2010-2019: The reshaping of us

What defined the decade that is whooshing past us? We asked 5 change agents to reflect on the highs and lows. Here's what they had to say

Big-screen Entertainment

Yay to: Audience is rooting for content-based films -- this is the most heartening change. As filmmakers, we can now afford to be braver. The second nice thing is that our films are becoming technically superior; it is no longer okay to take a shoddy shot and nothing is random anymore, be it the production design, costumes or editing. The third is digital penetration. Even a WhatsApp group is capable of influencing the fortunes of films. This is both good and bad. Yes, there are grey aspects like paid promotions on social media, but people are mostly smart enough to see through any fakery.

Nay to: Stop, please stop, re-creating classic, evergreen songs. Every other film is doing it, and it has now become a tired formula. Such a recreation is justified only when the script demands it like, say, in the case of ‘The Dirty Picture’. Music is the soul of our movies -- return to creating original songs pronto!

Nitesh Tiwari
(as told to Rajiv Vijayakar)

Writer-director Nitesh Tiwari has established his credentials with the four films he has helmed in the past
eight years — Chillar Party, Bhootnath Returns, Dangal (the highest grosser of this decade), and
finally, 2019’s super-hit Chhichhore.

Television and Social Media

Yay to: The very definition of television has changed. There is no distinction really between OTT platforms and conventional TV channels -- they are both television. This, in turn, has made binge watching something to aspire to. It is like a competitive sport -- it has brag value. Who would have thought being a couch potato would be this sought after? So the welcome change is really in viewership patterns. Which means, makers are forced to work a lot harder to get people interested. Youngsters are not watching TV the way we did -- no appointment viewing and certainly no K-soaps -- what could be better? Content creators were optimistic that locally-produced stuff would change the rules of the game post the arrival of Netflix and Amazon Prime. The verdict is mixed so far – there has been stand-out content in patches, but not enough yet.

Nay to: I do wish news channels could go back to reporting news and take a stand against nationalistic, vigilante reportage. That we often look at most of our TV news as comic relief today is a joke that should hit home. 

Yay to: Frankly, social media is good stuff if you make it work for you. It has given many of us professional relevance and currency, even work. The big change that has happened in the past five years is Instagram and now Tik Tok. Of course, it started with Twitter and Facebook – but, and this is anecdotal, both mediums are not as attractive to millennials as they once were. Tik Tok has also democratised social media – it isn’t only about the urban user anymore. If you talk about the early part of the decade, it would have to be Facebook and what it did to our lives and us as a people. It became a familial extension – in the beginning, it was a Rajshri film where everybody was happy with each other, but gradually it turned out to be a bit of a dysfunctional, carping family. But, if you ask me, social media didn’t muddy the discourse – like cinema or television, it merely reflected what we have become and are choosing to become. But what social media did, be it Facebook in the early part or Tik Tok now – it gave everyone with an internet connection the right to be seen, heard and read. This ‘free-for-all’ would naturally have its consequences – and that is the biggest learning of this decade. Deal with it.

Nay to: That said, like any other medium, social media needs regulation – both Twitter and Facebook have not been able to or don’t want to deal with the responsibilities of an unfiltered platform for public discourse. As for my data not being safe or being mined for profit, I do know that there are consequences to a free lunch. A part of me is secretly quite chuffed that my harmless vacation photos can potentially help people rig elections. Honestly!

Naomi Datta
The writer is a former broadcast journalist and author. Her latest book ‘How to be a likeable bigot’, a collection of satirical essays, was published recently.

Fashion

Yay to: From being conservative and traditional, the wedding market suddenly zoomed into larger-than-life occasions and clothes became theatrical and dramatic. This meant more bling, destination weddings and a lot of media coverage, which changed the look and feel of Indian fashion. Subsequently, it regressed to conservatism of a different sort -- too much jewellery is no longer exciting, and now people tend to wear value-for-money clothing. A lot of this has to do with the millennials -- they have a younger mindset and are net savvy. The second good thing is, the strong influence of Western clothes in the earlier part of the decade has happily fazed off. People are now opting for indigenous wardrobes. Fashion, which comes from our roots, is colourful, and has rich traditions, are being appreciated much more now, compared to the white wedding gown and the black little dress.

Nay to: Much needs to be done still by the fashion industry to preserve our handlooms and utilise our handicrafts better. They are the backbone of our fashion and they need to be given that respect.

Ritu Kumar
(as told to Tini Sara Anien)

Ritu Kumar is a national-award winning fashion designer known for her traditional Indian aesthetic.

Food

Yay to: The happiest change has been the return to traditional and local cuisine. For example, now we know why a little bit of ghee on the phulka is good for us and why having water first thing in the morning is such a great idea. Another big change has been the rise in vegetarianism. A large number of people are cutting down on the quantity of meat they consume, and this part-time vegetarianism is good news indeed, both for our health and and the well-being of our planet. The third welcome trend is restaurants upping their game to serve healthy, nutritious food.

Nay to: The biggest blasphemy of the decade is the overuse of activated charcoal in food. It’s done and over with -- all gimmick and no relevance whatsoever. And if we are talking nutrition, the gimmickry, oh God, the gimmickry! Extreme diets were so in; celebrities followed fad after fad, influencing the gullible and messing up the metabolisms of millions worldwide.

Chef Manish Mehrotra
(as told to Kavita Devgan)

Manish Mehrotra is one of India’s most celebrated chefs and is known for his fusion experiments with Indian cuisine.

Health

Yay to: The heartening fact is that healthcare has become safer and many diseases considered inoperable or incurable are now virtually cured. People now trust major interventions. Healthcare is becoming an issue to be discussed in political debates and that can only be a good sign!

Nay to: The epidemic of false information that has swamped social media, the growing distrust of medical professionals and the severe lack of healthcare professionals, especially in rural India. There is absolutely no point in increasing healthcare budgets without first ensuring an adequate number of doctors, nurses and paramedics in semi-urban and rural areas.

Dr Devi Shetty
(as told to Kavita Devgan)

Dr Devi Shetty is a renowned cardiac surgeon and chairman of Narayana Health.

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