I arrived in the US ten days ago. After a trip to LA and San Diego (visiting theme parks with my ten-year-old nephew R.), I’m back in New Jersey, with my in-laws. Yesterday we visited a local cinema for a Hindi movie.
This is not new, and it must be common experience for New Jerseyians, but it never fails to amaze me. The queue behind the ticket counter is packed with only Indians. About thirty of them. Lined up for Hindi and Telugu movies. Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani, Ghanchakkar, Raanjhanna, Balupu. Some are in Indian clothes, salwaar-kameez or kurtas. They speak in the vernacular, one or two with an American accent.
The movie we watch, Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani, is a modern love story. Boy meets girl on a trek; they like each other, but the boy has ambitions — plans to see the world, to seek adventure; they move on, but eight years later they meet again; old love surfaces, so does the old conflict; the boy has to choose between his desire for adventure and the rootedness of family-life; he chooses the girl.
What made this story different from a Hindi movie from the eighties or nineties is the absence of family in the narrative. Parents appear at the beginning, before boy and girl leave home, and the boy briefly remembers his father near the film’s end — for the rest boy and girl are independent, making choices and living by them. Compare this to QSQT or DDLJ or Lamhe. Family used to played a large role in love stories — is the new trend a reflection of urban India today?
The other difference is the film’s attitude toward the West. Going abroad still has its charm, and the boy does spend time in Europe (even kissing, in the space of a song, a striking blonde, something I haven’t managed in twelve years there), but in the end he returns. New York and LA and Paris are good, but the future is back home. This is the confidence of a new India.