Monday, August 17, 2009


India is a country defined by a collective mythology: no, I am not referring to religion or history here. I am talking about what constitute our modern way of thinking, our mental encyclopedia of images and our colloquial dialogue. I am talking about our pop-culture. That, I believe, has far greater influence on our day-to-day behaviour than anything else: who hasn't mouthed SHOLAY dialogues at some point of their lives, or thought the words "Thandi Hawa Ka Jhonka" every time they met anyone called Sameer?

In random order, then, here are moments, images and events from the past 25 years that- in my opinion- are now part of pop culture folklore and have defined this generation as well as the world today:

  1. Aishwarya rai, with wet hair, asking Aamir Khan for a Pepsi. We could totally understand Aamir willing to do anything to get that Pepsi. And oh yes- that slide under the shutter...

  2. Shah Rukh Khan throwing Shilps Shetty off the roof in Baazigar. Woah. The public stared, dumbfounded: "Huh? Isn't he the hero?" And thus, the anti-hero was re-incarnated. And a three letter acronym entered our glossaries: SRK.

  3. Kapil Dev breaking down on national television during the match-fixing scandal. Cricket has rarely given a more poignant moment, or a more heart-breaking one. Time almost stood still as the entire country sat shocked, betrayed and confused about one of its most intense passions.

  4. Papa Kehte Hain from QSQT- that song defined a generation. Just wasn't mine. But it gave us Aamir Khan, and Udit narayan, who went on to create many more such moments.

  5. Asawari Joshi, twirling her fingers, and telling us "Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge!"

  6. Mowgli and his boomerang. Didn't you ever throw sticks in the air after that and wonder why it didn't come back?

  7. Natwest Cup final. India defeats England after the latter posted a nearly-unsurmountable 326, and Sourav Ganguly celebrated by swinging his shirt. The new India was announcing its arrival: brave, ruthless, and armed with a never-say-die spirit. It brought promises of times unimaginable.

  8. Salman Khan took his shirt off and sang "O-Oh Janejana" for the girl of his fantasies. And became synonymous with the 'shirtless' tag.

  9. Sanjay Dutt finally channelled that attitude correctly and became a gangster in "Vaastav". For the rest of our lives, no one can replace him as the image that comes to our minds every time we hear the word "Bhai".

  10. The Undertaker stepping into the ring. A significant part of my childhood was devoted to WWF trump cards.

  11. Hrithik. Ek Pal Ka Jeena. A star was born, and a new dance form was created.

  12. Madhuri Dixit, stepping into millions of fantasies and making a rubbish film memorable with "Dil Dhak-Dhak Karne Laga". May that image live on.

  13. Urmila. Tanha- Tanha. Rangeela. Black vest. Beach... Anyone who was a teenager in 1995 knows the importance of that image.

  14. A.R.Rahman, swinging his hair, arms spread, looking upwards and crooning "Vande Mataram". Rock had just met patriotism, and suddenly it was cool to be nationalistic again.

  15. Shahrukh Khan rinsing his mouth with Pepsi after waking up in Dil Toh Pagal Hai. Pepsi could not have asked for a better endorsement or a bigger brand ambassador, and everyone who ever saw that movie was totally convinced about the need for leotards on women and Pepsi vending machines in their homes. That movie also turned an obscure western traditioncalled Valentine's Day into a national obsession- pretty much what Hum Aapke hain Kaun did for weddings, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge did for Karva Chauths and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai did for Friendship Day.

  16. Alisha Chinoy burst onto the scene in an industry which only knew Baba Sehgal and Apache Indian with "Made In India". Both male modelling (Milind Soman) and Indipop had arrived, and film music was just so passe.

  17. The first Indo-Pak cricket match in years in 2004- India made 351, and Pakistan, with Inzamam in top form, looked ready to match it. Women forgot to make dinners, children forgot their homework, streets were literally empty and all shops were closed- an entire nation held its breath as Nehra took the ball for the last over. A last over that was heart-stoppingly exciting, suspenseful and involved a heroic, inspiring dive by Kaif. It was, ultimately, a victory we savoured- but one that Pakistan deserved just as much.

  18. Dil Chahta Hai. Three words which inscribe numerous images defining our generation- whereas Kuch Kuch Hota hai introduced us to the term "cool", DCH told us what it meant. Whether it is three friends lazing around in cars on impromptu trips, or dancing in clubs to trance music- all of us young, urban yuppies found our rolemodels, and started planning annual Goa trips. And ever since then, whenever anyone has thanked me for coming to their birthday party, I have had only one reply: "Cake khane ke liye hum kahin bhi jaa sakte hain".

  19. Anil Kumble coming back onfield after his injury with his head wrapped up in a bandage. Wow. Heroism does not get more gritty, or more inspiring.

  20. Shahrukh Khan playing the mandolin amidst mustard fields, Kajol in virginal white, a cow-bell, and the strains of the refrain from "Tujhe Dekha To Yeh Jana Sanam" playing with the wind. I personally know people who wanted to buy the "DDLJ wala chhota guitar". It is solely because of that image that an entire generation grew up, totally unaware of what a mandolin is, pretending to be SRK everytime they held a guitar.