image courtesy: Internet
As the saying goes, the more things change the more they remain the same. My father’s generation was smitten with Rahul Roy, after the tremendous success of Aashiqui. My mother’s with Madhuri. So they shambolically tried to emulate those much vaunted coiffures and dressing styles with their moribund access to fashion. It gave them some social capital among their peers. Anyone who benignly resembled with a “hero” Or “heroine “was considered snazzy and cool. People who were influenced further influenced their cohorts of friends and juniors in college. Bollywood movies if generalized and simplified, carry multitudes. These multitudes lie at the intersection of love, family, sacrifice, infallible conscience of the hero, sinister villains, drama and much more. These movies have entertained Indians through famines, economic tumult,authoritarian times, natural calamities and wars. So much is the influence of these movies that a lot of people sound too filmy.
THIS is so as,
Maybe a lot of young lovers harboured bollywood-style fantasies of dancing on a hilltop in clothes which might attract hypothermia. Or young girls battered by our brand of benevolent patriarchy, might have thought of becoming the pious bahu, Ekta Kapoor incessantly depicted through her numerous soap operas . As being virtuous should be the sole objective of women and virtue signalling of their in-laws. Given the dehumanising hierarchies in our society if one makes sense she has to rebel first. Thus weddings that aren’t blessed by parents and relatives have been popular among lovers, even before DDLJ.
After reading Shrayana Bhattacharya’s brilliant book: Desperately seeking Shah Rukh, I’m more than convinced that through his iconography, women found an expression of masculinity deep down they wanted to believe. The book isn’t about Shah Rukh. It’s a socio-economic commentary on the aspirations of women belonging to different class-caste backgrounds. How everytime they turn to Shah Rukh, our society strangles them & grinds their hopes.Shah Rukh is an escape from the grind of constantly living for others.
Enough of rambling! I let myself loose to make a simple point that irrespective of our megalomania, we identify ourselves with icons. Both real and fictitious. Social media, among other things has changed the way we look at ourselves. It has impugned our jarring beliefs about our looks, style. But it makes us feel powerful. If you want to post a picture of sunset with copied captions to sound artsy and philosophical, you can without getting approval from any gate keeper. You no longer need to subscribe to extravagant fashion magazines. Everything is just a click away. No long queues for autographs. Now you can get away with the most snarky comment on any ” Celebrity ” photo. You are in charge of forming a virtual narrative about your life. Irrespective of your discontent and disillusionment, you can post great pictures on Instagram. You can tell people which songs you’ve been listening on a loop, which series/movies you loved recently, or post hearty images of books & coffee, literally anything under the sun. And nobody asked for any of this. So why not get married in style and share happy moments on social media? Why should Virushka, Vicky-cat, Kiara- Sid & ilk have all the fun?
Obsession with celebrity weddings isn’t new. But social media has changed the contours of these weddings dramatically. Now as readily as your cousin’s wedding album is available, so are the pictures of your favorite celebrity couple. These pictures tell the same story. The ubiquitously ostentatious wedding aesthetic or the minimalist decor- sequined with exquisite flowers, perfectly scripted random photos, enchanting editing, foster a myth of love. Or a promise that good things happen to good looking people. There’s something spurious about these weddings. They are becoming more like bollywood romances. Except these romances epitomized love& obsession but barley claimed to be true.
It’s hard to fathom love or find meaning in it. It strikes you slowly and beautifully. It animates then it devastates and finally reinvents . And it makes you stronger. Anyone who’s loved, carries immense capacity and strength to reckon with someone else’s presence . Where bit by bit you unfold like a carpet paving the way for something profound. You want to share parts of you with laughter, sobs or that last slice of pizza. In our ever changing lives, love is also changing and evolving, in means. I believe. The ends still breed affection and companionship. As capitalist forces propel us to see ourselves with the prism of materialism.Is the core of love still unsullied?
Has love remained unscathed? We are becoming individualistic. We know what we want. At least we know what we don’t want. But amidst the quotidian routine, we dwell in romanticizing the little banal things. Ask the shayars! Love and romanticisation are intertwined like pleasure and suffering. Thus the idea of Love may be something noble. But can it be attained and sustained without capitalist ebb& flow? The socio-economic considerations, often subtle marr our prospects of falling head over heels for someone ! Usually we don’t go about falling in love with any random person. I have seen people getting disillusioned with their love-interests as the love interests have allegedly primitive taste for pop culture. It isn’t about pop culture I think. But differences in perceiving and appreciating things that one does or doesn’t.Or an uncomfortable class bias. However, the self proclaimed enlightened beings claim to get enamoured by personality rather than looks. But what is personality but the confluence of inner and outer worlds. The social, cultural, economic and gender binaries shape what you actually become. Aren’t weddings when seen in the social context, a reinforcement of these norms & axioms centred around who to marry ?They can’t be dismissed on philosophical grounds. As to survive, we need money, food, validation from our peers and some love too. Wedding day is a special one and why not do all it takes to bankrupt you and your parents? In a country like India, where women have been treated like commodities, shaadis innately have been avenues to deepen the clutches of patriarchy. Women have been deprived of agency and thus told to conjure up the perfect wedding day , not night. It isn’t the best feeling , seeing girls naively await their weddings. Because it isn’t just about the union of two souls, two families and all the lofty sayings. The pressure to please every relative, be grateful to the groom’s side,even amid progressive circles, is visible. Women feel a sense of significance by vowing to be emotionally, physically and materially available for a new family. As if this one day is the reward for their whole existence. Unsurprisingly success of the wedding not the marriage, is measured in terms of how much money is spent on it. The success of marriage relies on how well the woman adjusts in her new home. I see the lure of turning women into prima-donnas on their weddings. You are the star of your world. Everything revolves around you. So why not do everything that makes you happy? Even the pre- wedding photo shoot! Where your story is made more insipid than it actually is with all the filmy background score, ethereal locations, icky expressions, cliched script and conspicuous romantic overtones. These photo- shoots, the cinematic ones, were once preserves of people from big cities. But with the democratization of internet, higher purchasing power and Instagram aesthetic, these photo- shoots have gained popularity in small towns too. The silver lining is that now the former elites aren’t the only influencers. Digital content creators from small towns in their bid to produce content are reclaiming their roots. They are comfortable with their accent laden Hindi or regional languages. Their humour about Indian families, struggles of navigating an urbane life reaches a sizable population. A majority of people find it relatable and enjoyable. These influences have resoundingly surpassed the social media reach, early entrants from metros once enjoyed.
so the cinematic lens has shifted to traditional weddings as well but with admiration this time. Obviously they are exoticised. Money has a peculiar tendency for exoticising things. Such as happiness.
Image courtesy: Internet
Through these extravaganza cum weddings, it seems as if you need money to express how happy you are. Those perfectly scripted random shots of groom and bride looking into each other’s eyes or looking into a distance while holding hands, tend to give voice to the vibe they share. Those older wedding videos where animations look as if designed by a toddler, are reduced to cringe. Back then, the bride and groom were the stars. But with social media, we have found our audience. Where the pretence of prosperity, ecstasy and misery is carried out. Like celebrity weddings, weddings of common people are also made special and keenly anticipated on social media. But people with meager monies find it all elusive. Societies progress through the procession of myths and promises. These opulent weddings may bring joy to the people involved. They don’t have to feel guilty about making other people feel poor. But somewhere they’re coating happiness with a facade tainted and painted by money.
The tales of promise are interwoven in this facade. A promise for those who don’t see the world with dreamy eyes. Because the more things change, the more they remain the same~ Jean Baptiste Alphonse