Is Indian Pop Culture Finally Making Space For Uniquely Middle-Class Experiences?

A middle-class family is the essence of India as they shape the majority of the zeitgeist but they still remain underrepresented in honest storytelling.
A middle-class family is the essence of India as they shape the majority of the zeitgeist but they still remain underrepresented in honest storytelling.@preposa_pps

The majority of films are, when compared to previous eras, ostensibly struggling at the box office due to the very large disconnect with the present-day audience. While many socio-political happenings of the past few years have led to this stage, it is primarily the growing gap between the audience and the creators. As the medium of social media has lifted the facade and robbed the ‘stars’ of their mystery, most individuals are now unable to invest in their larger than life persona’s onscreen. 

Additionally the stories are also unable to cater to the likings of the middle class audience and instead lead to alienating them. These narratives lack depth and are represented using actors who are completely disconnected with the everyday life of an Indian. Ultimately movie making is a business and hence only the lucrative stories get a green flag from studios. Making for either mass-entertainers fuelled by over the top chase scenes or instead a few far-fetched narratives on OTT that cover rather grim and sensitive issues. 

Few OTT shows like 'Gullak', 'Yeh Meri Family', 'Home Shanti' and 'Happy Family, Conditions Apply' have been able to speak to the regular Indian and have been widely appreciated. They have cracked the code to viewership in a highly uncertain attention economy by simply sharing stories of belonging and comfort


The Overlooked Middle Class Identity

A middle class family is the essence of India as they shape the majority of the zeitgeist yet remain underrepresented in honest storytelling. Back in 2010, a small budget movie starring Rishi and Neetu Kapoor challenged producers to widen their horizons. As Do Dooni Chaar resonated with Indians across the spectrum due to its relatable content and ability to remain grounded in the everyday realities of the regular citizens. It showcases the typical character tropes that populate middle class circles and depicts their stories through a heartwarming script. 

There was a yearning for more such narratives that represent the middle class experience on the big screen. While many films starring Ayushman Khurnanna carved space for such content and appealed to the audience, they eventually became stagnant. Becoming flooded with stereotypes and repetitive content. With the parallel rise of social media content creators, people flocked to their pages and instead started finding comforting tales of belonging on the small screens. 

Young Creatives Changing The Landscape

According to VOF, an August 2020 study by research company Statista shows that 66 percent of Gen Zs in India use social media for content as compared to millennials, where 68 per cent use it for communication. The inclusive space urges creators to form a meaningful connection with their audience and much of it is done through mini skits that are both relatable and amusing. This is where the younger generations have shifted focus and now find better entertainment in short clips that are way more insightful than three hour spectacles on the big screen. 

A simple scroll through reels on Instagram exposes one to hilarious content that takes cues from the everyday life of middle class families. As creators utilise nostalgic undertones and satirical scripts to connect with audiences using their own lived experiences. These tales insite laughter and make one reminisce of the moments that seemed insignificant. They are also a celebration of the middle class identity that is so often overlooked. Highlighting the family feuds, nosy relatives and parent-child relationships through lighthearted takes. 

Creator Dharna Durga has amassed a loyal following of her own through reels that dive into the lives of infamous characters such as the judgemental bua’s (aunts) and neighbourhood aunties. Further showcasing the altercations at your local parlour and everyday spectacles taking place in our very homes. Similarly the creative trio known by the name ‘Preposa’ are known for creating comical skits that explore the dynamics within a middle class family. Showcasing the typical Indian mothers and fathers, beyond the simplistic representation on screen. Touching a chord in every Indian’s heart who grew up in a similar setting. 

The success of these creatives is a testament to the fact that audiences yearn for relatable stories and the younger generation especially is finding their icons in these creators instead of Bollywood stars. The changing landscape of entertainment has finally made space for middle class narratives that showcase the reality of so many Indians. Hence connecting with the section of society that has always heavily invested in the art of storytelling with their loyal viewership, who now get to witness tales of belonging through a newer medium. 

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