Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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    Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and the case of cute, commercialization of Karwa Chauth

    Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) and Simran (Kajol) celebrate Karva Chauth in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

    Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) and Simran (Kajol) celebrate Karva Chauth in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

    I blame Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge for this.

    And I say this as someone who spent days and nights staring at Shah Rukh Khan after watching a movie that involved lurking a picture (one of those little palm-sized cards with a calendar in the back and a shiny one in the front). The Bollywood photo was. ah, the ’90s) under my study table when homework got too boring. (Full disclosure: the picture was of my older sister, she was the one who hid it under the study table we shared, and I had to be very sneaky when I wanted to see it because older sisters didn’t always take Too kind to tell the little sisters about their personal belongings, but we’re in a good place now, thanks for asking.)

    Anyway, DDLJ, fan, me. But I still blame the film. Without it, the festival known as Karva Chauth could still remain as it always was, a ritual – like many such rituals – performed by so many willing people in a certain region of India, and Doesn’t really affect everyone else that much.

    But DDLJ had to make it another sinister moment in Shah Rukh Khan’s campaign to woo Kajol (or Amrish Puri, because we know what’s really important in the Indian scheme of things). We swore Kajol not to eat a sip of water or a bite of food, unless Shah Rukh himself had it on his lips, Parmeet Sethi – his eponymous fiancee – cursed.

    So there she was, in an unconscious state, finding her way, and then bonus: as she makes her way with her Chhath, waiting for Shah Rukh to arrive, grumbling at the inconsistency of those men. Those who have not had to observe the punishment of the fast, she learns that even her lover has not eaten a single piece of food in solidarity with her. Just when you thought Shah Rukh couldn’t be more charming.

    DDLJ’s influence on the Hindi films and TV shows that followed has waned. September-October 1995 was the time when Rangeela and DDLJ were released one after the other; Both played in Bombay’s Eros, and I remember seeing them in theaters and even as a teenager knew I was watching two versions of a paradigm shift on screen. (Very precocious at age 11, I know.)

    I’ve lost count of the number of Hindi TV shows that have repeated scenes from DDLJ: the “palt, palt” trope; Fake one-night stand followed by “Hindustani girl” speech; Missed train and messy itinerary; Drunken night in a barn. But few have been repeated with as much frequency as the scene of Karva Chauth. After K-Soap took over as the primary arbiter of mainstream Hindi culture and aesthetics from YRF and Karan Johar’s films, Karva Chauth festivities became a staple on the small screen: Karva Chauth with its contemporary, then-cool-now-cringe DDLJ Along with made an impact.

    As an agnostic (mostly) South Indian, my overlap with Karva Chauth has been limited to these screen manifestations. (And, again, full disclosure: a personal affair I probably need to vent my own unresolved resentment.) There’s also the annual off-screen noise surrounding it: a viral Twinkle Khanna column; The now prevailing argument about how this reinforces misogyny and patriarchy; And how even sporadic attempts to make the festival more egalitarian – fasting pati la srk ​​- don’t make it feminist at all (“… a master’s tools will never break down a master’s house”). The debate over whether fasting represents the subjugation of women or the importance of their strength and faith is not going to be resolved anytime soon. What is not easy to “settle down”: the nuances of how a couple chooses their love or commitment to each other, or what is practiced privately and causes no apparent harm to others, needs to be examined . Broad lens of ideology.

    One is the belief that women in the past had good reason to do so to ensure that their husbands outlived them. If they were widows, there was a clearly unpleasant prospect of being treated as handicapped, or worse, sati, for the rest of their lives. In some cases, they may even have done it out of love. But Karva Chauth is being treated as the culmination of a wife’s duty, loving husbands joining her, and the useless business discourse that has arisen around it – “Mehndi designs! Thali decorations! WhatsApp congratulations! Karva”. Gift for your wife for Chauth! Foods to eat before your fast, Foods to eat after your fast, Foods to avoid before your fast!” – Feels excessive.

    To “update” the latest on the Karva Chauth bandwagon this is a fairness bleach commercial that puts a gay couple at the center of the festival. One can assume that they missed the memo about keeping “Jagruti” away from advertisements that are associated with Hindu traditions. There’s something about optics here – a fairness product and all its ties to colorblindness; A custom and all its ties, the way women are viewed in a matrimonial relationship—that doesn’t sit well with morality. One might expect that the real desire to boost the campaign was to promote inclusion and not just an opportunistic Karva Chauth cash grab.

    I don’t know what the intentions of the ad filmmakers were in this matter, or why they thought it was Karva Chauth and the need for queer couples. But I know this: I blame DDLJ for this.

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