Note: Listen to Piyul Mukherjee narrate this new phenomena that has young people hooked. And how that compares with the pop culture of the Sholay generation.
For those of us who grew up in the IIT Bombay campus, back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a Hollywood or a Bollywood movie was shown at the Convocation Hall either on Friday or on Saturday in the evening. There were no hard and fast rules, but soon, the students watched the same movie on Friday, while the staff did so on Saturday.
The bad movies especially were great when viewed on rambunctious Fridays. Just when a scene up on the screen would begin to drag, some student at the back would holler out ‘Khushbudaar Antiseptic Cream…’ building to a crescendo with each word.
What joy when all one thousand of us in the audience boomed ‘BOROLINE!’ followed by laughter and titters that took time to drop off to silence.
Another time, the movie Albela took six hours to complete, much to the annoyance of the projection room chap. At the insistence of the majority, he had to unspool and respool the reels so that some songs could be replayed again and again while students danced in the aisles.
It was already a very old movie by then. But the Sholay generation just couldn’t have enough of Bhagawan and Geeta Bali. The fun, you see, was in the antique out-of-fashion-yet-feels-so-good movie vibe.
Cut to 2020. Social distancing. Yada yada yada.
Pratiti, Camelia, Deblina and Ishani, former students of Presidency College, Kolkata, want to see a movie with each other. Some are doing their masters, others are working. Each is in a separate city.
They have all downloaded NP, Netflix Party, a free extension for the Google Chrome browser. This allows them to watch a movie together, from wherever they are.
NP champions have wisely figured out that it is difficult for anyone to come up with any of the usual Covid-19 lockdown ‘I am busy’ excuses. Of deadlines, or Zoom meetings. When NPs are late at night.
The plan is to see the romcom No Strings Attached. Half an hour into the movie, it is deemed too slow. Nothing to discuss. Nothing to be shocked at. Nothing to poke at. In short, the movie is too normal.
And the host Deblina, who is in Mumbai, suddenly puts on Project X instead.
The madcap movie is about three anonymous high school seniors who throw a party that gradually unravels into chaos. All our four friends who are in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Kolkata, keep up a steady stream of comments to one another on the chat box on the side of their screens.
There is a neighbour who keeps walking in, in the movie, to complain about the party. Camelia, who is currently in Hyderabad, is reminded of Mr. Basu who always landed up whenever she and her friends got together, charging them for making too much noise.
She is overtaken by homesickness. “I miss my nosy neighbour,” she writes. When there is a naïve character on screen, someone comments “That is you, Ishani, Goody-Miss-Two-Shoes.”
And as things on screen keep going horribly wrong, the friends are riveted. One of them wants to visit the washroom but the host refuses to pause the movie. Nor is she ready to share the control of the movie—that is an option that the app allows.
They carp at each other and grumble about missing out, saying the host is indulging in ‘Netflix Party Politics’.
But they are getting together again. Almost every other night.
The more crazy and horrifying the streaming video, the more likely it will be viewed and shared over NP.
In staid at-home lockdown times, chaos is a welcome break.
Movie reviewers are behind the times. IMDb scores do not reflect the true picture of NP popularity. Nor does Rotten Tomatoes.
Even Wikipedia that so blissfully threw out Encyclopaedia Britannica a while back, is behind the times. It still believes NP stands for ‘the complexity of Non-deterministic Polynomial time’.
During lockdown, at midnight, our whole old generation is likely to be caught napping. Not NPing.
NP is fast emerging as the new Boroline, the balm of the next generation.
The future of TV: Also listen to this 50-second clip from Varun Narang, chief product officer, Disney+ Hotstar, on how gamification and social will change TV viewing in the next 10 years:
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