As someone born in the new millennium, I know it’s not my place to comment on it but I’ve always found 90s nostalgia among the millennials a tad confusing. I mean, sure, every generation will have their own throwbacks and sweet, sad smiles at the time that once was (as fucked up as the time might have been, everything in the past is seen with special edition rose-tinted glasses), but ‘90s nostalgia’ has gained some serious traction everywhere. Maybe it has to do with the fact that millennials—the ones who go gaga over this decade—make for a huge demographic on social media and that they can relive the past in a way their previous generations never could. But all the reminiscing has meant that even Bollywood of the 90s—which was largely replete with just astonishingly mediocre cinema, really—got special love on Twitter recently with a new emoji and #90sLove and #BackToThe90s trending, with even Bollywood royalty, having nothing to do in lockdown, indulging in good old nostalgia.
Even so, the decade did produce some iconic movies that set the base for newer genres we hadn’t seen before—be it coming-of-age movies or dramatic rom coms. Today, as we sit (because there’s genuinely not much we can do right now) in 2020, it feels strange to realise that 2020 also marks 20 years of Hrithik Roshan’s iconic moves from Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai and 25 (!) years of what still is India's favourite romance, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which ran at a Mumbai theatre all these years right until the lockdown. However, with time, a lot of Bollywood of the 90s and early 2000s has not aged well, as we find characters and plotlines extremely stereotypical and tropey. The movies had largely black-or-white characters, glamourised stalking and toxic relationships, and propagated an archaic portrayal of families and traditions.
With the miracle that is the internet, being a teenager today means we’re better equipped to question all things wrong in a movie. Society has also gone through changes since then and it has now become easier for us to point fundamental flaws in what were our favourite movies from the yesteryears. But how do these movies fare in the eyes of today’s woke culture? We asked some teens themselves.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
“It probably is a contemporary thing that I can notice all the glaring flaws and blunders in the movie, but, oh my god, there is intense stereotyping throughout the movie—especially female stereotypes. Even Kajol’s Anjali, who we all root for throughout the movie, says, “Don’t call me a girl”—as if it’s supposed to be something degrading?? It portrays some very strong gender roles that can be seen even from the perception of kid Anjali. They are so reinforced that nobody would’ve batted an eye earlier, but watching them now really makes me uncomfortable.” Priyanshi, 18
Dil Chahta Hai (2001)
“Dil Chahta Hai was different from all the melodramatic releases that came out during the 90s and early 2000s, so I feel it definitely has aged better than all of its contemporaries. Even though it is a movie centred around bro-friendship, it deals with character arcs of the other characters pretty well. Akash in Dil Chahta Hai was celebrated back then, but essentially is what you’d call a fuckboy today. The kind of male gaze the movie shows is very real, and can be felt prevalent even today. The boys fight for Preeti, and it feels problematic because it appears like they’re fighting for the ownership of a woman. But it is good that we are analysing our favourites from yesteryears, as we should learn from them and not put them on a pedestal.” Paridhi, 18
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992)
“The movie felt like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Student of the Year came together and had an unplanned child… so pretty weird. it wasn’t a bad movie per se—if I was older, I feel I definitely would’ve enjoyed it. But honestly, it wasn’t even that different from the commercial Bollywood of today—genuinely nothing has changed. It honestly was a fun experience—I would not watch it again, but it was a fun once-in-a-lifetime experience. Classism is introduced right off the bat, because Bollywood. There is a rich school, and there is a poor school, but obviously the poor school wins because Bollywood’s predictability has to show an underdog story. The characters were all one-dimensional, but then I can’t really complain because most commercial Bollywood characters are still pretty shallow. The rich girl is rich, obviously, but the poor girl pines so hard for the boy—who is absolutely useless for that matter—and it plays right into all tropes. Also, I think I blame this movie for all our parents’ high expectations regarding absolutely everything—the protagonist literally comes second in his first ever race and the father just goes “I don’t give a shit”, and if that doesn’t speak to me, I don’t know what will.” Shreya, 18
“The only part of the movie I liked was the way they depict trauma, which coincidentally, was not connected to the plot at all—so make what you will of that. Conceptually, the setting of a boys’ hostel was interesting to see because I have not seen anything similar in the cinema of today. But the plot is weak, to put it nicely. I can make out that 90s Bollywood was attempting to go in a new direction, but somewhere it… failed. Regardless, I think I still would prefer this over the current popular favourites like Dabangg.” Akshat, 19
“Despite Mohabbatein's ideology of 'Parampara, Pratishta, Anushasan (tradition, prestige, discipline),' it is every 16 year old cis-het boy's dream to have Raj Malhotra as their teacher. The movie is full of pondering questions which leave the audience asking just one question: Why? The sexism is way too inherent, from covering Shamita Shetty's body to Kim Sharma portraying a damsel in distress. This movie is severely problematic, right from Chopra's excessive stalking and annoyance to Bachchan's archaic idea of a student's development. An early 2000s movie might not fit in accordance to the social standards or morality which 2020 has, obviously. But, movies of this era have an emotional attachment, despite being unbelievably problematic. I, even for a minute, don’t doubt that we all would choose fetus SRK as their playdate over to today's ‘heartthrobs.’” Anandi, 19
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