The Times, They Are-A Changing…&@*#

In 1994, I went to see “Pulp Fiction” in a small town in the US, called Rochester, in the state of Minnesota. Those of you who have seen this film will remember how Mr. Quentin Tarantino made his actors use the “f***” word at least thrice in every sentence if not more, throughout the film. Our host was a religious Methodist Christian in her 60s and she left the show, 10 minutes into the film. My wife and I followed her 20 minutes later, a little embarrassed, our ears ringing as well.
Three years prior to that, on the day before my wedding, a few of us friends had gone to a local restaurant for a bachelor dinner. With a few down, cuss words were flowing freely and fast and the head of the family at the next table actually came up to us and requested us to stop using “foul” language…and we did.
Today, when a few of us school-friends get together in the same local restaurant and swear away to glory, no one around us bats even half an eyelid.
And today, no one seems to be bothered by films like Delhi Belly as well.
I watched Delhi Belly in Aurora last Sunday. The audience was a typical mix of teenagers, young adults in their 20s, a few in their 30s, people like us in their 40s and older parents and some grandparents.
The film starts with cuss words and ends with them. Hindi and English. Constantly. And while there was some tittering and nervous laughter at the beginning, once everyone got used to their use, there was no further reaction from the audience, unless it was situational or related to the dialogue separate from the swear words. More importantly, everyone seemed to be having a good time. No one was squirming. No one left the auditorium.
I will remember this film. Not because of the way it uses cuss words, but because I learnt last weekend that no one really seems to be bothered anymore with their regular use.
Not that I don’t use cuss words. Sometimes during work, the use of the “f***” word helps drive a point across much more effectively. And while English swear words do get their point across, the best and most effective cuss words are the ones in Hindi, reserved specifically for addressing old school and galli friends or errant drivers on the road.
And yet when I hear these words in public, when we are out as a family or just walking on the streets, there is still a sense of unease. It’s as if swear words too need to have context and when I hear them used loosely, it feels a shade unsettling. I wonder if their constant use might not reduce their effectiveness when needed. Also, with 11-year olds in the house, we are always on our guard trying to figure out what it is that they know or don’t.
But the times have changed and everyone just seems to have become so much more accepting.
Delhi Belly, like DevD in 2009 and Love, Sex and Dhoka in 2010 marks some kind of moment in Hindi cinema. While we will always have our Double Dhamaals (the 12-years old and younger do need their brainless entertainment) and superstars refusing to go away as in Bbuddah whatever, there seems to be no danger of good Hindi cinema dying as some older method actors keep predicting. In fact, Hindi cinema couldn’t be in better, stronger, young hands.
And the cuss words seem to be just the beginning.

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