation dealing with mankind tenderly before destroying them completely.
I often wonder if movie makers really think so much about such subliminal references or if we just make it up coz we are jobless and they choose to roll with it. But anyway, I like how that sounds so I choose to believe it, just as a certain country’s president chooses to believe global warming is made in China.