21st century breakdown

21st century breakdown

The end of the decade is nigh, and we’re still not sure what to call it. The “noughties" sound trite for 10 years that were very serious, and while the “oh-ohs" possess the right ring of alarm, the phrase sounds a bit awkward.

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So how do we look back at this decade without a name? Ten years that saw too much tragedy and violence; divisiveness; and fractured opinions.

Maybe we should have released our decade lists earlier—by the time this issue hits the stands you’ve a) taken a much-deserved break to a place where Lounge isn’t delivered to your doorstep or b) you’re fed up of year-end, decade-end lists.

You already know that Kate Moss was crowned the best dressed woman of the decade (Vogue), Unitech was the stock you wish you had bought a decade ago because its share price has since increased by 30,900% (Rediff) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy was voted the best movie of the past 10 years (Entertainment Weekly).

You’ve disagreed with many of the specifics on these lists (as you will with ours, we’re sure). While some might argue that lists are a reductive exercise, they do help clarify the complicated—showing us a cross section of what, we have to admit, has been a beast of a decade. So why should you read ours? Because we decided to do something different with them.

We identified five broad cultural mediums—music, movies (only Hindi movies, we’ll do Tamil next year), books, style and advertisements—constituted balanced panels of four people for each of them, and asked them to pick 10 items that best represented this decade (in no particular order). We watched the debate unfold, and recorded our own behind-the-scenes view. So, instead of armchair musings, we pitted insiders and experts against each other to distil the best of the decade down to 10 items.

For other mediums—comic books, video games, technology—we opted for personal views. The authors discussed strands that they felt ran through the last decade.

There are some things, though, that couldn’t be explained in bullet points. How has the way we eat or travel changed? What has cricket morphed into? For answers, we chose to go with essays that attempt to chart the uncertain waters the new millennium seems to have left us in.


Deep focus

We’ve seen and loved both small and big films--as long as they had content, boldness and innovation. Our movies list celebrates this variety.

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Atmospheric disturbances

Will we remember the 2000s with reverence as a definitive decade, or with relief, as the end of the age of excess?

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Pluck, luck and lots of muck

It was a decade of many firsts--including an Olympic individual gold and the number one rank in Test cricket. It was also a decade of controversies.

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Poetry in motion pictures

Our film soundtrack list reflects the resurgence of thought and content in Hindi film music after years of ordinary lyrics and easy rhythms.

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Three kinds of madness

The story of how villainy, pop-punditry and item numbers became part of everyday cricket.

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Pencil revolution

Comics haven’t left the superheroes behind at the turn of the century—but they’ve become more diverse, inclusive and interested in pushing artistic boundaries.

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Word to your mother

Meet Urban Dictionary. What was once a parody site is now, a decade later, the largest dictionary written completely by its users.

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Voices with vision

Poetry, translation, a late work of a master, and Rushdie — our books panel agreed on an inclusive and eclectic list.

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A welcome and new maturity

The progress report for Indian literature in English says it’s a promising, vibrant and curious student.

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Shiny, happy gizmos

From steampunk radios and hand-cranked torches to geeky T-shirts, the best gadgets are simple, practical and environment-friendly.

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Detectives for a new millennium

From Botswana’s colourful neighbourhoods to Bangkok’s seedy underbelly—the 2000s took thrillers to greater, more eclectic heights.

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Good, bad or just plain ugly?

We lowered our waistlines, Bollywoodized our weddings, and sent Indian trousers abroad.

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The age of shape shifters

Indian artists have earned a place at the international high table where the idea of ‘making art’ has changed forever.

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How Mario met Orson Welles

From attempts at artistic expression to The Beatles choosing them as the medium that would carry their legacy onward, video games became bigger, better and more mature.

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Season of plenty

From Kongunadu delicacies to a khao swey--you can’t throw a stone today without hitting an exotic meal. But what has that done to our palate?

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Break into a smile

From Vodafone’s Zoozoos, Center Shock’s afro to M-Seal’s tragicomic story of a will gone wrong and Bingo’s sheer absurdity, our panel picks the advertisements that defined an era.

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A beautiful mind

Nobody has exemplified the attributes of a champion better than Viswanathan Anand.

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The unbearable likeness of travelling

In a world reeling under the relentless onslaught of malls, supermarketsand hotel rooms, discovering the distinct has become an elusive art.

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