Teen angst drama finds digital platform
Filmmakers are discovering an avenue in the digital space to explore coming-of-age drama
The internet is emerging as a domain for mature exploration of teenager stories
Bollywood rarely takes a serious look at teenage issues
Bollywood teen drama is flimsy, typified by Student Of The Year 2
Writing in the online philosophical journal Aeon, historian Cody Delistraty rejects the notion of the coming-of-age film. “The search for the ‘self’ is dubious because it assumes that there is an enduring ‘self’ that lurks within and that can somehow be found. Whereas, in fact, the only ‘self’ we can be sure of is one that changes every second,” he writes.
Delistraty’s has a point, and it may point at the fact that most independent coming-of-age films coming out of Hollywood are based on the standard genre tropes, noticeable lately in films such as Ladybird, Boyhood and Whiplash.
In comparison, Bollywood only has a massive void to show when it comes to the genre, which is far from filled by films such as Student Of The Year 2. Truly incisive coming-of-age films have been rare — perhaps, the only popular films in recent times that talk of teenage angst are Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan(2010) and Nagesh Kukunoor’s Rockford(1999).
The story of the relationship between an abusive father and a son who wants to chart his own course, Udaan, predictably a box-office lolly, went onto attain cult status. The fact that its star Rajat Barmecha has done little to no work since the film’s release, however, evidences the indifference Bollywood accords to unknown, teenage subjects. In contrast, the ludicrously superficial and flashy Student Of The Year easily manages to get a sequel.
Sure, there have been Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Dil Chahta Hai and Wake Up Sid, but these coming-of-age films were more about star actors playing out the struggles of coming to terms with adulthood rather than the challenges of adolescence.
Consequently, Indian teenagers have been kept out. They seldom see themselves on the Bollywood screen and hardly witness anything relatable. While the Khans struggle to retain popularity among the millennial, the commercial Hindi big screen continues ignoring relevant teenager stories.
Thankfully, the digital platform has created space for the genre in India. Netflix’s Selection Day, about schoolgoing brothers with cricketing ambition and talent, has been a welcome addition. Although there is yet to be a dramatic shift from the big screen, the series, which soon airs season two, shows the genre is looking at the streaming space as a platform for a mature introspection on the subject.
TVF’s Kota Factory, a black-and-white series about a boy preparing for IIT entrance in Kota, stands out for creating engaging fiction for young viewers out of something as tedious as studies. A show such as Kota Factory, with its assured handling of its plot and its largely greenhorn cast, painfully reminds of the fact that most in the industry would still rather make something as preposterous as Student Of The Year for big bucks on the big screen.
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