As we stride into the new year, one can’t help but notice the anger everywhere. Mumbaikars continue to wage a virtual war with Pakistan, who they believe was responsible for last year’s gruesome terror attacks. They’re furious about the political establishment’s inability to take action against the “enemy”.
The saffron fringe is incensed by “pub culture” and the arrest of its heroine Pragya Singh. Raj Thackeray is still angry with the boys from Uttar Pradesh. Shareholders are livid with Ramalinga Raju. CEOs detest what the slowing economy is doing to their businesses. Employees are worried sick about being laid off; and those who know they won’t lose their jobs are bothered that they won’t get yet another salary increase/bonus this year.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
The urban youth is angry that right-wingers are likely to cramp their V-day celebrations. Patients are angry at Swiss pharmaceutical biggie Novartis. Self-righteous Indians (the only ones who really understand national pride, right?) are still fuming about Slumdog Millionaire.
Everyone is annoyed with the Barkha Dutt School of Journalism (i.e. black and white, grey be damned). Migrants are cross that they have to head back to their homes from the big cities as opportunities evaporate. Even Fiza is miffed with her true love Chand. I know I’m still gnashing my teeth about Sanjay Dutt’s opinion of women who choose to keep their father’s name after they get married. Clearly, you’re going to see a lot of The Angry Indian this year.
Anger is a theme we’ve grown up with. After all, who hasn’t seen the original Angry Indian (who is currently angry about you-know-what) in action? Amitabh Bachchan’s film, Deewar, which author Jyotika Virdi describes in the book Global Bollywood as a film that “effectively forced together ethical discourses about a troubled nation, simultaneously decrying and valorizing the state” was set in the chaotic 1970s. Nearly four decades later, The Angry Indian is back in vogue.
Anger is a welcome relief from our normal complacency; if we really want it to, our anger can propel change.
After all, from the anger in Mumbai rose the faltering-from-lack-of-practice political voice of the urban middle-class Indian. As columnist Ramesh Ramanthan said a couple of months ago in this paper, ahead of the general election, it’s critical that Indians debate the changing times. “We have to discover the vocabulary, much like children learn to talk—by speaking a whole lot of gibberish even as we practise, but learning along the way. The important thing for us as average Indians is to keep talking, thinking, correcting, and not let the intellectuals and politicians take over the debate,” he said.
The middle-class Indian’s political voice may still be in its formative stages, but his cultural voice will hit a high this year. Get set to meet The Creative Indian.
Indian authors, scriptwriters and film-makers are finally comfortable enough to share their unique voices with the world. Publishing firms are on a new author binge, signing young people who want to write about their every urban experience from sex to office culture.
Fashion and interior designers are experimenting more and more with Indie chic.
Director Anurag Kashyap’s modern-day sex ‘n’ drugs interpretation of Sarat Chandra’s Devdas is just the start of this year’s creative fest in our theatres. Even more exciting is his next release, Gulal, in March. Kashyap recently said in an interview that audiences are ready for something new. “Taking risks is going to be the safest thing now and playing safe will become a big no,” Kashyap said. The latest issue of TimeOut says Hindi indie movies—or Hindies—“have become viable enough to support a mini-industry.”
Maybe the Creative Indian’s voice is unique because he’s a masala mix of urban reality and small town roots and he’s finally figured out that the two can work together.
Bollywood, for example, is based in Mumbai, the only Indian city with a real skyline. But how many people in the film industry grew up in Mumbai? Most Creative Indians have a variety of influences—hometown, city, world—floating around in their heads.
Take Genda Phool, my current favourite song on the just-out soundtrack of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi-6. Lyricist Prasoon Joshi, who grew up in Uttar Pradesh before coming to Mumbai in his 20s, simplified the lyrics of a brilliant folk song from Madhya Pradesh so it would be easily understood by you and me.
Joshi says Genda Phool is a story of celebration, of a just married girl’s experiences, of her love for her husband who is the greatest man around, of small details such as how he wears his bush shirt. “It’s a space in which I’ve recreated that traditional folk world, a tribute to the marigold flower,” he told Mint. Joshi may not see any deeper interpretation of his beautiful song, but for me, it is the new, richly layered voice of the Creative Indian.
Priya Ramani is national features editor, Mint.